Hansen’s plea for leadership to Nevada Gov. …

… Jim Gibbons on receiving the Desert Research Institute’s annual Nevada Medal this year is here. It’s worth reading. Given the focus this week on solutions, let me quote this part:

Although the fossil fuel industry pedals misinformation, claiming that renewable energies can only be a niche contribution to energy needs, that contention defies common sense. As proof of the contrary, consider just one of the renewable energies, solar power. The technology for solar thermal power stations already exists, power stations can be built rapidly, and as the market for them increases their unit costs will fall steadily, as the cost of coal power continues to rise. There is enough solar energy in a small fraction of our desert Southwest to provide all of the electrical needs of the United States. Nevada has the potential to be a leader in this field, providing power for itself and for distant locations as a low-loss grid is developed. Leadership would provide great economic benefit to Nevada and provide a large number of high-pay jobs and new businesses.

I couldn’t agree more on solar thermal, of course.

Note that renewable “fuels”, in addition to eliminating CO2 emissions, are cost-free and the source will last practically forever. This is in stark contrast to coal. One reason that the cost of coal has been shooting up is that coal is a finite resource requiring increasing efforts for extraction. The notion that the United States has a 200-year supply of economically extractable coal is a myth. I strongly recommend that you invite Prof. David Rutledge of the California Institute of Technology to brief you on current analyses of coal reserves.


I will blog on Rutledge’s work soon (get your fix here, for now). Finally, here’s Hansen’s bio from the DRI award program for those who don’t know his story:

Dr. James E. Hansen directs the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City, and is an Adjunct Professor of Earth Sciences at Columbia University’s Earth Institute. He was trained in physics and astronomy in the space-science program of Dr. James Van Allen at the University of Iowa, receiving his bachelor’s degree in 1963 with highest distinction in physics and mathematics, master’s degree in astronomy in 1965, and Ph.D. in physics in 1967. Dr. Hansen was a visiting student at the Institute of Astrophysics, University of Kyoto, and the Department of Astronomy, Tokyo University, Japan,from 1965–1966. Except for 1969, when he was an NSF post-doctoral scientist at the Leiden Observatory under Prof. H.C. van de Hulst, he has spent his postdoctoral career at NASA GISS.

In his early research, Dr. Hansen used telescopic observations of Venus to extract detailed informationon the physical properties of the cloud and haze particles that veil Venus. Since the mid-1970s, Dr. Hansen has focused on studies and computer simulations of Earth’s climate to understand human impacts on global climate. He is best known for histestimony on climate change to Congress in the 1980s that helped raise broad awareness of the global warming issue. In recent years, Dr. Hansen has drawn attention to the danger of passing climate tipping points, where irreversible climate changes would yield a different planet from the one on which civilization developed. Dr. Hansen disputes the contention of fossil-fuel interests and governments that support them that it is an almost indisputable fact that all fossil fuels must be burned and the resulting combustion products discharged into the atmosphere. Instead, Dr. Hansen has outlined steps that are needed to stabilize climate by creating a cleaner atmosphere and oceans, and he emphasizes the need for the public toinfluence government and industry policies regarding climate change.

Dr. Hansen was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1995, and, in 2001, received both the Heinz Award in the Environment and the American Geophysical Union’s Roger Revelle Medal. In 2006, Dr. Hansen received the World Wildlife Fund’s Duke of Edinburgh Conservation Medal, and was designated by Time Magazine as one of the world’s 100 most influential people. Dr. Hansen won the Dan David Prize for Outstanding Achievements and Impacts in the field of Quest for Energy, the Leo Szilard Lectureship Award of the American Physical Society for Outstanding Promotion and Use of Physics for the Benefit of Society, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science Award for Scientific Freedom and Responsibility in 2007.