James Hansen, A Leader In Warning The Globe About Global Warming, To Retire From NASA After 46 Years

The New York Times has the scoop:

James E. Hansen, the climate scientist who issued the clearest warning of the 20th century about the dangers of global warming, will retire from NASA this week, giving himself more freedom to pursue political and legal efforts to limit greenhouse gases….

He plans to take a more active role in lawsuits challenging the federal and state governments over their failure to limit emissions, for instance, as well as in fighting the development in Canada of a particularly dirty form of oil extracted from tar sands.

Hansen is our country’s top climatologist. He has been one of our most tireless public servants for decades and has been right about the dangers posed by climate change longer than almost anyone else (see “1981 Hansen study finds warming trend that could raise sea levels“). We ignore him at our grave peril.

As the Times put it:

Again and again, Dr. Hansen made predictions that were ahead of the rest of the scientific community and, arguably, a bit ahead of the evidence.

“Jim has a real track record of being right before you can actually prove he’s right with statistics,” said Raymond T. Pierrehumbert, a planetary scientist at the University of Chicago.

Devoting himself to climate activism after 46 years at NASA shows he is keeping his eye on the prize — preserving a livable climate for his children and ours.

At 72, he said, he feels a moral obligation to step up his activism in his remaining years.

“If we burn even a substantial fraction of the fossil fuels, we guarantee there’s going to be unstoppable changes” in the climate of the earth, he said. “We’re going to leave a situation for young people and future generations that they may have no way to deal with.”

Did I mention that we ignore him at our peril?

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21 Responses to James Hansen, A Leader In Warning The Globe About Global Warming, To Retire From NASA After 46 Years

  1. JM says:

    Thanks for your service, Dr. Hansen

    – signed
    a fellow concerned atmospheric scientist

  2. rollin says:

    He’s done some tremendous work and has done his best to make people aware of dangers of climate change. Best of health to him in his retirement and luck in his activist endeavors. A big thankyou to him for his efforts.

  3. Artful Dodger says:

    Oh, it’s on now! He hasn’t retired, he’s graduated!

  4. Merrelyn Emery says:

    That must have been a difficult decision for him and I have mixed feelings about it. Because he was always ahead of the times, it means we are losing a valuable mind to work on new data as it comes in. Perhaps it means that he is now so disillusioned with the USA response that he feels he has no choice but to try and wake the population up. But what is he actually going to do? Does anybody know? ME

  5. PeterM says:

    His voice will become louder and larger now. A Personal Hero of mine.

  6. Paul Price says:

    Many thanks to Jim Hansen for all his work over many years and for giving us some hope that knowing where we are going might actually begin to turn things around.

    On this day that he moves from vitally-needed climate science to vitally-needed climate activism it is well worth celebrating his work by reading his latest Hansen et al. paper at

    As ever his papers are easy to read and up to the minute. This latest paper confirms that policy remains far behind climate change.

    As ArtfulD says above, Happy Graduation, Jim.


  7. Ed Leaver says:

    No one knows better than Jim. One might speculate that as a government lab director (NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies) Dr. Hansen might have felt constrained in advancing opinions facts too far beyond the political pale. I’ll speculate he may advocate policies of the sort that might make even some of us uncomfortable. We’ll see.

  8. Linda Schade says:

    Kudos to Dr. Hansen. The WashPost notes that he intends to spend ‘full time on science, drawing attention to the implications for young people, and making clear what science says needs to be done. One related effort is Our Children’s Trust ( which has filed atmospheric trust legal actions representing youth plaintiffs at the federal level and in all 50 states. Dr. Hansen’s work is cited in the suits to detail ‘what needs to be done’.

  9. RH says:

    My Message to Dr. Hansen, Thanks for everything. My message to most of humanity – thanks for nothing.

  10. Brian R Smith says:

    It’s often lamented that 1)climate science conclusions & impact predictions are still confused in the public mind and, 2)that NGO & grassroots campaigns have not had the impact on voters or policy we have tried for. Both problems are closer to being solved with Dr. Hansen’s full-on entry into climate politics, a role he is taking out of dedication and responsibility; not, as I understand, because he feels at home in politics.

    My hope is that Big Green, allies in business and policy, and agencies & NGOs at every level will start thinking about how to collaborate more closely with the science community as it steps further forward. This is an opportunity to honor and support Dr. Hansen’s work and dedication by speaking louder on the imperative of science-based climate policy. A televised State of the Climate address to the nation from science and it’s supporters would be, in my opinion, the most valuable and influential project, one that can only come from more intentional collaboration. That urgent, truth-telling, potentially game-changing address to a confused public is not going to fall from the President’s lips and will otherwise be left undone.

  11. Chris Winter says:

    From the NYT: “He said he would continue publishing scientific papers, but he will no longer command the computer time and other NASA resources that allowed him to track the earth’s rising temperatures and forecast the long-run implications.”

    Delete the word “NASA” and that’s not necessarily true. I think any number of millionaires would make donations to help him set up a private supercomputer facility. Nor is that necessarily the only way he could get access to advanced computing resources.

    “Again and again, Dr. Hansen made predictions that were ahead of the rest of the scientific community and, arguably, a bit ahead of the evidence.”

    A bigger problem is that the majority of official pronouncements are behind the evidence.

  12. Not much to need an answer to, as like we will see, the old man was right; he knew back in the day his question would someday be answered. If only to lead to more questions. Has anyone produced a report that might indicate our world is enclosed within various layers of protection. That even with the crafts we design and build to explore beyond our earthly bounds, we ourselves were designed for this planet alone, its like the “Hotel California” you may be looking for the passage back, Relax, You can check-out any time you like but you can never leave.

  13. Jeremy says:

    Read his book, “Storms of My Grandchildren” and one of the best on the subject of climate science for the layperson.
    I also read “Censoring Science” by Mark Bowman and the Bush Administration efforts to silence him. I admire his character to stand up and speak the truth of the science of climate change and the danger we are creating by keeping “business as usual”.

  14. fj says:

    Amazing his history and the information he’s had access to; as head of such a historic institution monitoring, watching earth 24/7; and that people can deny someone with his level of access and expertise and his extremely serious concerns is difficult to fathom.

    And that he had to do civil disobedience to amplify his concerns . . . actions on knowledge in conflict with those in power perhaps reminiscent of Galileo . . . profoundly entrenched in the story of humanity compelled to prevail.

  15. Dan Miller says:

    A true hero. Dr. Hansen is just retiring from NASA, where bureaucratic restrictions made it difficult for him to get everything done that he wanted to. He will continue the fight on behalf of his children and grandchildren and all of our children and grandchildren.

  16. Bob Bingham says:

    I know we have not seen the last of James Hansen but I gained most of my interest and understanding of global warming from his lectures. It is a great pity that politicians are making money from the fossil fuel industry and chose to ignore him. It is a disaster for the World.

  17. Merrelyn Emery says:

    You are singing one of my favourite songs and that realization is going to sink in one day soon. I just hope he makes a huge difference now. Does it mean he has to become a ‘celeb’ on the USA circuit? – well I guess it is worth selling your soul for, ME

  18. fj says:

    Hopefully it won’t be for long.

  19. fj says:

    It is easy to look across the great expanse of an ocean or desert and believe the world is flat.

    From space it is a different matter.

  20. fj says:

    We must take sustanence from our better angels.

  21. fj says:

    Especially reason.