The Sophie prize 2010
is awarded to
Dr. James E. Hansen
American climate scientist
James E. Hansen (born 1941) has played a key role for the development of our understanding of human-induced climate change. In his early career he researched atmospheres of other planets, but began studying Earth's climate as evidence of possible human effects emerged in the 1970s. 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. His clear message has met resistance, and he experienced censorship of his scientifically based statements during the Bush-administration.
- Researchers that have warned against climate change have for many years had to endure great personal costs in the US. Still James Hansen has chosen to warn us against the threat of human-induced climate change. He is an example to follow. Hansen is the person that has made it impossible for us to tell our grandchildren that we did not know what we were doing, says chair of the Sophie Prize Nina Drange.
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. This has led him to participate in political demonstrations against coal mining, and has made him testify in court in defence of demonstrators using civil disobedience to stop the building of new coal-fired power plants in the UK. In 2009 he published the book STORMS OF MY GRANDCHILDREN - The truth about the coming climate catastrophe and our last chance to save humanity.
Industrial development has led to an increased concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere. The preindustrial level was 275 ppm (parts per million), but we now have a concentration of 387 ppm. This is continuously increasing. Based on his research Hansen has concluded that 350 ppm is the upper limit of CO2 concentration in the atmosphere if we are to avoid dramatic climate change. This limit has inspired the formation of the world-wide movement 350.org, that were very involved in lead-up to the Copenhagen Summit.
Hansen strongly believes that we need to phase out our coal mining and let fossil reserves stay in the ground. If all reserves of oil, gas and coal that still exist on this planet are used and the emissions are let out into the atmosphere it will be the end of our civilization. Still “some see it as their God-given right to harvest and burn all fossil fuels that are within their territories”, states Hansen.
The Sophie Prize is awarded to one or several persons, or an organisation, which has created awareness of alternatives to modern-day development and/or initiated such alternatives in a pioneering or particularly inventive manner. The Sophie Prize is an annual environment and sustainable development prize (US$ 100.000). This is the thirteenth time it has been awarded. The prize was established in 1997 by the author Jostein Gaarder and Siri Dannevig.