James Hansen Quits NASA To Become Full-Time Climate Activist

James Hansen is an extremely well-known and well-respected NASA scientist who has never shied away from making his knowledge about our atmosphere public.  In 1988, he was the first to warn Congress about the threat of global warming.  He went to the NY Times with this story in 2006 when the Bush administration tried to silence him for speaking publicly about the urgent need to reduce greenhouse emissions and take global warming seriously.  In recent years, he has been arrested several times for attending climate protests, such as those against the Keystone XL.

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Now, he has decided to step down from his position with NASA so that he can pursue full-time efforts to reduce emissions.  The New York Times reports, “His departure, after a 46-year career at the space agency’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in Manhattan, will deprive federally sponsored climate research of its best-known public figure.”

Why step down? “As a government employee, you can’t testify against the government,” Hansen said in an interview.  Hansen plans to pursue legal action to challenge federal and state governments for failing to limit or reduce emissions, as well as to challenge bringing in dirty oil from the tar sands through the Keystone XL.

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At 72 years of age, Hansen’s passion and activism are incredibly inspiring. “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.”

Dr. Hansen says he senses the beginnings of a mass movement on climate change, led by young people. Once he finishes his final papers as a NASA employee, he intends to give it his full support.

“At my age,” he said, “I am not worried about having an arrest record.”

It is remarkable to see renowned intellectual leaders like Hansen step up and risk careers, criticism and even being arrested to stand up for their convictions.  As a devoted NASA scientist for 46 years, Hansen is more than informed on these issues.  Hopefully his move inspires many others to join the movement and step up their activism –especially the youth of today.  After all, they’re the ones who will have to live in whichever tomorrow we choose to build.

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