James Hansen, 63BA, 65MS, 67PhD, has stimulated debate in the scientific community and challenged public policy on an issue of immense concern to everyone: global climatic changes and the effects of so-called "greenhouse gases."
After earning his B.A. in physics and mathematics with highest distinction, Hansen went on to perform graduate research in astronomy and physics that would eventually lead him to study the composition of planetary atmospheres. This in turn led him to startling conclusions about possible climatic changes on earth due to the burning of fossil fuels.
As director of the Goddard Institute of Space Studies at Columbia University in New York, Hansen oversees the institute's research for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and other projects. His work on global warming has made him an internationally recognized expert on the subject, and he has been called many times to testify before Congress.
Warning that climatic change is already occurring because of the buildup of carbon dioxide and other gases in the atmosphere, his testimony captured international attention during the severe heat wave and drought of 1988. Hansen has called for energy conservation, increased fuel efficiency standards, recycling, and other measures.
Hansen believes "worst-case scenarios" of global warming can be avoided, but only by prompt action. If policy makers in Washington implement such measures, it will be due in no small part to this distinguished UI alumnus.