In an interesting episode, Roger reminds us of a visit of James Hansen to Germany:
Hansen reflected after the fact that he hoped that his arguments would be found convincing to Merkel on the weight of their merits and against the wishes of her government (p. 179):
Merkel was trained as a physicist, and I hoped that rather than relying on advisers, she would be willing to think about the problem herself. I figured she would be able to appreciate the geophysical boundary conditions, the conclusion that most of the coal must be left in the ground.
Hansen finally was granted an audience with then minisiter of environment, Sigmar Gabriel:
With Gabriel, Hansen found a receptive audience to his summary of climate science and the need to stabilize carbon dioxide at 350 parts per million. There were no debates over the science. "The sticking point," Hansen recounted, "was the implication: the need to halt coal emissions." Hansen was quickly learning about the realities of democratic systems and the fact that scientific authority does not compel action.
Roger describes James Hansen's political advocacy as a kind of life-long learning process. Is it "one person, one vote" or is it "money trumps democracy?". Roger's article ends with a famous episode and a surprising conclusion:
Since 2009 Hansen has been arrested a half-dozen times for civil disobedience at protests against individual fossil fuel projects, marking a sharp departure from his earlier efforts to sway world leaders based on his authority as a scientist. The NY Times explains:
In the absence of such a broad [climate] policy, Dr. Hansen has been lending his support to fights against individual fossil fuel projects. Students lured him to a coal protest in 2009, and he was arrested for the first time. That fall he was cited again after sleeping overnight in a tent on the Boston Common with students trying to pressure Massachusetts into passing climate legislation.
And Roger comments:
Such overt advocacy for government action, grounded in shared values is the lifeblood of democracy.
What a remarkable conclusion! To paraphrase a famous quote from a famous anthropologist: this story is "good to think with".