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More green tirades against democracy

Haunting the Library notes James Hansen's latest tirade against American democracy and his suggestions on how the Chinese dictatorship might "force" Americans to take a different line. As HoL puts it:

The declaration that American ‘democracy’ (as [Hansen] sarcastically refers to it as) cannot cope with climate change, and that the world must look to the Chinese communist dictatorship to “lead” is bound to be controversial.


On a similar note there is this recent article on the Treehugger site, again looking at lovingly at China's programme of rolling energy blackouts and shutdowns of industry:

It's interesting to note the dedication China has displaying in achieving its [energy efficency] target -- shutting down entire operations and even executing rolling blackouts. Surely there would have been some amount of embarrassment for the nation on the world's stage if it had missed its target, but that likely would have been minor. It's worth noting the difference in political culture: What do you think would have happened if the US had such an energy-reduction target to hit, but a sagging economy got in the way?

I can tell you with some certainty: We would have missed that mark.

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Reader Comments (49)

Odd, isn't it, how those who rail against democracy, and propose some sort of benign or enlightened autocracy instead, always assume that they will be in charge and that the new regime will do the things they want done.

They somehow never think of what you do if it doesn't.

Jan 12, 2011 at 4:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-Record

The way China has become the ‘love-bunny’ of the greens is indeed funny , its human rights records is still awful , its building coal fired power station as fast as it can and it pollution and environmental problems far surpass anything seen in the west, hardly the hallmarks of eco-hero’s you would have thought. And it’s clear that it reduced CO2 emission on the day Hell opens its first outdoor ski slope.

So what has it got going for it that makes it the Greens new best friend?

Jan 12, 2011 at 5:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterKnR


Agreed. The hypocrisy by greens over China is sickening.

The rubbish about Chinese industrialisation being increasingly fuelled by nuclear, wind and fairy dust as opposed to coal and anthracite is necessary to the activist position.

The truth is that Chinese industrialisation will be the primary source of CO2 emissions for decades to come.

The green fiction is that this will somehow not be the case.

The reason for the disconnect is simple: climate activists have to fictionalise the Chinese emissions profile so that they can continue to berate the Western economies for their 'responsibility' for climate change.

If they were to admit the truth - which is that they should be lobbying China to slow down or stop industrialisation (good luck with that) - then their illogical middle-class guilt trip stance on Western emissions reduction policy would instantly be revealed as misguided nonsense.

Jan 12, 2011 at 5:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

And they would have to admit that their utterly ineffectual emissions reduction policies are in the process of causing an energy infrastructure breakdown in the UK.

In other words all harm, no good.

What kind of basis for policy is that?

Jan 12, 2011 at 5:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

It's not really 'democracy' Hansen et al hate, so long as they're the only ones with a vote.

Jan 12, 2011 at 5:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterBill Sticker

As long as were talking politics here and there, in DC it looks like they will get you either way. If they can't tax you for excessive carbon foot printing, then they will fine you for snow fall. The land of opportunity. More opportunities to separate people from their money.

Jan 12, 2011 at 5:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterKevin

Try rolling black outs on me and I'll start using a generator at home, so how would that help CO2?

It's only when people are too poor to have alternatives that you can carp all over them.

I will NOT live in a tent and get my entertainment singing songs around a camp fire every night, thanks greenies.

For some of us the future isn't a return to the past.

Jan 12, 2011 at 5:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterGendeau

I've just looked through the Hansen article and am still slack-jawed at his misunderstanding of what is actually happening in China today.

China is industrialising at an astonishing pace. The sources of its wealth are beginning to shift from an entirely export economy to one that is increasingly driven by its own internal markets.

The Chinese leadership is encouraging the breakneck pace of growth as it sees it (correctly) as the only way of keeping the population just about in line. How long this can go on is debatable. Middle classes, even newly minted ones, have a nasty habit of getting uppity.

The major source of energy for all this is Chinese coal, which means Chinese industrialisation is predominantly a 'dirty' process characterised by huge CO2 emissions and equally vast amounts of black carbon aerosols.

This is the future unless war, pestilence or social collapse derails the Chinese completely derails the Chinese economy.

Jan 12, 2011 at 5:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

This is how China does it. Build an Abu Dhabi like city that no one lives in. Given the construction costs and the CO2 output to that it is complete, CO2 output is decreased by 20%.

Jan 12, 2011 at 5:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterKevin

I don't know where Haunting the Library finds the time, some very interesting articles.

Especially the Hansen one about sea levels, recently announced by AVOID (Hadley Centre, Tyndall, Grantham, Walker Institute) who advice the DECC, that after a review of IPCC and recent sea level predictions, sea level rises could be UPTO 2 feet, 59cm was worst case and 2m VERY unlikely.

Haunting the Library may have had a bit of extra web traffic today, possibly because it gets a glowing reference in a Watts Up With That article.

4 Guest posts now, do you think I'm eligible for a spot in a Monbiot Hall of Shame yet?

Jan 12, 2011 at 5:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods


Jan 12, 2011 at 6:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobinson

Steam Coal costs 70 cents/MMBTU in Wyoming. It costs $5.50/MMBTU in Asia.

The Chinese are acting in their economic interests. Asian coal markets have reached a point where more demand = higher prices, not more production. Japan is out of coal, South Korea is ou of coal, Vietnam is almost out of coal, China doesn't have enough for it's domestic needs, India doesn't have enough for it's domestic needs.

The Chinese rationing coal is an effort to stop the 20% annual increase in coal prices that have been occurring in Asia for the last 8 years(with compounding 400% in 8 years).

Jan 12, 2011 at 6:24 PM | Unregistered Commenterharrywr2

The Aussie coal mines are flooded which is where some of the Chinese coal comes from, just one of the reasons for the high price. China is growing so fast its energy industry cannot keep pace so you get blackouts, been going on for years and they are used to it. Hardly Green thinking, it just the orders from above the greenies are interested in following.

Jan 12, 2011 at 6:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterBreath of fresh air

Looks like Australia will be providing some coal. At least coal is a commodity that doesn't suffer water damage.

Jan 12, 2011 at 6:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterKevin

Jan 12, 2011 at 6:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterKevin

There was a programme on Radio 4 recently (In Business, I think) about the millions of people whao are displaced from their ancestral homes by the construction of dams to provide electricity and water to growing cities. The displaced people had no rights of redress.

the world must look to the Chinese communist dictatorship to “lead”

Jan 12, 2011 at 6:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby


It's interesting how the EIA takes the view that coal shortages are not a problem for China:

Coal makes up 70 percent of China's total primary energy consumption, and China is both the largest consumer and producer of coal in the world. China holds an estimated 114.5 billion short tons of recoverable coal reserves, the third-largest in the world behind the United States and Russia and about 13 percent of the world’s total reserves. There are 27 provinces in China that produce coal. Northern China, especially Shanxi Province, contains most of China's easily accessible coal and virtually all of the large state-owned mines. Coal from southern mines tends to be higher in sulfur and ash, and therefore unsuitable for many applications. In 2008, China consumed an estimated 3 billion short tons of coal, representing nearly 40 percent of the world total and a 129 percent increase since 2000. Coal consumption has been on the rise in China over the last eight years, reversing the decline seen from 1996 to 2000. More than 50 percent of China’s coal use in 2006 was in the non-electricity sectors, primarily in the industrial sector. The other 50 percent is used in the power sector.

[Emphasis added.]


Actually I hope you are right and not the EIA because (war, pestilence and social collapse aside) the only thing that can slow down Chinese industrialisation and its associated emissions (including black carbon) is a coal shortage.

Jan 12, 2011 at 7:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

There are people, commonly found in academia, who wish to be seen as cleverer than everyone else. Trouble is that in order to prove this they have to come up with non obvious arguments- after all everyone can come up with obvious ones. Unfortunately the truth is usually obvious where it is known. So they put forward esoteric theories, such as AGW, that China is great, that the Soviet Union was humane precisely because most normal people believe the opposite.

Jan 12, 2011 at 7:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterPat

"In 1996 Clinton issued an executive order creating the 1.7 million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah, rendering the "low sulfur" coal deposit off limits for commercial mining."

Maybe we can pay China back with it??

6th from last paragraph. The rest is of interest to those interested in corruption in international business dealings.

Jan 12, 2011 at 8:01 PM | Unregistered Commenterkuhnkat

a fuller picture is...

"China holds an estimated 114.5 billion short tons of recoverable coal reserves, the third-largest in the world behind the United States and Russia and about 13 percent of the world’s total reserves."

and still "imports are expected to jump a staggering 63 percent to more than 200 million tonnes in 2011, Citigroup said on Tuesday,as domestic output struggles to keep pace with blazing demand meanwhile Analysts say the affected coal production down under will influence the prices of imported coal in China.

clearly more to it than reserve figures, 3rd largest coal reserve in the world, and they have to import 200 million tons? Has China's coal production peaked or something ;^)

They're probably getting some carbon credit type back hander for "meeting their target" or something equally ridiculous too.

Jan 12, 2011 at 8:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterFrosty

It is the overall mindset that gets me. As most have already noted, Hansen and other shades of Greenie are enamored with their image of the future and are prepared to impose it on all regardless of the costs to individuals. I am just reading Timothy Snyder's blood curdling book, Bloodlands, wherein among other things he recounts in terrifying and mindnumbing details Stalin's starving of 3 million plus Ukrainians in his homocidal and maniacal efforts to a fulfill a delusion filled 5 year plan. Snyder notes the role of the willing liberal media idiots like Duranty of the NYT in hiding the deaths of millions. May the God Lord save us from all utopians - including James Hansen.

Jan 12, 2011 at 8:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterBernie

It would be fascinating to know what was in Hansen's formative years that caused him to hate humanity so.

Memo to BBC radio: J. Hansen as guest on 'Desert Island Discs'.

(Plomley was the inventor of the format but I understand Hansen foresaw it).


Jan 12, 2011 at 9:00 PM | Unregistered Commentersimpleseekeraftertruth

Does anyone know anything about Miriam Pemberton? She also seems to be impressed by China's green credentials.

"If the effects of climate change are indeed so dire, she asks, then why shouldn't defense dollars be redistributed toward DOE and other federal outlets such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Labor, the Department of Transportation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that can play integral roles in avoiding these impending disasters?"

"The Chinese are spending one-sixth as much as the United States on their military and investing twice as much on clean energy technology. For every dollar China spends on climate, between $2 and $3 goes toward its military."

Jan 12, 2011 at 9:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterDreadnought

I spent some time in China last year. Coal is used for things like heating and cooking (coal does a nice job a number of foods such as duck). The down-side of all the domestic coal burning is an incredible amount of pollution. It's thick and it's everywhere. Even in my modern hotel room the fly-ash (coal ash) hung visibly in the air creating little gray cones of light around the light fixtures.

I enjoyed being in China and look forward to going back. I really liked the people, and I enjoyed the food and the culture; but I am not sure I would want to live there. I was surprised at how terrified the people are of the government, and how they quietly hate some of the government's policies such as having only one child per family. And, it's not just that the people are terrified of the government, the government is also terrified of the people: for instance, while I was in China, I could not get to any of my favorite web-sites, such as this one. They were blocked. As far as I could tell, all blogs were blocked. Hopefully things will improve in China with cleaner air and a happier relationship between the government and the people; and hopefully those improvements come peacefully.

Jan 12, 2011 at 9:26 PM | Unregistered Commenterpluck

I think we'll all have equal "web freedom" in the near future, China seems to be the model.

Jan 12, 2011 at 9:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterFrosty

James Hansen endorsed an eco fascist book by Keith Farnish calling for the destruction of industrial civilisation.

Farnish writes

"The only way to prevent global ecological collapse and thus ensure the survival of humanity is to rid the world of Industrial Civilization"


Unloading essentially means the removal of an existing burden: for instance, removing grazing domesticated animals, razing cities to the ground, blowing up dams and switching off the greenhouse gas emissions machine. The process of ecological unloading is an accumulation of many of the things I have already explained in this chapter, along with an (almost certainly necessary) element of sabotage.


Keith Farnish has it right: time has practically run out, and the 'system' is the problem. Governments are under the thumb of fossil fuel special interests - they will not look after our and the planet's well-being until we force them to do so, and that is going to require enormous effort. --Professor James Hansen, GISS, NASA

Jan 12, 2011 at 9:49 PM | Unregistered Commentere smith

The whole concept of China as a good guy is laughable.

BUT Bish

Have you seen the interesting post over at Paul Hudson's blog with a graphic showing the Met Office DID forecast a cold winter.

It seems to open up more questions than it seeks to answer. A rather different one to the graphic posted several weeks ago???!!! linked to here and elsewhere.

Jan 12, 2011 at 9:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterRetired Dave


Slip of the pen line 3? HtheL perhaps? HoL usually House of Lords

Jan 12, 2011 at 10:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterPharos

A rather different one to the graphic posted several weeks ago?

The plot thickens.

Jan 12, 2011 at 10:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobinson

Hansen et al are sorely out of touch with the Chinese view on Global Warming.


Jan 12, 2011 at 10:12 PM | Unregistered Commentersenter

Hansen has become a parody of himself.

Jan 12, 2011 at 10:36 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

When I was in China 15 yrs ago, well before they thought about climate change there, they had rolling blackouts of both electricity and water--not out of nobility but because their infrastructure was too feeble to supply demand. It is demented to call rolling blackouts a great idea. The lights go out while you are in the elevator and you have to wait there until they come back on. Water shuts off while you are lathering your hair in the shower. Sounds great, eh?

Jan 12, 2011 at 10:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterCraig Loehle

Craig Loehle:

It is the art of taking credit for what you are doing anyways. We all have the qualities of our deficiencies.

Jan 12, 2011 at 10:54 PM | Unregistered Commenterpluck

Could Hansen’s piece be anything to do with Chinese President Hu Jintao visit to the US next week.

Jan 12, 2011 at 11:00 PM | Unregistered Commentermartyn

Here's the direct link to Paul Hudson's new MO graphic - have also posted it over at Anthony's -

I think that this new temperature map shows there is a serious conflict at the MO between the meteorologists (who are finally learning not to trust linear models?), and the warmist climate modellers who evidently can't cope with the possibility of a negative NAO?

Jan 12, 2011 at 11:09 PM | Unregistered Commenterlapogus

harrywr2 "Japan is out of coal".

No way. Japan has known for a very long time that it has very little in the way of natural reserves, so it has used its wealth to defend its future position. Japan has been buying up vast quantities of cheap coal (much of it from China) for decades and storing it at sea. Thus they have built up huge reserves of coal on the seabed. They will have very cheap coal for a long time when China and other Asian countries are forced to pay high prices for fuels, and so will be able to redress the competitive balance.

With regard to eco-friendly rolling blackouts, I can only imagine this is gross ignorance or wilful deception. I have visted many factories in China many times and have seen the problems this causes. Electricity is rationed not to serve a green agenda but because of industrial and domestic consumption outstripping supply. Anyone who thinks the Chinese have rolling blackouts for environmental reasons need their brains tested. Doubtless government propaganda sweetens the pill for the populace and tries to save face by playing the ecological card, but for Hansen and his cronies to be taken in by that is just to show what an idiotic stooge he is.

Jan 12, 2011 at 11:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterScientistForTruth


Hudson's article is all spin. What he shows first (October 1) is that the US NOAA forecast for Europe was very accurate, but then it was forecasting this 9 months ago as well. We know what the Met Office were expecting in October for winter - milder than usual, with less than 5% chance of much colder than normal. The evidence is still on their website, but hard to find. Hudson's second piece (October 5) is about the European model:

"This would mean not especially cold temperatures, as the wind direction would not be from the North or East. So it's no surprise that the European model is expecting temperatures this winter to be close to normal."

So he has one post about the US model and one post about the European model. The Met Office hardly gets a look in.

So, here's the spin: what Hudson says on his January 12 piece is that combining the forecasts for the Met Office (slightly milder), the European (average) and the US models (much colder than normal), we end up with an average that is colder than normal. The "Winter Forecast 2010-11 with all predictors" is clearly not the Met Office's own forecast, but what it says, an average of a number of a number of model outputs from a number of national/international centres. The Met Office have put their logo on the average because they've presented the data average, but this is not THEIR forecast.

So, we are getting to the truth. When the Met Office briefed that it was going to be a colder than normal winter, this was their take on what the consensus was, of which they were a minority. What the Met Office really predicted from their own models was a milder than average winter, but this data was swamped by all the others that predicted normal or colder winter.

So they can talk with a forked tongue: they can say

We believe it will be a milder than average winter (if we trust our models: that's what they are telling us); or

We believe it could be a colder than average winter (if we take into account that we're in the minority and factor in what everyone else is saying).

Truth is, their models are seen to be a heap of junk.

Jan 13, 2011 at 12:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterScientistForTruth

I think perhaps you should post that up on his page, or at least email him to clarify. It does rather put a different spin on things.

Jan 13, 2011 at 12:05 AM | Unregistered CommenterRobinson

I have just left China after 4 very enjoyable years working there, mainly around Shanghai. At other times I travelled to 4 other cities. Power cuts in those 4 years? Not one! Water cut off? Never.

Now I am not saying that it does not happen, China is huge but one thing I do know, Hansen would not last 5 minutes in China without being slung in jail! He loves the model so much let him go protest there or even open his mouth in criticism of the government!

Hansen is simply a bitter old hippie who cheats to try to force his myopic view of life. What a sad, bitter old man.

Jan 13, 2011 at 2:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterPete H

China, clearly under the thumb of fossil fuel interests. Thanks, Jim; I needed that.

Jan 13, 2011 at 2:41 AM | Unregistered Commenterkim

KnR: "So what has it (China) got going for it that makes it the Greens new best friend?"


If i don't misrepresent Ben Pile's view, offered at Climate Resistance, the environmental movement is politics in disguise. So the thing about China that appeals to them is that 8 guys can decide what should be done - and IIRC they are all graduate engineers except for the PhD. I do have to confess that it sounds a bit more attractive than lawyers, but this is a very treacherous slope.

Jan 13, 2011 at 12:51 PM | Unregistered Commenterj ferguson

Back over the page Frosty says:

[...]and still "imports are expected to jump a staggering 63 percent to more than 200 million tonnes in 2011, Citigroup said on Tuesday,as domestic output struggles to keep pace with blazing demand meanwhile Analysts say the affected coal production down under will influence the prices of imported coal in China.

clearly more to it than reserve figures, 3rd largest coal reserve in the world, and they have to import 200 million tons? Has China's coal production peaked or something ;^)

As I said to harrywr2, I actually rather hope Chinese industrialisation does get slowed down by an energy (coal) pinch. So far though, they seem to be keeping just ahead of the game (BP Statistical Review 2010):

That's looking back to 2009 figures and you are talking market speculation about increased coal imports this year, so there's certainly no direct conflict.

Just one thing though: I know you are a Peak Oil catastrophist, and that this colours your world view. You appear to think that organisations like Citi and the rest are neutral observers and honest forecasters. They are not

So many speculators are betting on coal prices rising (along with just about everything else) that they have a naughty little habit of promoting their own interests via exactly such statements.

Caution and scepticism are advisable.

Jan 13, 2011 at 4:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

China already burns 50% of global coal production, (OK about 47% to be precise) and thereby produces half of the global emissions of carbon dioxide arising from coal. It is planning another 400GW of coal fired power generation by 2020. So much for going green. Why are these people like Hansen so ignorant of what is happening in the world?

By the way the sales of vehicles in China will exceed 1 million this year and still climbing. Oh and I forgot the 120 airports planned in the next 10 years, or that China currently consumes 40% of global iron ore, zinc etc etc etc.

Jan 13, 2011 at 5:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterSpen

If there really are 'rolling blackouts' in China, I suspect it has much to do with not being able to build new coal-driven electricity plants fast enough.

Jan 13, 2011 at 5:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterFred


"It's interesting how the EIA takes the view that coal shortages are not a problem for China:"

In 2005 EIA did produce some scenario's based on the cost of coal railroad transportation increasing 'worst case' by 7% adjusted for inflation. The result was a mild reduction in coal consumption over time.

The actual increase between 2005 and 2010 for railroad transportation was 40%. 6 times worse then 'worst case'. Trains run on diesel fuel. The price of diesel has doubled.

A large portion of Chinese coal reserves are inaccessible by rail, so to get to it the coal has to be trucked, which is an order of magnitude more expensive then rail.

The US EIA projected decreasing coal prices every year from 2002-2010. The price of coal on global markets increased 400% in the same time frame.

The US EIA misses two important trends. Productivity in mines near major population centers is dropping(we dig the easy stuff out first) and transportation costs to get coal from mines a long distance from major population centers are also rising.

Even in the US we can see the effect. Wyoming coal is $13/ton. Literally cheaper then dirt. West Virgina coal is $80/ton. By the time we ship either West Virginian or Wyoming coal to our good friends in Europe or Asia it's $120/ton.

It one looks at the 20 million cars the Chinese are buying every year then expecting the price of oil to go anywhere but up is probably foolish. If oil goes up so does the cost of transporting coal.

On a cost basis nuclear power looks like a lot better bet long term then coal, unless you live near Wyoming.

Jan 13, 2011 at 7:46 PM | Unregistered Commenterharrywr2


Interesting - thank you.

I'm with you on nuclear BTW.

Jan 13, 2011 at 8:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

To J Ferguson,

For your consideration, Papa Doc, Doctor of Medicine, murdered 30,000.

Jan 14, 2011 at 9:36 AM | Unregistered Commentersleepalot

harrywr2; Frosty

It's at least worth considering that we may be over-interpreting what is happening with Chinese coal at present.

harrywr2 points out that inaccessibility of reserves is a problem currently solved by diesel train or truck. The rising cost of diesel has impacted the cost of coal and so on.

Yet rather than the price signals indicating peak coal, might they not simply be a temporary response to a temporary problem. Namely that internal demand for coal has outstripped the infrastructure's ability to supply it at the optimum price.

A few extra coal-fired power stations, a few thousand miles of electrified railway - problem solved.

The Chinese are not afraid of Big Engineering infrastructure projects, so who is to say that this will not soon be fixed?

There is, as I have said, a tendency by some to jump on every price signal as an indicator of peak this-or-that, or a dire warning of imminent systemic breakdown.

But sometimes it's just a matter of a couple of years and some major internal investment to clear the arteries.

Jan 14, 2011 at 3:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

I am always curiously torn between yawn and clinical interest when it comes to intellectuals’ fascination with communism and fascism.

Whether they are real “intellectuals” and in fact create something remarkable in other fields or just pseudo-intellectual frauds masquerading as such, it seems they are more susceptible to idiotic proposals than the average man.

Enter, for example, the towering intellect of one Thomas Friedman of the New York Times on September 8th, 2010:

“There is only one thing worse than one-party autocracy, and that is one-party democracy, which is what we have in America today."

"One-party autocracy certainly has its drawbacks. But when it is led by a reasonably enlightened group of people, as China is today, it can also have great advantages. That one party can just impose the politically difficult but critically important policies needed to move a society forward in the 21st century.”

Hansen’s views are evidently not just the exclusive domain of borderline insane individuals but are consumed regularly by the enlightened readership of major “liberal” newspapers like the New York Times.

I think I should reread Paul Johnson’s treatise on intellectual pathology and Jonah Goldberg’s on “liberals”. Somehow they both managed to make this dreadful subject interesting.

Jan 18, 2011 at 3:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterWellington

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