April 4th, 2013 by Cynthia Shahan
Dr. James E. Hansen has announced his retirement as head of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies, where he began his career in 1967. He plans to engage more actively in politics around the issue of climate change, continuing his work as the most educated pioneer of scientific climate change research.
Dr. Hansen, now 72 years old, began testifying in congress regarding climate challenges the planet is facing (determined through his research and that of his colleagues) in 1988. Bill McKibben equates him as the patron saint of 350.org. “It was Jim’s 2008 paper that gave us our name, identifying 350 parts per million CO2 as the safe upper limit for carbon in the atmosphere.”
“As much as for his science, we respect him for his courage.” Thoughtful Fearless Integration of Science, NASA (Government), and Activism
Some people just become stronger as they age. It is as if wisdom transforms into their work and being, as if experience unfolds and multiples their inner strength. Bill McKibben continues: “He’s always been 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 has done to bring attention to damaging projects like Keystone XL — even to the point of risking arrest to do so. I have no doubt he will go on doing science, and speaking plainly — indeed, he told the New York Times that one reason he is leaving the federal payroll is so he can take on the government more directly.”
“Again and again, Dr. Hansen made predictions that were ahead of the rest of the scientific community …”
Hansen thoughtfully used his unique ability to straddle and integrate his daily work (science), governmental duty, and activism, becoming the best-known public figure of federally sponsored climate research. He stood up intelligently to pressure from the White House.
“From that perch, seven floors above the diner made famous by ‘Seinfeld,’ Dr. Hansen battled the White House, testified dozens of times in Congress, commanded some of the world’s most powerful computers and pleaded with ordinary citizens to grasp the basics of a complex science.”
He is directly honest. In 2005, he shared with the public the pressure he felt by the Bush administration’s effort to control and suppress information to the public from him.
Some people feel that inherent intuitive ability to tap into a quantum stream of consciousness or body of knowledge that is hovering in the multidimensional planes of life. Einstein had this ability. Hansen has it. As noted in Justin Gilllis’ article in the New York Times that broke the story of Hansen’s retirement, “Again and again, Dr. Hansen made predictions that were ahead of the rest of the scientific community and, arguably, a bit ahead of the evidence. Hansen’s colleagues value him, ‘Jim has a real track record of being right before you can actually prove he is right with statistics,’ said Raymond T. Pierrehumbert, a planetary scientist at the University of Chicago.”
His focus only becomes more streamlined and he sheds light on his decision, “‘As a government employee, you cannot testify against the government,’ he said in an interview.” Now, he will be able to.
He echoes Mark Kitchell, director of Fierce Green Fire, or Kitchell echoed him as Kitchell introduced his film nationwide not long ago:
“Dr. Hansen says he senses the beginnings of a mass movement on climate change, led by young people. Once he finishes his final papers as a NASA employee, he intends to give it his full support.”
“At my age,” he said, “I am not worried about having an arrest record.” This is, in fact, a part of his experience as well as the intention. He was arrested for the first time in 2009 as part of a coal protest. He was cited again for sleeping overnight in a tent on the Boston Common with others, largely students pressuring Massachusetts into passing climate legislation.
Along with his increased time with activism, he will continue his scientific work. “Initially, Dr. Hansen plans to work out of a converted barn on his farm in Pennsylvania. He has not ruled out setting up a small institute or taking an academic appointment.”
“At the same time, retirement will allow Dr. Hansen to press his cause in court. He plans to take a more active role in lawsuits challenging the federal and state governments over their failure to limit emissions, for instance, as well as in fighting the development in Canada of a particularly dirty form of oil extracted from tar sands.”
Thank You, Dr. Hansen!
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