James Hansen


James Hansen

:"This is about the American scientist/administrator. For others, see James Hansen (disambiguation)."

Infobox Person
name = James Hansen


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birth_date = March 29, 1941
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nationality =USA
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education = Physics, University of Iowa
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occupation = Head of NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies
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website = [http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/ Dr. James E. Hansen]
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James E. Hansen (born March 29, 1941 in Denison, Iowa) heads the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies [cite web | title=Goddard Institute for Space Studies, NASA | url=http://www.giss.nasa.gov/] in New York City, a part of the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, Earth Sciences Division. [cite web |title=Goddard Space Flight Center | url=http://www.gsfc.nasa.gov/gsfc/about/about_gsfc.html] He is currently an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University. Hansen is best known for his research in the field of climatology and his testimony on climate change to congressional committees in the 1980s that helped raise broad awareness of the global warming issue. He is also noted for publishing "an alternative scenario" for global warming which states that in the past few decades the warming effect produced by increased CO2 has been largely offset by the cooling effect of aerosols also produced in burning fossil fuels, and that most of the net warming so far is due to trace greenhouse gases other than CO2. [cite web | url=http://www.pnas.org/cgi/reprint/97/18/9875.pdf?ck=nck | title=Global warming in the twenty-first century: An alternative scenario | author=James Hansen, Makiko Sato, Reto Ruedy, Andrew Lacis, and Valdar Oinas | date=16 June 2000 | accessdate=2007-09-27] He has been a critic of both the Clinton and current Bush Administration's stances on climate change. [ [http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/03/17/60minutes/main1415985.shtml Rewriting The Science (CBS News)] ]

Education

Hansen was trained in physics and astronomy in the space science program of Dr. James Van Allen at the University of Iowa. He obtained a B.A. in Physics and Mathematics with highest distinction in 1963, an M.S. in Astronomy in 1965 and a Ph.D. in Physics, in 1967, all three degrees from the University of Iowa. He participated in the NASA graduate traineeship from 1962 to 1966 and, at the same time, between 1965 and 1966, he was a visiting student at the Institute of Astrophysics at the University of Kyoto and in the Department of Astronomy at the University of Tokyo.

Honors and awards

Hansen was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1996 [cite web |title=Directory of the National Academy of Sciences | url=http://www.nasonline.org/site/Dir/1501887583?pg=vprof&mbr=1003147&returl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nasonline.org%2Fsite%2FDir%2F1501887583%3Fpg%3Dsrch%26view%3Dbasic&retmk=search_again_link | accessdate=2007-06-19] and he received a US$250,000 Heinz Environment Award [cite web |title=The Heinz Awards | url=http://www.heinzawards.net/recipients/james-hansen | accessdate=2008-09-27] for his research on global warming in 2001. He was listed as one of Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People in the Time 100 (2006) listand, in 2007, he shared the US$1 million Dan David Prize. On April 5, 2008, Dr. Hansen received the PNC Bank Common Wealth Award of Distinguished Service for his outstanding achievements in science.

Field of research and interests

As a college student in the University of Iowa, Hansen was attracted to science and research by James Van Allen's space science program in the physics and astronomy department. A decade later, he started focusing on planetary research that involved trying to understand the climate change on earth that will result from anthropogenic changes of the atmospheric composition.

One of Hansen’s research interests is radiative transfer in planetary atmospheres, especially interpreting remote sounding of the earth's atmosphere and surface from satellites. Such data, appropriately analyzed, may be one of the most effective ways to monitor and study global change on the earth Fact|date=September 2008.

Hansen is also interested in the development and application of global numerical models for the purpose of understanding current climate trends and projecting humans' potential impacts on climate Fact|date=September 2008.

Publications

In 1981 Hansen and a team of scientists at Goddard had reached the conclusion that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would lead to global warming sooner than previously predicted. While other climatologists had already predicted that a trend would be apparent by 2020, Hansen predicted, in a paper published in "Science", that the change was already occurring and that there would be record high temperatures as early as 1990. He also predicted that it would be difficult to convince politicians and the public to react. ["Experts Find Possible Climatic 'Bomb'", Eleanor Randolph, Staff writer, "Los Angeles Times", August 9, 1981, pg B3]

In 2000 he authored a paper called "Global warming in the twenty-first century: an alternative scenario" [cite journal | last=Hansen | first = James | coauthors ="et al." | year = 2000 | url= http://www.giss.nasa.gov/research/features/altscenario/ |title = Global warming in the twenty-first century: An alternative scenario | journal = Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci.| volume = 97 | pages = 9875–9880 |doi = 10.1073/pnas.170278997 |pmid = 10944197 ] in which he presents a more optimistic way of dealing with global warming focusing on non-CO2 gases and black carbon in the short run, giving more time to make reductions in fossil fuel emissions. He notes that the net warming observed to date is roughly as big as that expected from non-CO2 gases only. This is because CO2 warming is offset by climate-cooling aerosols emitted with fossil fuel burning and because at that time non-CO2 gases, taken together, were responsible for roughly 50% of the anthropogenic greenhouse gas warming.

In 2003 Hansen wrote a paper called "Can We Defuse the Global Warming Time Bomb" [cite web| author = James Hansen | year = 2003 | url= http://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/docs/2003/2003_Hansen.pdf |title = Can We Defuse the Global Warming Time Bomb |format=PDF ] . In it, he argues that human-caused forces on the climate are now greater than natural ones, and that this, over a long time period, can cause large climate changes. He further states that a lower limit on “dangerous anthropogenic interference” is set by the stability of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. His view on actions to mitigate climate change is that "halting global warming requires urgent, unprecedented international cooperation, but the needed actions are feasible and have additional benefits for human health, agriculture and the environment."

Responsibility for climate change

Hansen notes that in determining responsibility for climate change, the effect of greenhouse gas emissions on climate is not determined by current emissions, but by accumulated emissions over the lifetime of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. By this measure the U.S. is still the largest single cause of climate change even though its current emissions are surpassed by the PRC. Fact|date=September 2008

On public policy, Hansen is critical of what he sees as efforts to mislead the public on the issue of climate change. He points specifically to the Competitive Enterprise Institute's commercials with the tagline "you call CO2 pollution, we call it life" [ [http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5425355 They Call It Pollution. We Call It Life] . JJ Sutherland. NPR.org, May 23, 2006] , and politicians who accept money from fossil fuel interests and then describe global warming as "a great hoax." He also says that changes needed to reduce global warming do not require hardship or reduction in the quality of life, but will also produce benefits such as cleaner air and water, and growth of high-tech industries Fact|date=September 2008.

Coal

"Burning of fossil fuels, primarily coal, oil and gas, increases the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other gases and particles in the air. These gases and particles affect the Earth’s energy balance, changing both the amount of sunlight absorbed by the planet and the emission of heat (long wave or thermal radiation) to space. The net effect is a global warming that has become substantial during the past three decades. Global warming from continued burning of more and more fossil fuels poses clear dangers for the planet and for the planet’s present and future inhabitants. Coal is the largest contributor to the human-made increase of CO2 in the air. Saving the planet and creation surely requires phase-out of coal use". [http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/2007/IowaCoal_20071105.pdf]

"Practically, I don't see how we can stop putting the oil in the atmosphere, because that's owned by Russia and Saudi Arabia," he advised the House Committee on Global Warming. "We can make our vehicles more efficient, but that oil is going to get used and it's going to get in the atmosphere . . . and it doesn't really matter much how fast we burn it. But what we could do is stop the coal." [ [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/06/23/AR2008062301920.html?nav=rss_print/asection Dana Milbank - Burned Up About the Other Fossil Fuel - washingtonpost.com] ]

In 2007 testimony against the construction of new coal-fired power plants lacking carbon capture and storage technology, he stated "If we cannot stop the building of more coal-fired power plants, those coal trains will be death trains – no less gruesome than if they were boxcars headed to crematoria, loaded with uncountable irreplaceable species." [ [http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/11/26/holocausts/ Climate, Coal and Crematoria] ] [ [http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/NMAletters_20071121.pdf Hansen's correspondence with NMA re "coal crematoria"] ] [ "More from NASA's Hansen on coal" "Des Moines Register", November 7, 2007]

A 2008 document authored by Hansen and eight other scientists, entitled “"Target Atmospheric CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim?" calls for phasing out coal power completely by the year 2030 [ [http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/2008/TargetCO2_20080407.pdf Target Atmospheric CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim?] ] .

Censorship controversy

In 2005 and 2006, Hansen stated in interviews with ABC News, The Washington Post, and The New York Times that NASA administrators have tried to influence his public statements about the causes of climate change. [cite web | title=Top NASA Scientist Says He's Being Silenced on Global Warming | url=http:// http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/story?id=1555183 | author = Bill Blakemore | publisher=ABC News | date=January 29, 2006 | accessdate=2008-06-20] [cite web | title=Putting Some Heat on Bush | url=http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A19162-2005Jan18.html | author = Juliet Eilperin | publisher=Washington Post | date=January 18, 2005 | accessdate=2007-06-20] [cite web | title=Climate Expert Says NASA Tried to Silence Him | url=http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/29/science/earth/29climate.html | author = Andrew Revkin | publisher=The New York Times | date=January 29, 2006 | accessdate=2007-06-20] Hansen claims that NASA public relations staff were ordered to review his public statements and interviews after a December 2005 lecture at the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.

James Hansen has also appeared on 60 Minutes stating that the White House edited climate-related press releases reported by federal agencies to make global warming seem less threatening.cite web |title=Rewriting the Science |author=Catherine Herrick/Bill Owens |publisher=CBS | url=http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/03/17/60minutes/main1415985.shtml | date=2006-03-19 | access-date=2007-06-20 ] He claimed that he was unable to speak "freely", without the backlash of other government officials. "In my more than three decades in the government I've never witnessed such restrictions on the ability of scientists to communicate with the public."

Hansen’s claims of censorship by NASA attracted the attention not only of the United States Congress and various media outlets, but also of several legal defense organizations. The 2006 George Soros Foundations Network Report detailed the work of the Open Society Institute (OSI) in conducting a “campaign on Hansen's behalf” run by “the Government Accountability Project (GAP), a whistleblower protection organization and OSI grantee.” The report indicated this campaign had “resulted in a decision by NASA to revisit its media policy .” The report further stated this campaign was prompted by the experience of Hansen who “protested attempts to silence him after officials at NASA ordered him to refer press inquiries to the public affairs office and required the presence of a public affairs representative at any interview”. [ [http://public.soros.org/resources/articles_publications/publications/annual_20070731/a_complete.pdf untitled ] ] Hansen addressed this specific issue publicly and in writing, saying he did “accept pro bono legal advice for a while” from GAP but did not receive any direct funds. [http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/distro_Lawlessness_070927.pdf]

Congressman Darrell Issa questioned Hansen's motivations in criticizing the Bush administration, noting that Hansen supported 2004 Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry and also received a $250,000 Heinz Environment Award from the Heinz Foundation, run by Kerry's wife, in 2001. [cite web | title=House Panel Investigates Bush's Climate Science Manipulations | url=http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/mar2007/2007-03-20-10.asp | author = J. R. Pegg | publisher=Environmental News Service | | accessdate=2007-09-27] Hansen, who describes his political views as "middle-of-the-road conservative", stated in a 2004 speech at the University of Iowa that he would have preferred to vote for Republican John McCain had McCain been on the ballot, but settled for Kerry because of Kerry's stance on the climate change issue. [ [http://www.space.com/spacenews/businessmonday_060206.html Policy or Politics? NASA Accused of Intimidating Climatologist] ]

Hansen has said that a global tipping point will be reached by 2016 if the human population is unable to reduce greenhouse gases. [cite web | title=Earth's Climate Approaches Dangerous Tipping Point | url=http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/jun2007/2007-06-01-01.asp | publisher=Environmental News Service | date=June 1, 2007 | accessdate=2007-06-29] Hansen has said that IPCC scenarios for future sea level rise do not take into account ice sheet disintegration, which could cause several meters of sea level rise during the next century with unchanged climate forcings. [cite journal | last=Hansen | first = James | year = 2007 | url= http://www.iop.org/EJ/article/1748-9326/2/2/024002/erl7_2_024002.html |title = Scientific reticence and sea level rise | journal = Environ. Res. Lett. | volume = 2 | doi=10.1088/1748-9326/2/2/024002 | pages=024002 ]

There is a short clip in the 2006 documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" that shows Hansen being questioned by Al Gore on May 8, 1989, at what appears to be a Congress meeting. Gore criticizes Hansen for apparently contradicting himself in a written testimony on global warming. At that point, Hansen reveals that the last paragraph in the testimony was not written by him, but added by someone else.

Two years after James E. Hansen and other agency employees described a pattern of distortion and suppression of climate science by political s, the agency’s inspector general report said "our investigation found that during the fall of 2004 through early 2006, the NASA Headquarters Office of Public Affairs managed the topic of climate change in a manner that reduced, marginalized or mischaracterized climate change science made available to the general public.” [ [http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/03/science/earth/03nasa.html?em&ex=1212638400&en=27f054b906a7623c&ei=5087%0A NASA Office Is Criticized on Climate Reports - NYTimes.com] ]

For a detailed examination of the Hansen censorship controversy, see "Censoring Science: Inside the Political Attack on Dr. James Hansen and the Truth of Global Warming", by Mark Bowen.

Other controversies

Fast-feedback effects

In a paper published May 18, 2007, Hansen discussed the potential danger of "fast-feedback" effects causing ice sheet disintegration, based on paleoclimate data. The environmental and political activist George Monbiot summarizes his findings as follows:

"The IPCC predicts that sea levels could rise by as much as 59cm this century. [cite web| author = Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change | month = February | year = 2007 | url= http://www.ipcc.ch/SPM2feb07.pdf |title = Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis - Summary for Policymakers. Table SPM-3.|format=PDF ] Hansen’s paper argues that the slow melting of ice sheets the panel expects doesn’t fit the data. The geological record suggests that ice at the poles does not melt in a gradual and linear fashion, but flips suddenly from one state to another. When temperatures increased to 2-3 degrees above today’s level 3.5 million years ago, sea levels rose not by 59 centimetres but by 25 metres. The ice responded immediately to changes in temperature." [cite web| author = George Monbiot | date = 3 July 2007 | url= http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2007/07/03/a-sudden-change-of-state/ |title = A Sudden Change of State. ]

It should be noted that Hansen stresses the uncertainties around these predictions:

"It is difficult to predict time of collapse in such a nonlinear problem ... An ice sheet response time of centuries seems probable, and we cannot rule out large changes on decadal time-scales once wide-scale surface melt is underway."

Hansen concludes:

"Present knowledge does not permit accurate specification of the dangerous level of human-made GHGs. However, it is much lower than has commonly been assumed. If we have not already passed the dangerous level, the energy infrastructure in place ensures that we will pass it within several decades."cite journal | last=Hansen | first = James | coauthors ="et al." | year = 2007 | url= http://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/docs/2007/2007_Hansen_etal_2.pdf |title = Climate change and trace gases | journal = Phil. Trans. Roy. Soc. A | volume = 365 | pages = 1925–1954 | format = PDF |doi = 10.1098/rsta.2007.2052 ]

Correcting climate record database

In August 2007 Stephen McIntyre noticed that many U.S. temperature records from the Historical Climatology Network (USHCN) displayed a discontinuity around the year 2000. NASA corrected the data and reported that "data for 2000 and later years were inadvertently appended to USHCN data for prior years without including the adjustments at these stations that had been defined by the NOAA National Climate Data Center." [ [http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/updates/200708.html GISS Surface Temperature Analysis, August 2007 update] ] The correction resulted in a slight (0.15 degree C) decrease in U.S. average temperatures post-2000, and 1934 replaced 1998 as the warmest year in the U.S. The years have changed rankings before: in a 2001 paper 1934 was marginally warmer than 1998. Hansen argues that using yearly rankings in this way is bad because it magnifies tiny differences, and that addition of new data to an analysis always causes values to fluctuate slightly. He further states that the difference between the 1934 and 1998 temperatures is insignificant and that the adjustment effect on the global temperature record is invisible.James Hansen, " [http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/20070816_realdeal.pdf The Real Deal: Usufruct & the Gorilla.] " August 2007. Hansen's response to his critics published on his [http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/ web site] .] [cite news|author=Marc Kaufman|title=NASA Revisions Create a Stir in The Blogosphere|publisher=The Washington Post|date=August 15, 2007|page=A6|url=http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/08/14/AR2007081401677.html|accessdate=2007-09-25]

In a website commentary, Hansen indicated that he felt that Fox News and The Washington Times, among others, had overreacted to this mistake, stating that they had "gone bananas". Hansen quoted the Founding Fathers of the United States and a Native American mystic and argued that "The deceit behind the attempts to discredit evidence of climate change reveals matters of importance. This deceit has a clear purpose: to confuse the public about the status of knowledge of global climate change, thus delaying effective action to mitigate climate change", and that "The contrarians will be remembered as court jesters. There is no point to joust with court jesters....The real deal is this: the ‘royalty’ controlling the court, the ones with the power, the ones with the ability to make a difference, with the ability to change our course, the ones who will live in infamy if we pass the tipping points, are the captains of industry, CEOs in fossil fuel companies such as EXXON/Mobil, automobile manufacturers, utilities, all of the leaders who have placed short-term profit above the fate of the planet and the well-being of our children."

Trials for fossil fuel chiefs

In 2008 interviews with ABC News, The Guardian, and in a separate op-ed, Hansen has called for putting fossil fuel company executives, including the CEOs of ExxonMobil and Peabody Coal, on trial for "high crimes against humanity and nature", on the grounds that these and other fossil-fuel companies had actively spread doubt and misinformation about global warming, in the same way that tobacco companies tried to hide the link between smoking and cancer.cite web | title=Global Warming 20 Years Later| url=http://abcnews.go.com/Video/playerIndex?id=5228739&affil=wjla | author = Clayton Sandell | publisher=ABC News | date=June 23, 2008 | accessdate=2008-06-23] [http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/jun/23/fossilfuels.climatechange Put oil firm chiefs on trial, says leading climate change scientist] ] cite web
url= http://www.worldwatch.org/node/5798
title= Guest Opinion: Global Warming Twenty Years Later
accessdate= 2008-06-23
author= James Hansen
date= 2008-06-23
publisher= Worldwatch Institute
quote= In my opinion, these CEOs should be tried for high crimes against humanity and nature.
] He also blamed lobbyists for inaction on climate change, stating: "It's the fact that money talks in Washington, and that democracy is not working the way it's intended to work."

Kingsnorth power station trial

In October 2007, six Greenpeace activists vandalized the chimney of the Kingsnorth power station in Kent, England, painting graffiti that cost £30,000 to remove. At their trial for causing criminal damage, the defense presented arguments that the six had a lawful excuse to prevent even greater damage caused by climate change. Hansen testified on behalf of the activists about the danger of climate change, "Somebody needs to step forward and say there has to be a moratorium, draw a line in the sand and say no more coal-fired power stations." [ [http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/files/pdfs/climate/hansen.pdf Hansen's Kingsnorth testimony] ] The jury accepted the lawful excuse argument and acquitted the activists of causing criminal damage. [cite news
author = John Vidal
coauthors =
title = Cleared: Jury decides that threat of global warming justifies breaking the law
url = http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/sep/11/activists.kingsnorthclimatecamp
format =
work = The Guardian
publisher =
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date = 2008-09-11
accessdate = 2008-09-18
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]

References

External links

* [http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/ James Hansen's homepage] , Columbia University
* [http://www.giss.nasa.gov/staff/jhansen.html James Hansen biography] , GISS
* [http://www.giss.nasa.gov/files/cv/cv_hansen_200702.pdf James Hansen "curriculum vitae"] , GISS
* [http://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/authors/jhansen.html James Hansen bibliography and publication list] , GISS
* [http://www.cooperativeresearch.org/entity.jsp?entity=james_e._hansen_1 James Hansen timeline] , History Commons
* [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A19162-2005Jan18.html "Scientist Inspires Anger, Awe for Challenges on Global Warming"] , Washington Post
* [http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/29/science/earth/29climate.html?ex=1296190800&en=28e236da0977ee7f&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss "Climate Expert Says NASA Tried to Silence Him"] , New York Times
* [http://www.onpointradio.org/shows/2006/02/20060203_a_main.asp "NASA and Global Warming"] , audio interview with WBUR OnPoint
* [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/02/10/AR2006021001766.html?nav=rss_politics "Censorship Is Alleged at NOAA"] , Washington Post
* [http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=243 "Hansen in the New York Times"] , RealClimate
* [http://www.time.com/time/archive/preview/0,10987,1156577,00.html "The Political Science Test"] , TIME

Video

* [http://www.democracynow.org/2008/3/21/censoring_science_inside_the_political_attack James Hansen interview on "Democracy Now!" program] , March 21, 2008
* [http://www.soes.soton.ac.uk/resources/collection/seminars/hansen/Hansen.html "The Threat to the Planet: The Dark and Bright Sides of Global Warming'] A seminar given by James Hansen at the [http://www.noc.soton.ac.uk " National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, UK] February 6th 2008


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