Friday, April 12, 2013

Hansen is Retiring from NASA not the Fight Against Global Warming

James Hansen is retiring from NASA to get more directly involved in efforts to limit greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. During his 46 year scientific career at the space agency, Dr. Hansen has issued some of the clearest and starkest warnings about the dangers of climate change. Hanson is leaving the Goddard Institute for Space Studies so that he can invest his energies into political and legal means of slowing humanity's reckless heating of the planet.

Dr Hansen is already a leader in the environmental movement, he regularly attends climate protests and he has even allowed himself to be arrested or cited many times. He has repeatedly indicated that if we are to have a chance of keeping global climate from surpassed critical maximum thresholds we will have end our dependence on fossil fuels, particularly tar sands oil, which has more GHG emissions than conventional oil.

Dr. Hansen has used some of the world's most sophisticated computers as well as other NASA resources to track the earth’s temperature increases. He has consistently advocated for emissions reduction whether at the White House or in front of Congress. Testifying about global warming before Congress in 1988 was among Hansen's most notable career highlights.

As a government employee Hansen cannot testify against the government, but his retirement will free him to submit evidence in court. Hanson is serious about taking up legal challenges against federal and state governments. He specifically wants to be part of litigation that forces governments to limit emissions. He would even like to see the legal system used to charge the most vociferous climate-change deniers with “crimes against humanity.” He also wants to fight the development of the tar sands project in Canada and lobby European leaders to impose a tax on this dirty fuel.

Dr. Hansen has correctly foretasted the ongoing warming of the Earth, now he is predicting a mass climate movement capable of making a difference.

Hansen began his career studying the planet Venus and only began publishing ground breaking papers on GHGs in the 1970s. This is fitting because according to the mythology of Neolithic Greece, Venus is known as the "wide wandering one". Hansen has also forecast that if we continue to do nothing, the greenhouse effect could eventually boil the oceans and render earth uninhabitable, much like Venus.

In the mythology of Venus, she is rescued from the clutches of death, let us hope that our fate is more like the ancient myth of the Venus and less like the planet.

Hansen is a venerable elder who at the age of 72 could retire and rest on his laurels. No matter what happens Dr Hansen has secured a place in history as he is a climate science pioneer. While Hansen is retiring from NASA, he has not retired from the fight against global warming. He has indicated that he will use the rest of his life doing everything he can to avert the impending catastrophe.

He has indicated that he feels morally obligated to act on behalf of the environment in his remaining years. Dr. Hansen's climate leadership is not only about his achievements during his scientific career, it is also about his moral courage to do what needs to be done for the sake of future generations.

© 2013, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

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