Father of the green movement says scientists lack PR skills to make public listen
Climate sceptics are winning the argument with the public over global warming, the world's most celebrated climate scientist, James Hansen of NASA, said in London yesterday.
It is happening even though climate science itself is becoming ever clearer in showing that the earth is in increasing danger from rising temperatures, said Dr Hansen, who heads NASA's Goddard Institute of Space Studies, and is widely thought of as "the father of global warming" – his dramatic alert about climate change in US Senate hearings in July 1988 put the issue on the world agenda.
Since then he has been one of the most outspoken advocates of drastic climate action, and yesterday he also publicly criticised Germany's recent decision to abandon its new nuclear power programme, formerly a key part of German climate measures, in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan earlier this year.
"I think it was a big mistake," he said. "And I think the Prime Minister [German Chancellor Angela Merkel] knows that, as she's a physicist, but I think the political reality is she couldn't stay in office if she expressed that opinion."
In a briefing at the Royal Society , Dr Hansen, pictured, was frank about the success with public opinion of what he termed "the climate contrarians", in effectively lessening public concern about global warming. He said: "They have been winning the argument for several years, even though the science has become clearer.
"There's been a very strong campaign by those who want to continue fossil fuel 'business as usual', and the scientific story has not been powerful enough to offset that push."