NASA Scientist Receives Edinburgh Medal for Contribution to Climate Science


NASA’s Dr. James Hansen accepted the prestigious Edinburgh Medal yesterday for his contributions to the field of climate science.  In his medal address, the 24th Edinburgh Medal Recipient emphasized that climate change is a moral issue of unprecedented scope.  Dr. Hansen made the case for young people and future generations by reminding the audience that as we benefit from fossil fuel use today, our youth and future generations will be burdened with the consequences of our decisions.  Furthermore, people in less developed countries, who are least able to adapt to a changing climate will be affected the most.

“The situation we’re creating for young people and future generations is that we’re handing them a climate system which is potentially out of their control, ” Hansen said in an interview with the Guardian.  “We’re in an emergency:  you can see what’s on the horizon over the next few decades with the effects it will have on ecosystems, sea level and species extinction.”

Dr. Hansen (Ph.D., Physics, University of Iowa) is a climate scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.  His work at GISS includes the development and application of global numeric models to aid in understanding climate trends.  In a 2011 publication, Dr. Hansen asserts that “rapid reduction of fossil fuel emissions is required for humanity to succeed in preserving a planet resembling the one on which civilization developed” and current goals to limit human-made warning are a prescription for disaster.*

James Hansen

Photo Credit: 2003 GISS publication <i>Can we defuse the global warming time bomb?</i>

James Hansen is well known for his 1988 testimony to a Congressional Committee where he predicted the dangers of global warming and climate change.  In 2007, Dr. Hansen testified to a House of Representatives committee about political interference with government climate change science.  And 20 years after his first congressional testimony, Dr. Hansen returned to Congress, this time calling for the chief execs of fossil fuel companies to be held responsible for their role in corrupting global warming science in the same way that tobacco companies lied about the risks of smoking.

Dr. Hansen’s work is not without controversy.  In the on-going debate between scientists like Hansen who believe climate change has a large human-made component and scientists who believe that there is no man-made connection, a group of Hansen’s co-workers at NASA have gone on record to voice their opposition.  In a letter to NASA administrator Charles Bolden, Jr., 49 former NASA astronauts and scientists urge NASA to refrain from advocating for man-made CO2 as a major cause of climate change and, instead, make “an objective assessment of all available scientific data prior to making decisions or public statements.”  See the full text of the letter here.

NASA Scientist James Hansen Arrested

NASA Scientist James Hansen Arrested Photo Credit: Tar Sands Action/Bed Powless

This is not the first time NASA’s James Hansen has faced opposition.  There seems to be a long history of attempts to muzzle Dr. Hansen.  Recent examples:  In 2006, Dr. Hansen told 60 Minutes that the White House edited press releases to make global warming seem less threatening.  In 2007, Dr. Hansen testified to a House of Representatives committee about political interference with government climate change science.  In 2009 and 2010, Hansen was arrested with other activists during protests against mountaintop removal for coal mining.  And in 2011, Hansen was  arrested during a White House demonstration opposing the Keystone pipeline extension.

You can read more about about the Edinburgh Medal and Dr. Hansen’s medal address on the Edinburgh International Science Festival website.

*Hansen, J.E., and Mki. Sato, 2011: Paleoclimate implications for human-made climate change. In Climate Change: Inferences from Paleoclimate and Regional Aspects. A. Berger, F. Mesinger, and D. Šija?ki, Eds. Springer, in press.


  1. Geert F de Vries says:

    Hansen will go down in history as the charlatan/hoaxer he is. He is not even in the class of Bishop Ussher who was a serious scholar in his day although he produced pseudo science. Hansen has produced pseudo science, and in the face of solid evidence to the contrary keeps repeating his nonsense based on totally inadequate modelling.
    If he believes his own nonsense then he is dim and should hand his doctorate back, if he does not believe it then he is a deceiver, cheat, fraud and con-man who is causing billion dollar damage to humanity.
    This does not mean that the world need not seek better energy solutions .
    Not because CO2 has anything to with it, it has not: major climate variations took place during the last 10000 years while CO2 was strictly constant, and twice in the 20th century we have seen cooling periods while CO2 was going up and up. There is NO correlation whatsoever.
    We need better energy solutions because the various fossils have limited times to run and should be used sparingly as chemical feedstock; because wind is a ridiculous source: Germany (top technology force) for the years 1990-2010 have squeezed 16.5% load factor out of it (fossils do 90%); beause solar PV is worse, Germany managed 7.5% loadfactor over the years 2000-2010, produced 30580 GWh at a cost of 130billion euro, i.e. Euro 1.90/kWh ; because all the bio-fuels are costing more energy than they deliver and deprive humanity of food in places. Serious research is needed.
    But there is enough time, there is no catastrophic warming taking place or coming up, only ordinary climate variations as we have experienced for the last 10000 years. The last 14 years have even seen a downward trend, the Antarctic is not warming let alone melting, the Arctic has cycled its sea-ice quantity as it has done forever before, polar bears are increasing, etc etc. None of Hansen and company’s so-called taking-place-events and predictions are even remotely true. He is a fraud who has besmirched the reputation of science. The Edinburgh group that bestowed a medal on him thereby showed they understand strictly nothing of the issues and went on hearsay, not evidence.

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