Nature and Stop Kingsnorth Interview James Hansen about His Clash with Big Coal

If you're a longtime reader of this site, then you're no doubt already aware of my -- and my colleague John's -- fixation on James Hansen. While there is no lack of skilled climate scientists in the U.S., few can muster the rhetorical firepower and political finesse of the director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. Whether he's taking on climate skeptics or vouching for a cap-and-dividend system, Hansen is as outspoken a scientist as they come.

Heck, he was already rattling the cages back in the 1980s when most, including many scientists, doubted the evidence for anthropogenic climate change. And, like most outspoken government scientists who have served under the Bush administration, Hansen was effectively muzzled for his efforts to spread the word about the risks of unmitigated climate change -- subject to constant review and censorship. An interview published in the latest issue of the journal Nature shows why Hansen has become such an admired figure among the scientific and activist community.Hansen was in London this week to testify on behalf of "Stop Kingsnorth," an initiative aimed at blocking the construction of new coal plants in the UK (the first of which would be built in Kingsnorth). According to the campaign's organizers, the proposed power plant would emit more carbon dioxide each year than the whole of Ghana. Here's how Hansen explained the reason for his participation:

Nothing could be more central to the problem we face with global climate change. If you look at the size of the oil, gas and coal reservoirs you'll see that the oil and gas have enough CO2 to bring us up to a dangerous level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

There's a potential to solve that problem if we phase out coal. If we were to have a moratorium on coal-fired power plants within the next few years, and then phase out the existing ones between 2010 and 2030, then CO2 would peak at something between 400 and 425 parts per million. That leaves a difficult problem, but one that you can solve.

Asked what he thought the role of the scientist should be in steering the climate change debate, he said (emphasis mine):

I think it would be irresponsible not to speak out. There is a clear gap between what is understood by the relevant scientific community and what is known by the public, and we have to try and close that gap. If we don't do something in the very near future, we're going to create a situation for our children and grandchildren that is out of control.

Via ::Nature: All fired up (news website)

More about James Hansen
::Climate Expert James Hansen Supports Cap-and-Dividend System
::James Hanson's Declaration of Stewardship For The Earth And All Creation
::Metaphor To Motivate Congress: Quintessential Moment For Dr. Hansen

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