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The Scientist: Jim Hansen Risks Handcuffs to Make His Research Clear

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James E. Hansen never thought his decision to study atmospheric models would lead to his arrest. But there he was in handcuffs last summer, protesting at the White House against a pipeline that would carry crude oil from Alberta's oil sands to the Gulf of Mexico. Hansen-portrait

It wasn't the first arrest, either. Hansen, who has directed NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies for 31 years, earned the sobriquet "father of global warming" after testifying before Congress in 1988 on the dangers of global warming. He appeared again in 1989. Then he quietly returned to his work, turning aside television and media requests for the next 15 years because, as he said, "you have no time to do the science if you're talking to the media."

That approach changed in 2004, when he realized government climate policies worldwide failed to reflect the dangerous story his science was telling. Emerging from his lab, Hansen attacked Bush Administration officials for censuring and watering down climate findings. In 2008 he testified in British court on behalf of the "Kingsnorth Six," a group of Greenpeace activists who successfully claimed their effort to shut down a power plant was justified under British law because it prevented the greater harm of climate change. In 2009 and 2010, Hansen was arrested protesting mountaintop-removal coal mining.

DailyClimate.org editor Douglas Fischer caught up with Hansen in December at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco, where the scientist previewed findings about impacts the world courts with its unslacked appetite for carbon-based fuels.


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