NASA’s Hansen Quotes Thomas Jefferson to Incite Global Warming Hysteria

Well, it only took a week for NASA's James Hansen to formally address the changes made to the United States historical climate record by the agency he oversees.

When he finally got around to it, Hansen actually quoted from a letter Thomas Jefferson sent to James Madison in 1789 to suggest that the Founding Father would have been a global warming alarmist, while castigating today's skeptics as court jesters employed by oil companies.

Oddly, Hansen's statement didn't appear at the Goddard Instititute For Space Studies website, but instead cropped up unceremoniously at Slashdot Friday morning (h/t Glenn Reynolds).

Regardless of the delay, Hansen's piece entitled "The Real Deal: Usufruct & the Gorilla," represents a marvelous example of how unscientific the alarmists are in their approach to this issue, and how even the head of a major NASA division feels the need to insult and attack those who disagree with him and pay his salary through their tax dollars (emphasis added throughout):

What we have here is a case of dogged contrarians who present results in ways intended to deceive the public into believing that the changes have greater significance than reality. They aim to make a mountain out of a mole hill. I believe that these people are not stupid, instead they seek to create a brouhaha and muddy the waters in the climate change story. They seem to know exactly what they are doing and believe they can get away with it, because the public does not have the time, inclination, and training to discern what is a significant change with regard to the global warming issue.

The proclamations of the contrarians are a deceit, but their story raises a more important matter, usufruct. It is the most important issue in the entire global warming story, in my opinion. The players in the present U.S. temperature story, we scientists included, are just bit players. The characters in the main drama are big fish, really big fish.

Amazing, wouldn't you agree? After all, the deception is all Hansen's in not announcing the changes to this record the moment they occurred, and in continuing to refuse the requests of folks like Stephen McIntyre to make public all of the data collection methods and computer codes involved in the GISS's temperature calculations.

Yet, Hansen was just getting started with his disingenuous finger-pointing:

The deceit behind the attempts to discredit evidence of climate change reveals matters of importance. This deceit has a clear purpose: to confuse the public about the status of knowledge of global climate change, thus delaying effective action to mitigate climate change. The danger is that delay will cause tipping points to be passed, such that large climate impacts become inevitable, including the loss of all Arctic sea ice, destabilization of the West Antarctic ice sheet with disastrous sea level rise later this century, and extermination of a large fraction of animal and plant species (see "Dangerous", "Trace Gases", and "Gorilla" papers).

Make no doubt, however, if tipping points are passed, if we, in effect, destroy Creation, passing on to our children, grandchildren, and the unborn a situation out of their control, the contrarians who work to deny and confuse will not be the principal culprits. The contrarians will be remembered as court jesters. There is no point to joust with court jesters. They will always be present. They will continue to entertain even if the Titanic begins to take on water. Their role and consequence is only as a diversion from what is important.

So, folks like McIntyre, Fred Singer, Richard Lindzen, Tim Ball, Benny Peiser, Robert Carter, Anthony Watts, and all those around the world including myself who are exposing the flaws in the anthropogenic global warming myth are jesters deceiving the public.

Meanwhile, the work of Hansen concerning this issue continues to have holes poked in it by these "jesters" while he refuses to share the methodologies and computer codes responsible for the data he is disseminating.

Who's deceiving who, James?

Alas, there was more:

The real deal is this: the ‘royalty' controlling the court, the ones with the power, the ones with the ability to make a difference, with the ability to change our course, the ones who will live in infamy if we pass the tipping points, are the captains of industry, CEOs in fossil fuel companies such as EXXON/Mobil, automobile manufacturers, utilities, all of the leaders who have placed short-term profit above the fate of the planet and the well-being of our children. The court jesters are their jesters, occasionally paid for services, and more substantively supported by the captains' disinformation campaigns.

Is this how a scientist whose services are paid for with American tax dollars should behave?

Dave Price at Dean's World certainly doesn't think so (emphasis added):

When you're working to advance science, the appropriate response when someone finds an error in your data or calculations is contrition (best expressed by an openness to further scrutiny and re-evaluation), and perhaps gratitude that truth has been served.

[...]

I didn't know much about Hansen before this incident, but this does not inspire confidence in his work.

As has been noted before, if Hansen really cares about global warming as much as he claims, he needs to release all the GISS data and algorithms for public scrutiny. Someone reverse-engineered GISS' work to find this error, which as a programmer I can tell you is a very troubling harbinger, as it means it was fairly obvious. Maybe the rest of the GISS data is perfect, but sunlight is the best disinfectant.

Again, if global warming really matters to Hansen, he should be doing everything possible to ensure the integrity of the data and calculations his apocalyptic rhetoric is based on; that's the scientific method to dispel doubt, not calling your critics names when they find flaws in your work.

Exactly, especially if you are an employee of the federal government.

Yet, Hansen was still not done, and in his next castigation of folks like myself, he used a little-known legal term, as well as Thomas Jefferson, to further distort the issue at hand:

Court jesters serve as a distraction, a distraction from usufruct. Usufruct is the matter that the captains wish to deny, the matter that they do not want their children to know about. They realize that if there is no ‘gorilla', then usufruct is not an important issue for them. So, with the help of jesters, they deny the existence of the gorilla. There is no danger of melting the Arctic, of destabilizing the West Antarctic ice sheet, of increasing hydrologic extremes, more droughts and stronger forest fires on one hand and heavier downpours and floods on the other, threats to the fresh water supplies of huge numbers of people in different parts of the globe. "Whew! It is lucky that, as our jesters show, these are just imaginary concerns. We captains of industry can continue with business-as-usual, we do not need to face the tough problem of how to maintain profits without destroying our legacy in our children's eyes."

Usufruct is as American as the Declaration of Independence, implicit in the Preamble "...to ourselves and our Posterity...". It is explicitly discussed in a famous letter of 6 September 1789 from Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, discussing the proposed Bill of Rights to be added to the Constitution: "The question whether one generation of men has a right to bind another. . . is a question of such consequences as not only to merit decision, but place also among the fundamental principles of every government. . . . I set out on this ground, which I suppose to be self-evident, 'that the Earth belongs in usufruct to the living' . . ."

What's fascinating here is that Hansen was introducing a legal term that likely few readers have ever heard, or understand the meaning and relevance to this matter, but chose not to define it so that the reader could determine said relevance or lack thereof.

In fact, at the end of his article, Hansen admitted that even he was unaware of this concept: "I am indebted to Jim Wine for schooling me in ‘usufruct'."

Interesting that Hansen is indebted to getting schooled concerning matters of law, but so hostile and ungrateful when he gets schooled in matters of science.

Regardless, as Hansen chose not to explain to the reader what usufruct is - much like he disingenuously hides data collection methodologies and computer codes from the public - the Constitutional Law Foundation defines usufruct (emphasis added):

In Jefferson's time, as now, "usufruct" referred to "the right to make all the use and profit of a thing that can be made without injuring the substance of the thing itself." f122 It was a term used to describe the rights and responsibilities of tenants, trustees, or other parties temporarily entrusted with the use of an asset -- usually land. f123

Under the common law, the doctrine of usufruct is closely conjoined with the doctrine prohibiting waste, defined by Blackstone as "a spoil or destruction in houses, gardens, trees, or other corporeal hereditaments, to the disheison of him that hath the remainder or reversion." f124 Taken together, these two doctrines provide that a tenant (or other caretaker / interest holder) is entitled to the beneficial use of the land and its fruits, but is prohibited from prejudicing future interest bearers by using the land in a way that destroys or impairs its essential character or long term productivity. f125

Jefferson's philosophy that the earth belongs in usufruct to the living at least partially reiterates the biblical/Lockean paradigm of the earth as intergenerational commons, the fruits and benefits of which should be accessible to every member of every generation. f126 He takes the position that no landholder has a natural right to control the land or dispose of it after his or her death. The land is entailed to the larger society; it reverts to the larger society upon the holder's death. Society may choose to pass the land on to beneficiaries or assignees chosen by the original landholder, but there is nothing in natural law which requires this. "By an universal law, indeed, whatever, whether fixed or moveable, belongs to all men equally and in common, is the property for the moment of him who occupies it; but when he relinquishes the occupation, the property goes with it." f127

Society, as trustee of the earth, reasonably expects the natural estate to be returned undiminished at the end of each landholder's tenure. Jefferson maintains that each individual, and each generation collectively, has the obligation to pass on his, her, or its natural estate undiminished and unencumbered to later generations.

With this in mind, it appears that Hansen, and his friend Jim Wine, don't really understand what usufruct is, what Jefferson was saying, and how it relates to global warming. For instance, here's the section of Jefferson's letter to Madison Hansen chose not to share with his readers (emphasis added):

I set out on this ground which I suppose to be self evident, "that the earth belongs in usufruct to the living;" that the dead have neither powers nor rights over it. The portion occupied by an individual ceases to be his when himself ceases to be, and reverts to the society. If the society has formed no rules for the appropriation of its lands in severalty, it will be taken by the first occupants. These will generally be the wife and children of the decedent. If they have formed rules of appropriation, those rules may give it to the wife and children, or to some one of them, or to the legatee of the deceased. So they may give it to his creditor. But the child, the legatee or creditor takes it, not by any natural right, but by a law of the society of which they are members, and to which they are subject. Then no man can by natural right oblige the lands he occupied, or the persons who succeed him in that occupation, to the paiment of debts contracted by him. For if he could, he might during his own life, eat up the usufruct of the lands for several generations to come, and then the lands would belong to the dead, and not to the living, which would be reverse of our principle.

As such, Jefferson's letter to Madison is totally irrelevant as it pertains to global warming, and was either thoroughly misinterpreted by Hansen, or used to distort the issue by somehow tying it to a Founding Father's words.

After all, what Jefferson was talking about was rights of property inheritance, and how the decedent's real estate must somehow pass to a human being upon his demise rather than being owned in perpituity by a creditor. That's the usufruct Jefferson was addressing, and not what Hansen presented:

"Jefferson's philosophy regarding generational relations was based on this "self-evident" principle. That we have an obligation to preserve Creation for today's and future generations."

No, James. That's not what Jefferson was writing about, and has absolutely no relevance here. Jefferson just wanted to make clear to Madison that he believed property owned by a citizen must pass to another citizen upon his demise. That's all.

In the end, given how badly Hansen has misinterpreted Jefferson's letter, I'd love to advise him to stay away from Constitutional law, and stick with science. Sadly for all those concerned, Hansen appears to have an equally abysmal command of both.

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.