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This blog is written by Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Posts appear Monday & Wednesday.

Hallucinations in High Places (More on the 1988 Hansen Climate Hearing)

SPOTLIGHT: The event in which Jim Hansen put climate change on the media map has triggered hallucinations in high places.

BIG PICTURE: I’ve previously discussed how Timothy Wirth, who chaired an historic US senate committee hearing in 1988, has given two accounts of what happened prior to its commencement.

During a 2007 television interview, he jovially described taking measures to circumvent the air conditioning in the meeting room. Global warming was being discussed, and those in attendance were sweltering. After being challenged by a Washington Post fact checker in 2015, however, Wirth caved. In a written statement, he said the pre-hearing measures didn’t happen. Those were just rumours he’d heard.

Although Wirth was the primary source of these rumours, his now insists he heard them second-hand and then inadvertently spread these falsehoods. (His Wikipedia entry continues to present his first account as real, and makes no mention of his retraction.)

Bizarrely, the Harvard-educated Wirth isn’t the only person with fuzzy recall. When John Kerry was serving in no less a role than US Secretary of State a few years ago, the same Washington Post fact checker, Glenn Kessler, cited numerous instances, extending back years, in which Kerry claimed to have been one of the organizers of the historic 1988 hearing. According to Kerry’s narrative, that was the “very first” congressional hearing on climate change.

After identifying several other hearings, including one in 1982 in which Hansen also participated, Kessler determined this wasn’t the case,  As “a junior member of the Senate in the late 1980s,” he says, Kerry “was not even a participant” in the 1988 event. He “simply spoke at a hearing that took place the following year.”

Kessler describes Kerry’s “pattern of exaggeration” as “disturbing.” A few weeks later, after being alerted to the Timothy Wirth fabrication, the fact checker’s judgment hardened:

Frankly, this now puts Kerry’s statements in an even a worse light [sic]. Not only did he place himself at a hearing he did not organize and attend, but he described witnessing events that did not happen.

TOP TAKEAWAY: Climate change is part of the narrative powerful people construct about their own lives. Those narratives can be amazingly inaccurate.

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This entry was posted on June 27, 2018 by in ethical & philosophical, historical perspective, James Hansen, media and tagged .
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