NASA’s Jim Hansen Wins 2012 Stephen Schneider Award

Climate One’s 2012 award winner acknowledges the irony of his receiving an award in honor of a fellow scientist far more comfortable with the rigors of climate science outreach activities.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA, Dec. 5, 2012 — NASA/GISS scientist James Hansen December 4 accepted the $10,000 2012 Stephen Schneider Award for Climate Science Communication, given by Climate One, an initiative of the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco.

Before a packed audience just blocks from the annual AGU Fall Meeting, Hansen participated in an hour-long radio interview with Climate One’s Greg Dalton, to be aired early next year. He recalled having first met the now-deceased Schneider when both were studying at Columbia University. Hansen noted the irony that he and Schneider were dissimilar in many ways — Hansen long having preferred to avoid the limelight and the burdens that come with being a climate science communicator, and Schneider having sought out outreach opportunities even during his earliest days as a student.

Hansen noted that he had often diverted media and other communication opportunities to the late Stanford University climate scientist. In fact, many in the audience and beyond casually seemed to acknowledge that Hansen is not known foremost as a great communicator, but the standing ovation he received from attendees testified to his long body of work staying on message on climate matters … and to his stiff backbone in accepting the blows of being in the limelight. Hansen, during the interview, repeatedly returned to what he called a “broken record” — the need to put a price on carbon notwithstanding any other mitigation steps.

The award itself came after Dalton conducted an earlier interview as part of the Schneider award ceremony: Scientists Michael Mann of Penn State and Kathryn Hayhoe of Texas Tech were joined by Stanford University climate science graduate student William Anderegg in an hour-long interview before the same audience. That broadcast also is likely to be available soon after the turn of the year, and the audience frequently expressed its satisfaction with the scientific and committed public policy outreach activities of those scientists also.

The award ceremony itself also included a live performance of a Crosby, Stills and Nash song — “Teach Your Children Well” — that was among Schneider’s personal theme songs. The song has become something of a standard component of any tribute to Schneider, who died in 2010 at age 65. In this case, songwriter Graham Nash personally provided a tribute to Schneider and to Hansen and expressed appreciation for their work and for their recognition of his own music.

The award to Hansen was made by Schneider Award juror Ben Santer of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Along with a large number of leading climate scientists in the audience was California Governor Jerry Brown, who had decided that day to make a last-minute unannounced visit to the event. Brown briefly praised Hansen and took the opportunity to meet separately with several leading climate scientists — including Penn State climate scientist Richard Alley, winner of the Schneider Award in its maiden 2011 year — to discuss their climate science work.

*Editor’s Note: The editor of The Yale Forum on Climate Change & The Media, along with Santer and Stanford University energy economist Larry Goulder, is a Schneider Prize juror.

Bud Ward

Bud Ward is editor of Yale Climate Connections. (E-mail: bud@yaleclimateconnections.org).
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