LONDON The planet would be better off if the forthcoming Copenhagen climate change talks ended in collapse, according to a leading U.S. scientist who helped alert the world to dangers of global warming.
Any agreement likely to emerge from the negotiations would be so deeply flawed, said James Hansen, that it would be better for future generations if we were to start again from scratch.
"I would rather it not happen if people accept that as being the right track because it's a disaster track," Hansen, who heads the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, told the Guardian newspaper.
"The whole approach is so fundamentally wrong that it is better to reassess the situation. If it is going to be the Kyoto-type thing then will spend years trying to determine exactly what that means."
On Wednesday China and other big developing nations rejected core targets for a climate deal proposed by the Danish hosts in a draft text, such as halving world greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
Developing nations want richer countries to do much more to cut their emissions now before they agree to global emissions targets which they fear may shift the burden of action to them and hinder their economic growth.
Hansen is strongly opposed to carbon market schemes, in which permits to pollute are bought and sold, seen by the European Union and other governments as the most efficient way to cut emissions and move to a new clean energy economy.
Hansen opposes U.S. President Barack Obama's plans for a cap and trade system for carbon emissions in the United States, preferring a tax on energy use.
Tackling climate change does not allow room for the compromises that govern the world of politics, Hansen said.
"This is analogous to the issue of slavery faced by Abraham Lincoln or the issue of Nazism faced by Winston Churchill," he said. "On those kind of issues you cannot compromise. You can't say let's reduce slavery, let's find a compromise and reduce it 50 percent or reduce it 40 percent."
"We don't have a leader who is able to grasp it and say what is really needed," he added.
(Reporting by Kylie MacLellan)