Monday, July 6, 2015

NASA's James Hansen to retire; he'll step up climate change activism

His increased activism could potentially bolster opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline and increase pressure on the nation's lawmakers to enact legislation to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

NASA's James Hansen to retire; he'll step up climate change activism

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One of the nation’s most prominent voices on climate change, NASA scientist James Hansen, has announced that he will retire so he can spend more time on activism.

The New York Times noted in a story worth reading in its entirety that “his departure, after a 46-year career at the space agency’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in Manhattan, will deprive federally sponsored climate research of its best-known public figure.”

But his increased activism could potentially bolster opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline and increase pressure on the nation’s lawmakers to enact legislation to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

The Washington Post reported that Hansen wrote in an e-mail that he had decided to step down “so that I can spend full time on science, drawing attention to the implications for young people, and making clear what science says needs to be done.”

“After warning Congress in 1988 that climate change posed a serious threat to the planet, he has spent much of the past quarter-century trying to persuade policymakers to take bold action to curb global carbon emissions,” wrote the Post reporter.

A national grass-roots campaign led by Bill McKibben, 350.org, posted on its website, “He's been one of the best advocates a planet could ask for — he even gave us our name when he wrote that 350 parts per million is the safe level of CO2 in the atmosphere.”

McKibben praised Hansen as “willing to speak the truth bluntly, from the day in 1988 when he told Congress that the time had come ‘to stop waffling so much and say the planet was warming,’ to all he’s done to bring attention to damaging projects like Keystone XL — even to the point of risking arrest to do so.”

Hansen was among those arrested recently outside the White House in an act of civili disobedience to oppose the pipeline.

“One reason we’re fighting the pipeline is because Jim Hansen did the math to show that if we combusted the tar sands on top of all else we burn, it would be “game over for the climate,’ “ McKibben recalled.

The Times reported that Hansen’s activities, “going well beyond the usual role of government scientists, had raised eyebrows at NASA headquarters in Washington.

The story continues: “It was becoming clear that there were people in NASA who would be much happier if the ‘sideshow’ would exit,” Dr. Hansen said in an e-mail.

At 72, he said, he feels a moral obligation to step up his activism in his remaining years.

“If we burn even a substantial fraction of the fossil fuels, we guarantee there’s going to be unstoppable changes” in the climate of the earth, he said. “We’re going to leave a situation for young people and future generations that they may have no way to deal with.”

One of the nation’s most prominent voices on climate change, NASA scientist James Hansen, has announced that he will retire so he can spend more time on activism.

The New York Times noted in an excellent story worth reading in its entirety that “his departure, after a 46-year career at the space agency’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in Manhattan, will deprive federally sponsored climate research of its best-known public figure.”
But his increased activism could potentially bolster opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline and increase pressure on the nation’s lawmakers to enact legislation to limit greenhouse gas emissions.
The Washington Post reported that Hansen wrote in an e-mail that he had decided to step down “so that I can spend full time on science, drawing attention to the implications for young people, and making clear what science says needs to be done.”
“After warning Congress in 1988 that climate change posed a serious threat to the planet, he has spent much of the past quarter-century trying to persuade policymakers to take bold action to curb global carbon emissions,” wrote the Post reporter.
A national grass-roots campaign led by Bill McKibben, 350.org, posted on its website, “He's been one of the best advocates a planet could ask for — he even gave us our name when he wrote that 350 parts per million is the safe level of CO2 in the atmosphere.”
McKibben praised Hanse as “willing to speak the truth bluntly, from the day in 1988 when he told Congress that the time had come ‘to stop waffling so much and say the planet was warming,’ to all he’s done to bring attention to damaging projects like Keystone XL — even to the point of risking arrest to do so.”
Hansen was among those arrested recently outside the White House in an act of civili disobedience to oppose the pipeline.
“One reason we’re fighting the pipeline is because Jim Hansen did the math to show that if we combusted the tar sands on top of all else we burn, it would be “game over for the climate,’ “ McKibben recalled.
 The Times reported that Hansen’s activities, “going well beyond the usual role of government scientists, had raised eyebrows at NASA headquarters in Washington.
The story continues: “It was becoming clear that there were people in NASA who would be much happier if the ‘sideshow’ would exit,” Dr. Hansen said in an e-mail.
At 72, he said, he feels a moral obligation to step up his activism in his remaining years.
“If we burn even a substantial fraction of the fossil fuels, we guarantee there’s going to be unstoppable changes” in the climate of the earth, he said. “We’re going to leave a situation for young people and future generations that they may have no way to deal with.”

Inquirer GreenSpace Columnist
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About this blog

GreenSpace is about environmental issues and green living. Bauers also writes a biweekly GreenSpace column about environmental health issues for the Inquirer’s Sunday “Health” section.

Sandy Bauers is the environment reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where she has worked for more than 20 years as a reporter and editor. She lives in northern Chester County with her husband, two cats, a large vegetable garden and a flock of pet chickens.

Reach Sandy at sbauers@phillynews.com.

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