Science & Technology

Climate Change Researcher James Hansen Becomes a Full-Time Activist


James Hansen
Credit: NASA

Climate change researcher James Hansen, the long-time head of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, is retiring from government employment to campaign for policies that he believes must be adopted to avoid impending catastrophic global warming, reports the New York Times. Back in 1988, on a blistering hot DC day in June, Hansen testimony at a Congressional hearing brought man-made global warming to the broader public's attention. Skeptics have questioned just how accurate Hansen's 1988 predictions have turned out to be:

Not so fast
Credit: Skeptical Science

On the other hand, the Times reports:

Since the day he spoke, not a single month's temperatures have fallen below the 20th-century average for that month. Half the world's population is now too young to have lived through the last colder-than-average month, February 1985.

In worldwide temperature records going back to 1880, the 19 hottest years have all occurred since his testimony.

To his credit, Hansen does not see man-made global warming as an excuse for growing the size and scope of government. As the Times notes:

For all his battles with conservatives, however, he has also been hard on environmentalists. He was a harsh critic of a failed climate bill they supported in 2009, on the grounds that it would have sent billions into the federal government's coffers without limiting emissions effectively.

Dr. Hansen agrees that a price is needed on carbon dioxide emissions, but he wants the money returned to the public in the form of rebates on tax bills. "It needs to be done on the basis of conservative principles — not one dime to make the government bigger," said Dr. Hansen, who is registered as a political independent.

More recently, Hansen has admitted that increases in global average temperatures have been halted for the last sixteen years. He argues that the rise must resume, but we shall see. In the meantime, other climate researchers are suggesting that the sensitivity of the climate to loading up the atmosphere with more carbon dioxide is somewhat less than many climate models have assumed.