James Hanson: Stepping Down from NASA to Lead Global Warming Movement

Scientist James Hansen, NASA Veteran, will step down after 46 years to work on the science of global warming.

According to the Washington Post today, Hanson said he was leaving “so I can spend full time on science to the implications for young people, and making clear what science says needs to be done.”

As a leader, he is an excellent model for persistence, consistency and authenticity based in core values, in his case, the methodologies of science and a commitment to sustainability and further generations.

For more from Hansen, here is a link to his TED talk, “Why I must speak out about climate change.”

Hansen has stood against a great deal of criticism for his stance, so his resignation to become a full-time activist is in keeping with his longterm commitment to preventing global warming.


This excellent profile in Audubon Magazine details his long career in NASA and as an activist. “Hansen put together a team to build the GISS 1-D (one-dimensional) computer climate model, later superseded by a 3-D model. A climate model, designed to simulate the earth’s climate, is a set of equations with numerical values allotted to such processes as absorption of solar energy, radiation of heat energy, ocean currents, and transfer of heat and moisture by winds.

Greenhouse skeptics, including critics ideologically hostile to the very concept of global warming, question the validity of models. “Sometimes the media, and global-warming critics, leave the impression that predictions of climate change are based mainly on such models, but that conclusion is naive and misleading,” Hansen says. “In reality, expectations of climate change are based on an understanding of the climate system, which derives mainly from observational data. Climate models are just one of our tools.”

Hansen’s critics say he has hampered the cause by overstating the dangers, and recycling myths to persuade people that something must be done.

Hansen is one of the scientists asserting that erratic weather patterns are a sign of global warming.

According to a NYTimes blog, Hansen is as much an activist leader in policy formation as he is in his work as a scientist — and in the ongoing debate on climate change, this makes sense, because scientific data has been popularized on both sides. Many believe that each side is overstating their case.

But scientific leadership is always as political as it is experimental. So Hansen’s ability to bridge the two makes his message louder and stronger — and more controversial.

Looking at Hansen’s career and work, it’s clear that authenticity is not necessarily something that makes leaders automatically persuasive. It is not a guaranteed sign of success, because cultural debates and challenges often go against authentic leaders.

Hansen’s authentic presence is built on his persistence of vision and a strong commitment to his core values (scientific method and long-term environmental preservation). In many ways, he demonstrates that authentic leadership can be a force for sustainability, as well as a source of controversy.

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