Foreign Policy Blogs

Jim Hansen


(photo courtesy of Kaveh Sardari)

Dr. James Hansen is both an icon and a working scientist at the forefront of global warming research.  He's a world-renowned physicist and an impassioned activist.  He's soft spoken and hard hitting.  Hansen is the director of an important US government lab, NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and has sometimes been an outspoken critic of government policies.  He has also been subject to censorship under the present Presidential administration.  He has never been a victim. 

Dr. Hansen appeared in Congress exactly 20 years ago this Monday to testify on the dangers of global warming.  (I've written about or referenced him here a number of times.)  His testimony then, along with other top scientists, was a landmark event in the battle to confront climate change.  He came on the anniversary to testify again. Scientist: "We’re toast" without action on global warming  is the headline from on an AP story.  He also said "Now, as then, frank assessment of scientific data yields conclusions that are shocking to the body politic.  Now, as then, I can assert that these conclusions have a certainty exceeding 99 percent."  Shocking, certainly, and inconvenient as well to some.  You will find his full remarks, "Global Warming Twenty Years Later: Tipping Points Near," here.

Later, Hansen was honored by the Worldwatch Institute and the United Nations Foundation.  There is great coverage of this event here, including an op-ed for Worldwatch.  In his opinion piece, Hansen says: "The disturbing conclusion, documented in a paper I have written with several of the world's leading climate experts, is that the safe level of atmospheric carbon dioxide is no more than 350 ppm (parts per million), and it may be less. Carbon dioxide amount is already 385 ppm and rising by about 2 ppm per year. Stunning corollary: the oft-stated goal to keep global warming less than two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) is a recipe for global disaster, not salvation."  (The Tallberg Foundation has a vigorous climate change program including a drive to get back to 350 ppm.  Hansen is a signatory of their letter which recently appeared as a full-page ad in the "NY Times," "International Herald Tribune," and "Financial Times.")

There's more on Hansen, Worldwatch Institute partnered with Grist on a three-part bio to be found here as well.  He was a hero 20 years ago and he's a hero now.  One difference, thankfully, is that there are a whole lot more people on board these days.  That's the good news.  The bad news is that we've got an awful lot of work to do in a relatively short amount of time. 



Bill Hewitt

Bill Hewitt has been an environmental activist and professional for nearly 25 years. He was deeply involved in the battle to curtail acid rain, and was also a Sierra Club leader in New York City. He spent 11 years in public affairs for the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation, and worked on environmental issues for two NYC mayoral campaigns and a presidential campaign. He is a writer and editor and is the principal of Hewitt Communications. He has an M.S. in international affairs, has taught political science at Pace University, and has graduate and continuing education classes on climate change, sustainability, and energy and the environment at The Center for Global Affairs at NYU. His book, "A Newer World - Politics, Money, Technology, and What’s Really Being Done to Solve the Climate Crisis," will be out from the University Press of New England in December.

Areas of Focus:
the policy, politics, science and economics of environmental protection, sustainability, energy and climate change