When the legendary James Hansen announced his retirement last year as director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) -- a leading climate research group -- it was because, after a half-dozen citations and arrests from climate and Keystone XL protests, the 72-year-old could tell that the government organization was tiring of his tricks. But this left anyone wonkish enough to be paying attention wondering: Who was bold enough to replace him?
Earlier this month, NASA came out with the answer: Gavin Schmidt, an imperturbable champion of science. While his name isn’t as known as his predecessor’s -- at least, not yet -- he’s still pulled some pretty noteworthy stunts. He's unafraid to talk climate change with the most obnoxious of skeptics or deniers, and is known for steadfastly sticking to the data amidst flurries of spin. Schmidt's also got more than 120 scientific publications to his name, was a founding member of the influential RealClimate blog, and has talked climate science in a digestible way on everything from the TED circuit to The Daily Show.
But does he have it in him to be the next Hansen? No -- because Schmidt, 46, isn’t looking to fill anyone’s shoes but his own. And, based on a recent interview with Grist, we think he’s already got a pretty good pair on him, too. While he might not be out there storming the streets, Schmidt's combo of scientific cred and wry 'tude makes us wonder: Did NASA just replace one rabble-rouser with another? Here's why we're keeping an eye on the climate hawk: