The Sophie Prize 2010 Statement

The Sophie Prize 2010 is awarded to American climate scientist Dr. James E. Hansen.

Dr. James E. Hansen (born 1941) has played a key role in the development of our understanding of human impact on the climate for more than 30 years. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, an adjunct professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University and at Columbia’s Earth Institute, and director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies since 1981, where he has been researching planetary atmospheres. He is frequently called to testify before Congress on climate issues. His main focus has been on climatology, and primarily how greenhouse gases affect the global climate. As early as 1988 he presented results for the American congress testifying to the probability that human-induced climate change was a threat to the planet.

Dr. James E. Hansen is an outstanding scientist with numerous scientific articles published in high-ranking journals. His conscience, and later his role as a “concerned grandfather”, has committed him to combine his research with political activism based on personal conviction. He has managed to translate his research into concrete and understandable warnings about what will happen if we do not act to reduce the human CO2 emissions. Based on his research Hansen has predicted that 350 ppm should serve the upper limit of atmospheric CO2 concentrations if we are to avoid dramatic effects of climate change. This has inspired the formation of the worldwide activist movement

Hansen’s clear message and warnings have been met with a lot of resistance. As a scientist he has experienced censorship. He has endured criticism for his activist engagement, seen by some as unscientific. Hansen has stood firm and countered these arguments by exposing the economic interest of the actors that spread doubt about human impact on climate change. Whilst these voices often have economic interests backing them, it is the youth of today and the ecosystems with their biodiversity that will pay the price in the future.

According to Hansen, humanity is at a tipping point. We have to act now, or we can trigger feedback mechanisms that may cause damage beyond repair. Hansen states that the international community is not responding to this rising crisis fast enough. The measures taken today are not sufficient to reach the necessary level of reduction in CO2 emissions. This is why he is advocating an end to coal mining and a substantial tax on CO2 to ensure a fast transfer to alternative forms of energy. Hansen emphasises that this might also contribute to new opportunities: New high-tech workplaces, new energy sources and cleaner air for everybody.

Dr. James E. Hansen is the person that has made it impossible for us to tell our grandchildren that we did not know what we were doing. He is awarded the Sophie Prize 2010 for his vital research, for his abilities to communicate his findings, and for his genuine and inspiring involvement for future generations.