NASA’s James Hansen Arrested at Tar Sands Pipeline Protest

James Hansen

James Hansen was arrested on Monday, Aug. 29, on day 10 of the anti-Keystone XL pipeline protests at the White House. In total, 521 participants have been arrested. Credit: Tar Sands Action

The nation’s top climate scientist was arrested today protesting the tar sands pipeline.  Back in June, he famously wrote, “Exploitation of tar sands would make it implausible to stabilize climate and avoid disastrous global climate impacts.”

SolveClimate has more:

The president-to-be’s campaign promises had led him to believe that Obama had the tenacity and knowledge to make climate change a signature issue. Hansen was hopeful Obama would communicate directly with citizens instead of letting politicians hijack that agenda. It’s difficult and rare, he added, to find leaders such as Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston Churchill who are strong enough to tell the truth and courageously commit to a cause.

Now, Hansen fears President Obama will fumble his defining moment on global warming.

“If the tar sands pipeline is approved, we will be back and we will grow,” he said. “For the sake of our children and our grandchildren, we must find somebody who is working for our dream.”

Obama already fumbled his defining moment on global warming (see “The failed presidency of Barack Obama“).  So we better find that new “somebody” PDQ!

59 Responses to NASA’s James Hansen Arrested at Tar Sands Pipeline Protest

  1. Michael Tucker says:

    I guess that means Dr Hansen will not be supporting President Obama in his reelection bid.

  2. Peter Mizla says:

    If we where looking for a leader on any issue Obama has been a failure.

    Hansen is disappointed – as we all are.

  3. Jeff Huggins says:

    Got It?

    As I’ve said before, I think we should adopt this stance and make this message clear to President Obama: “If you want my vote and support in the coming election, you will have to NOT approve Keystone XL. If you approve Keystone XL, you will not get my vote or support in the coming election. Period. End of story. Got it?”

    If I can find the time and sanity to do it, I’ll try to pen and submit a proposed guest post to make the case for this stance.

    It sounds like Dr. Hansen may be leaning in this direction too, although his stance is still a bit ambiguous it seems to me, based on the small amount I’ve read.

    Be Well,


  4. Leif says:

    Thank you Dr. Hansen.

    I cannot be there but do daily e-mails to the White House in your, and the others, support.

    Two Palms Up,

    Captain Leif Knutsen

  5. Charles says:

    Regardless of anything else, one has to say that Dr. Hansen walks his talk.

  6. David B. Benson says:

    I like his hat.

  7. catman306 says:

    Unbelievable! In America today the scientists must be politically active. All the while the politicians claim to know more about science than the scientists.

    How’d we get here?

  8. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Obama is not a bull at a gate and he knows he is in a china shop.

    If you read the pieces below on Chu, Biden and Obama with the kids, you get a sense of the long game, the very real sense of the indirect strategy they are playing to win.

    Let others kick the place to pieces and show themselves for the egotistical, noisy and ignorant destroyers that they are. Old Ma Nature is also cooperating and doing her bit to prove the case for science, education and the need to calmly and quietly put in place the infrastructure of the future.

    You don’t take on fights you can lose, particularly when you have to play by the rules and the enemy doesn’t. You wait until you can win them. That time is coming so just hang on there, ME

  9. Andy Hultgren says:

    Looks like the Tar Sands are the only new oil development going on. Exxon Mobile has been busy securing rights in the Russian Arctic.

  10. Government policy should not be to accelerate the use of the dirtiest fossil fuels period.

    Burning just one-quarter of the proven reserves of oil, gas and coal will push the global climate beyond the two degrees Celsius of average warming, scientists have predicted.

  11. David B. Benson says:

    Unfortunately, there are plans afoot to mine the Green River basin shale oil.

  12. Shaheer says:

    Disappointment Now.

    Starvation Later.

  13. Ross Hunter says:

    The strategy of this action is aimed squarely at the 2012 election. Yes, Obama already failed with climate, but not enough people know that yet – this is the pure lab test of Obama, devoid of Congress.

    Personally I expect him to fail, and with all the environmentalists gathered around this one action the entire “movement” will then finally break out of the spell of hope.

    We have to become ready to give up the flase hope of Obama and the Democrats. It would be hard under Republicans, but it’s going to take an Egyptian Spring in this country to move forward on climate justice in any way real enough to matter.

    We have to build our own political movement based on climate (and labor, and social justice, etc).

    This is the beginning of the end of the 2-party political stranglehold that has blocked change for so long.

  14. Sasparilla says:

    Scientist, Leader, Patriot and true Hero of the United States of America.

    Thank you Dr. Hansen and everyone else who’s put their hide on the line to fight the expansion of the Keystone tar sands pipeline.

  15. John Tucker says:

    It should have not come to him being arrested. I dont care if Dr Hansen was chained to the presidential limo bumper the Obama administration should have recognized this would be forever preserved and probably regarded as a low point (perhaps a turning point) of these times and attempted to be on the right side of this argument.

    History wont be kind to the denialists and those that facilitated their ecological destruction, especially when everything was available for them to make the correct and reasonable decision.

  16. Shaheer says:

    I love you James, as well.

    Now if all the other scientists got arrested in front of the White House, I would love them too.

  17. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    Hansen is right that somebody new must be found – specifically to provide effective national legislative action and to negotiate international action on climate.

    Obama has not only failed to displace the Bush policy of inaction and a futile standoff with China, he has gone much further than Bush ever did:
    – by publicly snubbing the Chinese president at Copenhagen,
    – by sabotaging the climate bill in the senate,
    – and by having his mouthpiece Stern declare that the treaty “is unnecessary and may be un-doable.”
    Thus regardless of his pipeline decision, voting for him looks pretty perverse for any climate activist.

    Yet there is a more pressing reason for putting up a viable candidate to oust him at the primaries: he ain’t going to win re-election.

    Not only does he have an exceptional level of animosity amongst the right, he is also getting serious blame from the center and the left for his handling of the economy – from bailouts to budget deficit cuts. In addition, he has pissed off the environment movement and the young like no other democrat president I can remember, so his election campaign will lack much of their accustomed vital input.

    If he wanted to fail, he could hardly now do better than to play both sides of the immigration debate, thereby gutting much of his Latino vote. Yet he is doing just that by advancing S.Comm, a “secure communities” bill that would (as I understand it) discriminate against persons of colour nationwide whenever police had any contact with them.

    Now add in his profoundly incompetent messaging, his evident incompetence as a negotiator, and the fact that voters have heard his fine talk about hope before, and watched him chuck it in the bin once he was elected.

    Yet there is a still further problem, which is the coup de grace to his chances. There is little or no chance of the economy significantly improving by the end of next year, and it may well get substantially worse with another oil-price spike and/or a collapse of confidence in international banking. I’m told that US voters hold the sitting president responsible for the economy.

    For these numerous mostly intractable reasons, I don’t think he has a snowball’s chance of getting re-elected, so I’d suggest that those who don’t want the likes of Romney/Perry/Palin as president (till 2020?) would do well to focus on identifying a credible candidate for the democratic primaries.

    Colin Powell, Bloomberg, and the actor Matt Damon are some early possibilities. And who else ?



  18. From Peru says:

    For WHAT CRIME are these people being arrested?

    Protesting against the government?!

    As far as I know, protesting against the government is a right, a fundamental right, at least in democratic countries.

    Isn’t the United States a democracy?

    Any country that puts people in jail for protesting peacefully should not be considered a democracy…

    …or I am missing something?

  19. Colorado Bob says:

    OT –
    Vermont’s oldest weekly paper , lost everything . They are going to press this weekend.

    ” The Standard serves the towns of Barnard, Bridgewater, Hartland, Killington, Plymouth, Pomfret, Reading, Quechee, West Windsor and Woodstock. The weekly estimated readership is 12,000, and the paper is read throughout the United States by former residents and those interested in the central Vermont region.

    Throughout its 158 year history, the Standard has never missed publication. Not even the burning of the newspaper’s offices in 1867 or a flood in 1973 – which destroyed the entire pre-press and press operations – could prevent the newspaper from arriving on the stands.

    As the paper was originally located under the local funeral parlor, presses were regularly interrupted out of reverence for the ceremony going on above. In 1969, the newspaper relocated outside of the village in West Woodstock and has resided there ever since. Major renovations were completed in 2006, greatly improving the work flow and atmosphere. “

    Just ask people to buy this paper for couple of bucks.

    These guys need an “Atta Boy” trust me.
    , It’s perfect cut and paste, help them out buy a paper. tell your friends to buy a paper.

  20. Colorado Bob says:

    My message to ” The Standard ” –
    I am the original “Colorado Bob ” , and I am here to help. I’ve done this before. The world is about to help you, we’re going to buy your first edition after Irene. I’m quoting $2.00 in the lower 48.
    Set up a Paypal page , or better yet Indie Go-Go. Set your goal at $500,000.
    If $2.00 is too small , then $2.50.
    I’ll raise 300,000 people in the next week.

  21. Prokaryotes says:

    Movie star Daryl Hannah arrested at demo

    Besides the actress nor the police took more than 70 other protesters set, Hannah was paying a penalty fee of $ 100 and is released.,1518,783476,00.html&usg=ALkJrhhO3i1Ma-O8LHlaeESk-vFJk-52PA

  22. Edith Wiethorn says:

    Well said.

  23. Colorado Bob says:

    Vermont’s oldest weekly paper , lost everything . They are going to press this weekend.

  24. Paul magnus says:

    Hansen should get 2 Nobel prizes – one for his work and one for his efforts,

  25. Mary says:

    Mark Hertsgaard wrote:

    “At this point, my precious, beautiful daughter, all that’s clear is that our civilization is entering a storm. There is no way around it; we have to go through it. We have to be brave, resourceful, and never give up. I would give my life to see you safe on the other side.”

    The question for me is whether Obama will make the same pledge to his daughters.

  26. Peter Mizla says:

    there was a permanent El Nino in the Pliocene-

  27. Peter Mizla says:

    Pondering over the massive damage from Irene here in New England- and the loss of 43 lives (compared to Pat Micheal’s horrid comments ‘they will be lucky if they dredge up 8 bodies….’)

    James Hansen is and will be one of the most important scientists of all time.

    and Michaels?

  28. John McCormick says:

    Ross, a great comment. And, yes, we “hope” that “This is the beginning of the end of the 2-party political stranglehold that has blocked change for so long.”

    When we see hundreds of millions of dollars being pumped into a serious effort to get balanced and informed green party candidates elected to the Congress and statehouses, I will say we are on our way. Meanwhile, we see ‘alternative’ candidates pulling 5 and 6 percent of votes cast.

    Ross, you might not agree but it is all about money to get good people elected.

    John McCormick

  29. John McCormick says:

    Prokaryotes: Many thanks for that fantastic link PERMANENT EL NINO PAPERS you provided.

    You are among the most valuable contributors to CP and you continually provide must-read links that nearLY all of us would never come across. I don’t know your secret but keep it going., We need your dedication to educating us. Thanks, thanks, thanks again.

    John McCormick

  30. BBHY says:

    Well, I always vote my party. My party has a platform that states among their goals for the country, to:

    “Move Decisively to an Energy System Based on Solar, Wind, Geo-Thermal, Marine, and other Cleaner Renewable Energy Sources.”

    “End the Use of Dirty and Dangerous Energy Sources.”

    “De-Carbonize and Re-Localize the Food System”

    “Electrify the Transportation System”

    Those are all goals I with which I agree. Those are not the goals of the Republican or Democratic parties. Those are the goals of the Green Party. Those are the goals of my party.

    Check their entire platform, it’s good reading:

  31. Sime says:

    The American people allowed their politicians to be bought and paid for by corporations whose interests are not necessarily compatible with those of the American people or humanity in general, with the result that your democracy has become a plutocracy with spineless, politicians bowing before the likes of the Koch Brothers, News Corp, Fox, Exxon, shell et al.

    Welcome to the age of stupid, the age of non experts, the age of denial, the age of self serving politicians, the age of the sound bite, the age of celebrity, the age of greed, the age of lies…

  32. Joan Savage says:

    According to rawstory’s review of Allan Lichtman’s “The Keys to the White House” (2008), Obama is going to take the election.
    Lichtman’s interpretation of 13 keys have correctly predicted presidents since Reagan’s second term.
    From that perspective, my questions regarding Presidential action on climate change are
    1) Is Obama feeling safe enough on those election factors so that he can be bolder on climate change?
    2) Where does climate change activism fit in?
    3) How can Obama legitimate moving towards a stronger stance?
    4) Who is Congress is going to back him up?

  33. sault says:

    Voting Green Party just means the Republicans are going to win. Ask all the year 2000 Nader voters in Florida how they think their vote improved the environment. Oh wait, the didn’t really think at all about that decision, now did they…

    If you’re pissed at the Dems, get involved in the party. Start at the local level, run yourself or find candidates that you want to support. Commenting on climateprogress is ok, but write letters to your local newspaper and engage people in your area in discussions. We can’t have 3rd parties with the way the electoral (first past the post) system is run and the way the existing power structures operate. That’s just the truth.

    What we really need are 50 times the protests like the one in front of the White House with more than 50 times the people. We need to outnumber the teabaggers even in their heyday and we need to capture the Media’s attention. Since we KNOW corporate influences will make this harder than how the tea party had it, we’ll just have to try even harder. The ONLY reason Obama is silent on climate is because THIS ISN’T happening.

  34. Obama fiddles while his top climate scientist gets arrested trying to stop our future from burning.

    Will Obama be a hero or Nero with his choice on Keystone XL? Will he *personally* open the spigot wide open for full development of one of the biggest and most-climate-dangerous carbon deposits on the planet?

    So far Obama can’t seem to get enough of mega-carbon extraction projects: “We will burn everything from under the trees. We will burn everything from under the seas. We will burn everything we can get from fracking. We will burn every last crumb of carbon and let our kids take the awful whacking.”

  35. Jonathan says:

    You are out of your mind if you think this issue is worth losing the White House. I realize the left is disappointed that Obama is a moderate, even though he ran as a moderate, but there is not a single issue that matters to us that would not be worse off if one of these tea party nut jobs wins the Presidency. Environment, jobs, healthcare, the wars, civil rights, all will go in the wrong direction if Obama loses. All were moving (slowly) in the right direction until we lost the House. These Republicans are far more conservative than Bush was. Stop whining, grow up,and support your President!

    [JR: And precisely how will this win any votes for the President? If you are suggesting that it will reduce attacks by the right wing, you would be wrong. If you are suggesting that it will win votes for progressives, you would be wrong. So now we are left with the rather small segment in the middle — which analysis shows tends to vote as they lean (i.e. there really aren’t many true independents, their are left-leaning and right-leaning ones and they typically vote the way they lean). How precisely could a pipeline carrying the dirtiest oil from Canada have a significant impact on this tiny group when 1) all the massive drilling that Obama has done hasn’t won him any plaudits or substantially lower gasoline prices and 2) they have so many other bigger issues on which to make a decision on. What determines elections is your ability to energize your base without really pissing off independents. This ain’t an issue that can achieve such a goal for Obama. It pisses off much of his base but means little to the narrow segment of independents.]

  36. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    Joan – I’m puzzled by the author’s assumption that because the model has functioned on seven presidential elections,
    including the one decided by the supreme court and the one where there was intense focus on the external threat of Al Quaida,
    it somehow remains reliable – despite the intensifying fallout from the worst crash and recession at least since ’29,
    – and despite the de facto defeat in the prolonged Afghan War,
    – and despite the massive perversion of democracy that “Citizens United” has imposed,
    – and despite the ongoing betrayal on the issues that Democrat activists hold as sacrosanct.

    Perhaps you can explain how the model discounts these and other roadblocks to Obama’s re-election ?



  37. Jonathan says:

    Perhaps my point was unclear. My argument is even if you don’t feel the President is strong enough on the environment, the policy outcomes we will get from a Republican will undoubtedly be worse, especially since the leading candidates openly deny that human activity contributes to global warming.

    I was responding to Jeff Huggins’ post who seems to think we should stay home and not support the President in 2012. Which is crazy. Progress will come over time, but not if we can’t tell our enemies from our friends. Obama is on our side, and we should treat him that way.

  38. Andy says:

    Sometimes it’s difficult to tell whose side he’s really on, or to what degree his heart is in the key issues of his base. But so far it looks like we could do worse than re-electing him. All we can do is hope Americans wake up and swing things back into some sanity, and that O will not squander the opportunity.

  39. Ric Merritt says:

    Jonathan, your point was clear the first time, and quite correct. There is no contradiction between that point and the continuing urgency of improving our energy policies to better deal with reality.

  40. jeffrey meyer says:

    I have some perhaps dumb warming questions:
    1. How do we know that the large increase in atmospheric carbon since 1750 is due to the industrial revolution rather than something else. For example, atmospheric carbon increases are caused by warming and lag behind warming (and stimulate more warming) and warming has been occurring since the last ice age so perhaps this carbon increase is a feedback from past warming. James Hansen, in his book Storms of My Grandchildren, states it as a fact that the industrial revolution is the source but does not say how he knows.
    2. We are in a place in the orbital obliquity and precession cycles that should be leading to formation of ice sheets in the northern hemisphere yet the ice is melting. Hansen, in his book, says “Although both insolation effects now favor ice growth in the northern hemisphere, ice is actually melting rapidly. Human-made climate forcings are now in total dominance over the natural forcings”. But, it seems to me that, because of the centuries long lag between insolation forcings and green-house gas feedbacks, one would expect gasses to grow for centuries after the insolation forcings turn downward. This is related to my first question.

    I have been unable to find answers for my first question with various google searches. The answers seems to be, “duh, of course it is gasses from industrial revolution fossil fuels, what else could it be?”

  41. Edith Wiethorn says:

    In deep context – Dr. Romm, I think the most powerful post you could make during the Keystone XL Pipeline demonstration would be a post that consolidates & summarizes the climate change science around “Game over.”

    That would include:

    1. destroying the eco-services of the arboreal forests above the tar sands
    for balancing atmospheric CO2;

    2. the CO2 generated by burning fossil bitumen;

    3. CO2 impacts of global shipping –

    3.a. first the toxic methanol that comes from Indonesia & Russia to dilute the bitumen ~30-50% for pumping in any pipeline at 1800psi; and then

    3.b. the bitumen products shipped to China & elsewhere over time.

    More …

  42. Scott E says:

    Tar Sands Protest Song –
    “Flaming Firebaggers”
    (To the tune, “Rock-A-Bye Baby”)

    Flaming Firebaggers
    Were thrown in jail!
    Their White House protest
    Made oil kings wail!

    Canada’s tar sludge
    Through our pipeline
    Makes jail, by comparison
    Seem more benign!

  43. Joan Savage says:

    Lewis, I’m neither a proponent nor a critic of Lichtman. I’d like to know more about his method. He relies on perceived success versus failure of political parties, as he believes those successes affect voter behavior more than than tidbits about their candidates. In May 2011 he gave view about the 2012 race that might help you and me suss this one through:

    I brought the Lichtman prediction up because the reasonable possibility of Obama winning in 2012 raised those questions in my mind about the development of climate change policy.

  44. Joan Savage says:

    If the Dems split (“somebody new”) and give a Naderist kick to Obama, like the 35,000 vote sideswipe against Gore in Florida, that does touch on a couple of the Lichtman factors. So Obama could lose, if even a few Dems want that bad enough.

  45. Joe Romm says:

    Go to Skeptical Science. All your questions will be answered.

  46. Joan Savage says:

    Win back the House! That’s it!

    In my district, Dan Maffei (D-25th NY) has announced he’s running against Tea Party Republican Ann Marie Buerkle (R-NY).
    I’m thrilled. Dan totally gets all the science. He’s younger than Waxman, but just as smart.

  47. Jeffrey Davis says:

    Thank you, Dr. Hansen

  48. thanes says:

    The point is, we just don’t have time. If there is something interested people HAVE to know, this is the critical decade.
    See Hansen et al.

  49. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    Dr Hansen calls for finding somebody new “who is working for our dream,” and JR seconds the call and adds PDQ!

    So who is the US Green Party putting up in the election, and what percentage of the popular vote do you see as a feasible goal next year ?

    Also, what do you expect the impact of that vote to be on the outcome of the election ?



  50. G.K GHOSH says:

    Good man suffers for ood cause as vested interest and criminals rule. Sad

  51. Chris Winter says:

    I have been unable to find answers for my first question with various Google searches. The answers seems to be, “duh, of course it is gasses from industrial revolution fossil fuels, what else could it be?”

    It could be several other things. But those other things are being measured, and the measurements show they aren’t causing the current warming.

    That’s the short answer. I second Dr. Romm’s advice: Go to Skeptical Science; it’s got the better answers.

  52. Joan Russow says:

    Hansen stated: “Exploitation of tar sands would make it implausible to stabilize climate and avoid disastrous global climate impacts.”
    For those who care about climate change the issue is more than ‘choking’ the tar sands, it is ending the exploitation of the tar sands. In Ottawa, on September 26, there will be an event calling for ending the production in the tar sands.

    In Copenhagen, sadly Obama disregarded the emerging science and ignored the pleas of the developing countries.

    At Copenhagen, a scientist from IPPC pointed out that the 2007 IPCC report was based on 2004 and 2005 data, and that at that time they agreed to the 2 degree ceiling but it is now surmised that at the 2 degree rise in temperature,the poor the disadvantaged and the vulnerable would not survive and at 1.5 degree rise, they might. Also, a scientist from the WMO, stated that the climate-related incidents were more frequent and more severe. Obama’s deal–the Copenhagen Accord disregarded the recent findings and included 2 degrees as the ceiling.

    At 3am ,Obama stood before the American flag and arrogantly declared to everyone’s astonishment: We have a deal! The representatives of the developing countries were bewildered and felt justifiably excluded and realized that it was clear that there pleas had been ignored

  53. SmilingAhab says:

    Trespassing and protesting without a permit. They’re intentionally getting arrested. BS law, but law’s the law.

  54. PixieDust says:

    I decided two presidential elections ago that I would no longer “lean” (i.e., vote) democratic only to oppose the more evil candidate. I am now voting my party (Green) because it is my conscience and because it is my political statement. The sooner we break the 2-party system the better. No longer will I support it. The Republicrats do not represent me. We need a popular movement against the status quo. Otherwise we head rapidly into a world unfit for human survival. Slowing the pace slightly by electing a spineless democrat only prolongs the inevitable.

  55. John Stanley says:

    Of course it would be better if Obama decided against this pipeline. Better for the Earth and younger generations, for his own place in history, and for the morale of his political base.

    Hillary Clinton and the State Dept have officially abandoned the carbon emissions issue, the actual key environmental impact. From their language and the subsequent comments of Chu, it looks like Obama would have to overrule his own insiders.

    There must surely be a geopolitical rationale in the background, such as: “if we dont take this dirty oil, the Chinese will buy up enough politicians for a pipeline to the west coast of Canada, and they sure will.”

    It’s like a debate in a vacuum: even though it’s a root cause of the great contraction of the world economy, nobody wants to mention Peak Oil is here.

  56. Chava says:

    What a beautiful quote – yes, we must never give up or lose hope.