NASA Scientist James Hansen's Testimony in UK Climate Activism Trial

NASA scientist James Hansen at work

I covered the Ratcliffe on Trial climate activism case here on Planetsave a few weeks ago. The gist of this story is as follows:

20 of the 114 activists that were arrested in a school in Nottingham (UK) in April 2009 are on trial now on suspicion of conspiring to shut down Ratcliffe-on-Soar Power Station.

The activists are pleading “Not Guilty” on the grounds of necessity. This means they are admitting they planned to shut down the power station in order to prevent loss of life and serious injury caused through climate change.

The trial started yesterday and the defendants already brought in one star witness from the U.S. to testify on their behalf: leading climate scientist from NASA, Dr James Hansen. The Guardian reports:

“The anger of 114 activists who planned to break into a coal plant near Nottingham was understandable because of the ‘lies’ told by governments about climate change, Nasa’s top scientist told the trial of 20 climate campaigners.”

Nice, right on.

Here are some of Hansen’s direct words to the Nottingham crown court:

“The fact that we continue to burn more coal and build more coal plants shows governments are not telling the truth. If they are saying they understand the climate problem but will continue to burn coal its easy for me to understand that young people get upset, because they know governments are lying or kidding themselves.”

Apparently, Hansen testified in a similar case in Kent in 2008 and the defendants there were acquitted. We’ll see what the judge in this case concludes.

Hansen’s Answers to the Prosecution

Of course, Hansen had to respond to the prosecuting attorneys as well. Prosecuting attorney Felicity Gerry reportedly asked Dr Hansen: “it may be suggested… that if we all use biodegradable compost toilets and switch off the lights then that will achieve significant results in reducing the level of CO2. What do you say to that?”

Hansen’s straight and unequivocal response: “Unfortunately that will do little good… burning it a little more slowly, being a little more conservative in our use. We are going to have to leave fossil fuels in the ground. The biggest one to leave in the ground is coal.”

Leading climate scientists Dr James Hansen

Hansen also put the UK as a whole in the hot seat, asserting that it was the largest per capita contributor to climate change since industrialization began. Gerry, trying to be witty and take down his point, quipped: “its grandma”s fault.” Hansen’s cool response: “Yes but grandma didn’t know about it. We do now.”

As one final point, Hansen also explained why he has become such a strong climate activist and communicator, something we should all take note of:

“I did not want [my grandchildren] to say pa you understood what was happening but you never made it clear. You can see the changes now. The things which will happen during the lifetime of our young people if we continue as business as usual will dwarf these [current] inconveniences.”

A big thanks to Hansen and these activists for the brave and persistent work they are doing.

Read more about this story on The GuardianClimate change protesters’ anger was justifiable, says Nasa Scientist.

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Photo Credits: NASA Goddard Photo and Video via flickr (CC license); World Development Movement via flickr (CC license)

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