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Outspoken climate scientist gets props

Cross-posted from The Great Beyond


James Hansen isn’t shy about speaking up, and now the American Meteorological Society is rewarding him for it.

Hansen, a NASA climate scientist known best for his outspoken criticism of the Bush administration, received the 2009 Carl-Gustaf Rossby Research Medal yesterday, the highest award given by the AMS. The society commended him for his contributions to climate modeling but also his “clear communication” to the public.

“The debate about global change is often emotional and controversial, and Jim has had the courage to stand up and say what others did not want to hear,” said Franco Einaudi, director of the Earth Sciences Division at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland (NASA press release). “He has acquired a credibility that very few scientists have.”

Andrew Revkin notes on his Dot Earth blog that “some will say this was a decision made by a small committee of the organization’s leaders and doesn’t reflect the views of the A.M.S. membership”. Meteorologists have tended to be more skeptical about the danger of human influence on climate change, Revkin says, though an official 2007 AMS statement acknowledged human activities as a “major contributor”. At more than 14,000 members, the AMS is the largest organization of weather scientists and amateurs in the US.

This is hardly Hansen’s first honor. Already occupying his mantelpiece are awards from the American Geophysical Union and American Physical Society, as well as two US Presidential Rank Awards. A panel of 600 science advisors selected him as EarthSky Scientist Communicator of the Year last month.

Hansen’s work focuses on numerical models of global climate patterns. He has told several news outlets that the Bush administration attempted to silence his warnings about the dangers of climate change. Hansen directs the NASA Goddard Institute of Space Studies in New York.

Posted on behalf of Roberta Kwok.

Image: NASA


  1. Report this comment

    Steven Earl Salmony said:

    Special good wishes and congratulations to James Hansen,

    Thanks, Jim, for all you have been doing for many people over many years by speaking out loudly, clearly and often for the sake of protecting biodiversity from extinction, the environment from degradation, the Earth from wanton dissipation and the children from reckless endangerment.

    Please note that not only does humanity face a challenge from human-forced climate destabilization, good scientific evidence of human population dynamics is also being all but universally ignored.

    It seems somehow not quite right for the human family not to be actively encouraged to consider — and not to deny — the potentially profound implications of extant scientific evidence regarding the population dynamics of absolute global human population numbers. The research appears to indicate with remarkable clarity and utter simplicity that human population dynamics is essentially similar to the population dynamics of other species; that increases and decreases in absolute global human population numbers can be better understood as a function of food supply; and that human carrying capacity is primarily determined by food availability. The failure of able people with widely accepted knowledge of biology, population dynamics and the biophysical world to communicate openly, in an intellectually honest and morally courageous way, regarding the predicament presented to humanity by distinctly human-induced and -driven threats to human wellbeing, life as we know it, environmental health and Earth’s body from the unbridled growth of the human species now overspreading the surface of Earth is as unacceptable as it is unforgivable. The elective mutism of leading experts inside and outside the scientific community has to be replaced, I suppose, with more adequate, more reasonable, more sensible and readily available evidence of what could be real about the way the world in which we live actually works as well as about the “placement” of human beings within the order of living things. By so doing, the family of humanity can get about the necessary work of responding ably to the recognizably daunting global challenges which are looming ominously before us on the horizon.

    Somehow, the human family will most assuredly find its way forward from “here and now” to a good enough and sustainable future for the children, coming generations and life as we know it in this wondrous planetary home we inhabit and call Earth.


    Steve Salmony

    Steven Earl Salmony, Ph.D., M.P.A.

    AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population,

    established 2001

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