James Hansen of NASA has written an op-ed for the Guardian that, more than any other piece of his that I've seen, expresses his political philosophy. In a phrase, that philosophy can be characterized as "scientific authoritarianism." Scientific authoritarianism, as I am using it here, holds that political decisions should be compelled by the political preferences of scientists. It is a very strong form of the "linear model" of science and decision making that I discuss in The Honest Broker.

Hansen believes that the advice of experts, and specifically his advice alone, should compel certain political outcomes. He opens his op-ed in the Guardian with this statement:
A year ago, I wrote to Gordon Brown asking him to place a moratorium on new coal-fired power plants in Britain. I have asked the same of Angela Merkel, Barack Obama, Kevin Rudd and other leaders.
Collectively, Brown, Merkel, Obama and Rudd lead about 500 million people. The idea that one person's policy views should carry so much weight in democratic societies is an indication that Hansen believes that expertise should carry decisive weight in decisions. Hansen is not even a citizen of Germany, Britain, or the United Kingdom, so the mere fact that he is asking the leaders of these countries to act based on his say-so is an expression of scientific authoritarianism. Rather than making the case for his preferred policy, Hansen's argument includes his complaint that policy makers have not followed his advice, which apparently, Hansen believes should take precedent over all other views.

Indeed, he dismisses the views of the public as being too poorly informed, too distracted or unsophisticated to contribute to decision making on the climate issue:
The public, buffeted by weather fluctuations and economic turmoil, has little time to analyse decadal changes. How can people be expected to evaluate and filter out advice emanating from those pushing special interests? How can people distinguish between top-notch science and pseudo-science?
By contrast, Hansen argues that policy makers cannot be excused for not understanding what the scientists demand:
Those who lead us have no excuse - they are elected to guide, to protect the public and its best interests. They have at their disposal the best scientific organisations in the world, such as the Royal Society and the US National Academy of Sciences. Only in the past few years did the science crystallise, revealing the urgency.
Hansen's scientific authoritarianism becomes largely incoherent when he accuses political leaders of "tricking" their citizens when they say that climate policies include plans for the future development and implementation of carbon capture and storage from coal plants:
The dirtiest trick that governments play on their citizens is the pretence that they are working on "clean coal" or that they will build power plants that are "capture-ready" in case technology is ever developed to capture all pollutants.
Where might governments have come up with the idea that carbon capture and storage from coal plants might be part of their climate policy portfolios?

Why from the very same experts that James Hansen says that policy makers have at their disposal. For example, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences recommended carbon capture and storage (CCS) as an important future technology in a glossy summary about what everyone should know about energy (here in PDF) and a 2003 workshop report on CCS (here in PDF) concluded:
One way to reduce atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide is through sequestration or the safe disposal of large quantities of carbon dioxide in locations where it will not reenter the atmosphere.
Similarly the UK Royal Society has endorsed CCS:
The Royal Society has called on the Government to ensure that any new coal-fired power plants built in the UK are capturing 90% of their carbon dioxide emissions by 2020.
Similarly, the IPCC and IEA depend upon the future availability of CCS in all of their mitigation scenarios, and on this basis governments are investing resources in developing CCS technologies. It may not be enough of an investment or the governments may not be following the precise advice of their national societies, but those are not Hansen's arguments. His argument is that governments are tricking citizens. So if Hansen wants policy makers to listen to scientists, and scientists are calling for CCS research and deployment, and in fact assume such technologies in their mitigation scenarios, how can he fault policy makers for listening to exactly these recommendations?

Here Hansen swerves from scientific authoritarianism to megalomania:
The trains carrying coal to power plants are death trains. Coal-fired power plants are factories of death. . .

The German and Australian governments pretend to be green. When I show German officials the evidence that the coal source must be cut off, they say they will tighten the "carbon cap". But a cap only slows the use of a fuel - it does not leave it in the ground. When I point out that their new coal plants require that they convince Russia to leave its oil in the ground, they are silent. The Australian government was elected on a platform of solving the climate problem, but then, with the help of industry, it set emission targets so high as to guarantee untold disasters for the young, let alone the unborn. These governments are not green. They are black - coal black.
The very notion that the German (or any) government has the obligation to answer to James Hansen is really odd, and one I don't think I've ever seen in any policy analysis on any subject: "When I show ... they say ... When I point out ... they are silent." It is a blatant appeal to authority to include the fact that one's views are not followed as part of the argument for why they should be followed. Hansen must have a pretty well-developed sense of worth to believe that his views should compel governments around the world to listen and follow.

On some important aspects of the climate policy issue I agree strongly with Hansen, for instance on the importance of air capture and the feebleness of current policy approaches. But with respect to his approach to climate politics, I could not be more in disagreement. [To head off straw man responses, because I disagree with his political philosophy does not mean that I disagree with any of his policy recommendations.] Climate policy successes will depend on successful processes of democratic governance necessarily involving public participation and support. Scientific authoritarianism, weak or strong, has no role in climate politics.