Nearly 20 years ago, as the chair of the U.S. Senate science subcommittee holding hearings on climate change, I questioned a brilliant scientist from NASA a brave, plainspoken Iowan who had the audacity to believe that the facts speak for themselves, that science should drive policy and that politics should not be allowed to distort the data. Jim Hansen had become a thorn in the side of many who resisted the idea that global warming was real. The business-as-usual occupants of the White House at the time then as now tried to censor and ridicule his conclusions and silence his warnings.
Hansen, 65, continues to document and explain the catastrophic implications of climate disruption caused by human greenhouse-gas pollution. The energy industry and its apologists continue to distort his findings, and the current White House continues to try to silence him. But Hansen has had the courage to stay and fight for the right to tell the truth as he sees it and to fight against the pollution-as-usual policies that he describes as "a recipe for environmental disaster."
His message is beginning to sink in. The world's premier climate modeler has helped push Americans to their own tipping point to the realization that global temperatures are rising dramatically, that the consequences are grave and that there are solutions available that can reverse those planet-altering trends. He not only speaks truth to powerover and over againbut he also has succeeded in making concepts such as "dangerous anthropogenic interference" understandable to a world that will be tragically affected by it if we do not change our energy-consumption habits.
When the history of the climate crisis is written, Hansen will be seen as the scientist with the most powerful and consistent voice calling for intelligent action to preserve our planet's environment.
Gore's film An Inconvenient Truth will be released May 24