Guy McPherson: James Hansen & Bill McKibben are Guilty of Malpractice [VIDEO]

November 6, 2013

Excerpt from the October 16, 2013 lecture by Guy McPherson: “How Do We Act in the Face of Climate Chaos?”

Watch the full lecture here:

Read a summary of the video:

About Guy McPherson:

“More than ten years into a career in the academic ivory tower, McPherson began focusing his efforts on social criticism, with topics ranging from education and evolution to the twin sides of the fossil-fuel coin: (1) global climate change and (2) energy decline and the attendant economic consequences. His public appearances stress these two predicaments because each of them informs and impacts every aspect of life on Earth.


He also speaks about our individual and societal response to these phenomena, and includes topics such as authenticity, Socratic lives of excellence, and the role and responsibility of our species in the world.


McPherson’s latest chapter includes abandoning his tenured position as full professor at a major research university for ethical reasons. His story is described in his memoir, “Walking Away from Empire.” You can read about that book and his many others at his website:




  • John W on Apr 04, 2014

    Meadows like Hansen seem to be pushing to have a “solution” accepted.

    It does seem possible that their may be some merit in gaining momentum of change through some better acceptance of palatable solutions.

    Better than denial but along shot.

    There isno short term fix- but it can’t be fixed.

    If hope slows the rampant use of natural resources at least there will be a bit more left for any survivors.

    At the moment its hell for leather exploiting everything forgetting about tomorrow.

  • Jack Gabel on Mar 11, 2014

    Guy, Malthus is rejoicing over your mission – tally ho – but as the planet passes through the Late Holocene Thermal Maximun and descends into the next ice age, if civilization can manage to maintain an historical record, your best hope is that history will not hold you as a crackpot

  • James R. Martin on Feb 12, 2014

    I deeply wish Hansen and McKibben would answer to these claims by McPherson. Indeed, I wish any highly regarded climatologists or climate activists would answer to McPherson’s claim that Near Term Extinction (NTE) is unavoidable even if humanity were to quit fossil fuels entirely today.

    If McPherson is wrong–and he probably is–he’s doing the world a great disservice in promoting the NTE hypothesis. After all, and rather obviously, folks will not attempt the nearly impossible (voluntary dramatic, steep and sudden fossil fuel reductions) if the prize in such an achievement is NTE.

    Please, climate activist community (and scientists), challenge McPherson to the necessary debate. The time has come.

  • admin on Nov 13, 2013

    Hansen is a “messenger”.

    Hansen may know more about climate science than McPherson given Hansen’s background. That being said, Hansen does lie when he leads people to believe that by simply reducing GHG emissions, we can get back to 350ppm. Allow me to expand on some of the points put forward by McPherson.

    Hansen is placing political feasibility, what he personally considers to be politically “realistic”, ahead of the science.

    The science is clear that:

    “In fact, only in the case of essentially complete elimination of emissions can the atmospheric concentration of CO2 ultimately be stabilized at a constant level.” (IPCC assessment 2007 FAQ 10.3) []

    Yet, on the science page they tell people (by quoting Hansen):

    “If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm to at most 350 ppm.” “That will be a hard task, but not impossible. We need to stop taking carbon out of the ground and putting it into the air. Above all, that means we need to stop burning so much coal—and start using solar and wind energy and other such sources of renewable energy –while ensuring the Global South a fair chance to develop. If we do, then the earth’s soils and forests will slowly cycle some of that extra carbon out of the atmosphere, and eventually CO2 concentrations will return to a safe level. By decreasing use of other fossil fuels, and improving agricultural and forestry practices around the world, scientists believe we could get back below 350 by mid-century.”

    In all fairness uses something written by Hansen 20 years ago. Yet, does not hesitate to use this today as the basis of their “science”. Many other peer reviewed science papers support the fact that only virtual zero emissions can allow the planet to cool – a process which will take hundreds, if not thousands of years. Hansen apparently does not take issue with using his words (from 2 decades ago) to promote false hope and downplay the scale of the crisis.

    To his credit, Hansen deserves credit for stating that the Earth is in a state of planetary emergency (2008 and again in 2012), as well as, disclosing the fact that even 1 degree is too much [], (as NGOs pushed 2C) even though this was already understood by scientists as far back as 1990. [AGGG, UN, Note that et al did nothing to educate their followers on the 1C warning by Hansen.

    Consider the following statements from Hansen’s paper (in quotations below). There is no way this information can be reconciled with getting back to 350ppm by 2050:

    A look at the Pliocene, three-to-five million years ago, leads to the conclusion that: “…in the early Pliocene, when sea level was about 25 metre higher than today, was only about 1C warmer than peak Holocene temperature.” Whilst atmospheric CO2 amount in the Pliocene is poorly known, a typical assumption, based on a variety of imprecise proxies, is 380 ppm, or less than today’s level!!

    “…goals of limiting human-made warming to 2C and CO2 to 450 ppm are prescriptions for disaster.”

    And yet, with the recent divestment campaign, McKibben still pushes the lie that “1) that we can continue to burn more fossil fuels for some time; 2) that only when we exceed 2ºC do we risk catastrophe for life on Earth; and fails to mention a third: the fact that we are already committed to a minimum temperature increase of 2.4ºC (not including feedbacks)(Ramanathan and Feng), even if we stop burning all fossil fuels today.”

    To lead people to believe that 2ºC is the tipping point as we continue to cross tipping points at under 1ºC is yet just another lie put forward by [“The fossil fuel industry’s business plan is to burn five times more carbon dioxide than scientists say we can safely emit and still keep global warming below the 2°C tipping point”.] “We can still safely emit?” I think not. These comments are reckless and irresponsible. They are also lies. In fact, I would go so far as to ask ones self what defines criminal negligence.

    And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

    • Mike Roberts on Nov 13, 2013

      Thanks for the response, admin.

      I really have no wish to defend McKibben or and think almost all of what they propose as “solutions” are nonsensical. However, to be fair, almost every commentator on climate change (even scientists) also promulgates the 2C myth. It seems that most of the world is ignorant, a few deceitful and most of the rest misguided.

      I have more sympathy for Hansen, as he has at least tried to get the message through to those in power, even as he dislikes presenting in front of people. He’s also done a pretty good job of explaining the situation to the rest of us.

      Thanks for the link to Ramanathan and Feng. I hate to split hairs, but we are discussing the extinction of most life on earth. Their paper does have error bars and probabilities. I understand that “most likely” means greater than 50% probability (is that right?). Also, the built in temperature rise is between 1.4 degrees and 4.3 degrees. At the top end, we’re done. At the bottom end, it’s “merely” going to be difficult. Of course, I understand that emissions are still happening, so the rise will “most likely” be more than 1.4 degrees C. It may also be worth pointing out that, since their paper, human made aerosols may not be as big of an influence as we’d thought.

      I have emailed Hansen though I’m not optimistic in getting a reply. Will try again after I’ve re-read his book.

      Look, I’m not denying that humans, and most other species, are facing a bottleneck, at least. Whether that neck closes completely is unknown at this point but some seem to think they know the future in detail.

      BTW, after reading about what Guy has done, I’m in awe at the changes he’s made to his life and how he’s trying to spread awareness. I understand that he thinks his life changes have been a failure but if he is just a bit more self-reliant, then I would see it as a success.

  • Guy McPherson on Nov 11, 2013

    Mike Roberts, Hansen is lying with the very name of the organization he co-founded, He’s a climate scientist, so he knows we will not achieve an atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration of 350 ppm for at least the next thousand years. Why does he lie? To promote false hope, along with promoting the disaster of nuclear power?

    • Mike Roberts on Nov 12, 2013

      I’m pretty sure James Hansen isn’t a founder of, though his work did give the organisation its name.

      I, too, am confused by this message that the concentration could get back down to 350ppm, or below, in time to avert a climate disaster. I’m re-reading Hansen’s book to try to discern just what actions could result in such a level. There is some mention of direct capture of carbon, an idea that appears to be feasible but, for me, has much wishful thinking associated with it.

      I don’t think he’s lying. He’s trying to find a way forward, given what he knows. He’s also provided a huge service in making the climate situation more understandable.

      No-one can see the future, Guy. It may look bleak, and I, for one, think it IS bleak. But exactly how it will turn out is unknown. Both you and Hansen have sounded the alarm, and I’m grateful for that. Hansen thinks there is a way out, or a way through, you don’t. I think there MAY be a way through, for some.

      • Guy McPherson on Nov 12, 2013

        Hopium abounds. Hansen is a proponent of nuclear power. He’s clearly addicted to electricity and patriarchy. Any self-respective climate scientist knows two things about 350 ppm carbon dioxide: (1) it’s a death sentence for many cultures and species, and (2) it’s out of reach.

        Read all you want, but you’ll not find any strategies to sequester carbon at the requisite scale. And you’ll not find any way to reverse the 24 irreversible self-reinforcing loops listed here. As a result, we’re committed to near-term human extinction. Please find a way out based on reason rather than wishful thinking.

        • Mike Roberts on Nov 13, 2013


          Are you saying that there is a way out? If scientists don’t use reason, who can reliably provide us with our information?

          BTW, Hansen is dead wrong about nukes, no doubt about that. I don’t think he’s checked on the longevity of any society, especially unsustainable ones. However, he does explain the climate science quite well.

          • Guy McPherson on Nov 13, 2013

            Of course there’s a way out. It’s called extinction. It happens to every species.

          • Mike Roberts on Nov 13, 2013

            Mmm, OK. You’re right, of course, extinction is inevitable. What we’re talking about is whether it will happen soon (a generation or two) or hundreds, thousands or hundreds of thousands of years hence. Before extinction, however, we (or some future generation) will have to cope with a very changed environment (as will other surviving species).

            So, no way out other than extinction? I looked at the list of feedback loops you’ve listed. It doesn’t look good, though I’m not sure the science is as clear-cut as you’ve implied. So we may have considerably longer than you think (and we may not).

            Back to the topic, Hansen isn’t a liar though he may (almost certainly does) have an overly optimistic view of what is possible; hopium, as you call it. I don’t see much wrong in that if extinction within 30-40 years is our ultimate destiny.

          • Guy McPherson on Nov 13, 2013

            Hansen’s not a liar? What do you call somebody who promotes getting to 350 ppm atmospheric carbon dioxide by mid-century when he knows it’s not possible for at least 1,000 years? A hero?

          • Mike Roberts on Nov 13, 2013

            I think there are a lot of levels between liar and hero, Guy.

            So what are you promoting?

          • Guy McPherson on Nov 13, 2013

            I’m promoting the truth. Hansen and McKibben are not.

          • Mike Roberts on Nov 13, 2013

            A lot of people claim to be providing the truth, Guy. Some may get part of the way there but, especially when looking into the future, no-one has a monopoly on it.

            Thanks for the exchange but I don’t think much is being added here. As I say, I’m trying to figure out ho Hansen thinks we can get down to 350ppm. Although I know that is very optimistic, I’ll try to find out what exactly he’s proposing to do that.

          • Guy McPherson on Nov 13, 2013

            Be sure to ask Hansen if he’s read the literature, and therefore knows we’re stuck at nearly 400 ppm atmospheric carbon dioxide for at least the next thousand years. Then ask him by what magic he’ll overcome physics to accomplish 350 by mid-century. When he can’t answer, you’ll understand my accusation of malpractice for Hansen and McKibben.

  • Mike Roberts on Nov 09, 2013

    Actually, I would say that James Hansen knows more than Guy about climate science. He knows it could lead to the extinction of humans and has said so. Guy, however, says it WILL lead to the extinction of humans and within decades. I don’t think Hansen is lying to us by saying that the way climate is changing, and will change, could cause human extinction. The science isn’t clear enough to say that it definitely will happen and within a certain time frame, particularly as much depends on what humans do, either deliberately or by force of circumstance.