After 46 years at NASA, climate scientist James Hansen retires

No plans to slow down his fight against global warming, though

Dr. James E. Hansen, who has been with NASA for 46 years and head of the Goddard Institute for Space Research since 1981, has announced that he was retiring from the space agency this week. But this doesn't mean that he'll take up gardening and spend his evening playing bridge. As a government employee, there were many things that he couldn't do, such as testify against the government. He's expected to keep up his activism and play a more active role in lawsuits against federal and state governments over greenhouse gas emission limits. I have no doubt that he won't slow down any, and will keep sounding the alarm over this dangerous experiment that we're playing with our only planet's life-support system.

The scientific community owes a great debt to Hansen. Here's how NASA's GISS describes Dr. Hansen's climate research:

"In his early research, Hansen used telescopic observations of Venus to extract detailed information on the physical properties of the cloud and haze particles that veil Venus. Since the mid-1970s, he has focused on studies and computer simulations of Earth's climate, working to understand the climate system and human impacts on global climate. Hansen's testimony before Congress in 1988 helped to raise the broad public awareness of the global climate change as an important issue for us all.

His research has been closely aligned with the development of increasingly sophisticated satellite platform measurements, such as the terrestrial radiation budget, ozone and weather-related data, and the need for increasingly sophisticated atmospheric models to assess and evaluate the information content and utility of these measurements. Current climate models are now able to reproduce the historical temperature record over the past century and to make climate change predictions for the future, keeping pace with NASA's measurements of solar energy variations, sea level change and polar ice loss with unprecedented precision and accuracy.

Hansen's climate analyses have been based not only on the very basic physics that goes into climate model design, but on the detailed studies of the geological ice core and isotope records that are used to constrain and confirm climate model sensitivity. In recent years Hansen has drawn attention to the danger of passing climate tipping points, producing irreversible climate impacts that would yield a different planet from the one on which civilization developed."


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