Q&A: James Hansen

James Hansen, head of NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, on why CO2 should be declared a pollutant.

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis and more, subscribe to Mother Jones' newsletters.


Mother Jones: What will be the hardest thing to fix in the Bush administration’s legacy to science?

James Hansen: The hardest thing to fix will be the result of Bush reneging on his campaign promise to declare CO2 from power plants as a pollutant. It is practically impossible to retrieve the CO2 once it has been emitted. Much of it stays in the air more than 1,000 years. Because of his broken promise many coal-fired power plants were built, that would not otherwise have been built. Very hard to fix—there is a strong reluctance to bulldoze a new power plant that cost more than a billion dollars to build. Our great-grandchildren will suffer because of his broken promise.

MJ: What will be the easiest thing to fix?

JH: Restore the first line of the NASA mission statement: to understand and protect the home planet.

THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.