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Articles by James Hansen

Dr. James Hansen is the director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Adjunct Professor at the Columbia University Earth Institute. These are his personal opinions, and they do not represent any organization.

Featured Article

The paperback version of my book Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity is now available. It includes, as an added section, a conversation between organizer Bill McKibben and me. Much of that Q&A is below. As was (and is) the case with the hardback and other formats of the book, all royalties go to 350.org. As I mention in the book, 350.org has demonstrated the most effective and responsible leadership in the public struggle for climate justice.

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Bill McKibben: Jim, more than a dozen nations have set new high-temperature records this year, and we’ve seen the all-time marks set for Asia (Pakistan at 129 degrees Fahrenheit) and Southeast Asia. Given that the global temperature has “only” gone up about a degree, can you explain how this kind of heat is possible?

James Hansen: Sure. What we see happening with new record temperatures, both warm and cold, is in good agreement with what we predicted in the 1980s when I testified to Congress about the expected effect of global warming. I used colored dice then to emphasize that global warming would cause the climate dice... Read more

All Articles

  • How warm was this summer?

    Let's look at the surface temperatures in the summer of 2010, which justifiably received a lot of attention.

  • Never-give-up fighting spirit: lessons from a grandchild

    Such negative questions and attitudes are increasing. How refreshing, on cold, windy Thanksgiving Plus One Day, which we spend with our children and grandchildren, when I went outside to shoot baskets with 5-year-old Connor. Connor is very bright, but needs work on his hand-to-eye coordination. I set the basket at a convenient height for him, […]

  • The story of our civil disobedience against mountaintop-removal coal mining

    Several people asked for more information about the 23 June civil disobedience near Coal River Mountain. We need Dickens to describe the local situation, but you can glean something from a statement I was reading at the time we were arrested (reprinted below). Local pollution effects and regional environmental destruction should be enough to stop […]

  • An open letter to the president and first lady from the nation's top climate scientist

     

    29 December 2008
    Michelle and Barack Obama
    Chicago and Washington, D.C. United States of America

    Dear Michelle and Barack,

    We write to you as fellow parents concerned about the Earth that will be inherited by our children, grandchildren, and those yet to be born.

    Barack has spoken of "a planet in peril" and noted that actions needed to stem climate change have other merits. However, the nature of the chosen actions will be of crucial importance.

    We apologize for the length of this letter. But your personal attention to these details could make all the difference in what surely will be the most important matter of our times.

    Jim has advised governments previously through regular channels. But urgency now dictates a personal appeal. Scientists at the forefront of climate research have seen a stream of new data in the past few years with startling implications for humanity and all life on Earth.

    Yet the information that most needs to be communicated to you concerns the failure of policy approaches employed by nations most sincere and concerned about stabilizing climate. Policies being discussed in national and international circles now, which focus on 'goals' for emission reduction and 'cap and trade,' have the same basic approach as the Kyoto Protocol. This approach is ineffectual and not commensurate with the climate threat. It could waste another decade, locking in disastrous consequences for our planet and humanity.

    The enclosure, "Tell Barack Obama the Truth -- the Whole Truth" [PDF] was sent to colleagues for comments as we left for a trip to Europe. Their main suggestion was to add a summary of the specific recommendations, preferably in a cover letter sent to both of you.

    There is a profound disconnect between actions that policy circles are considering and what the science demands for preservation of the planet. A stark scientific conclusion, that we must reduce greenhouse gases below present amounts to preserve nature and humanity, has become clear to the relevant experts. The validity of this statement could be verified by the National Academy of Sciences, which can deliver prompt authoritative reports in response to a Presidential request1. NAS was set up by President Lincoln for just such advisory purposes.

    Science and policy cannot be divorced. It is still feasible to avert climate disasters, but only if policies are consistent with what science indicates to be required. Our three recommendations derive from the science, including logical inferences based on empirical information about the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of specific past policy approaches.