James Hansen

Former Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City and Adjunct Professor of Earth Sciences at Columbia University’s Earth Institute

About James Hansen

Dr. James Hansen directs the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City and is 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 with highest distinction in physics and mathematics, master’s degree in astronomy, and Ph. D. in physics in 1967.

Dr. Hansen was a visiting student, at the Institute of Astrophysics, University of Kyoto and Dept. of Astronomy, Tokyo University, Japan from 1965-1966. He received his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Iowa in 1967.

Except for 1969, when he was an NSF post-doctoral scientist at Leiden Observatory under Prof. H.C. van de Hulst, he has spent his post-doctoral career at NASA GISS. In his early research Dr. Hansen used telescopic observations of Venus to extract detailedinformation on 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 the Earth’s climate, for the purpose of understanding the human impact on global climate. He is best known for his testimony 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, producing irreversible climate impacts that 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 god-given fact that all fossil fuels must be burned with their combustion products discharged into the atmosphere. Instead Dr. Hansen has outlined steps that are needed to stabilize climate, with a cleaner atmosphere and ocean, and he emphasizes the need for the public to influence government and industry policies.

Dr. Hansen was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1995 and, in 2001, received the Heinz Award for environment and the American Geophysical Union’s Roger Revelle Medal. Dr. Hansen received the World Wildlife Federation’s Conservation Medal from the Duke of Edinburgh in 2006 and was designated by Time Magazine as one of the world’s 100 most influential people in 2006.

In 2007 Dr. Hansen won the Dan David Prize in the field of Quest for Energy, the Leo Szilard Award of the American Physical Society for Use of Physics for the Benefit of Society, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science Award for Scientific Freedom and Responsibility.