Young People’s Day In Court

TRUST 350 from Our Children’s Trust on Vimeo.

 by James Hansen, 14 April 2014, cross-posted from Dr. Hansen’s blog

May 2 could be an historic day, as young people have their day in court, at 9:30 AM in the United States Court of Appeals in Washington, DC. This concerns the legal case that young people have filed against the United States federal government, the case for which the paper “Assessing ‘Dangerous Climate Change’: Required Reductions of Carbon Emissions to Protect Young People, Future Generations and Nature” provides the scientific basis.

A U.S. District Court earlier ruled against young people, in essence saying that the young people had not shown a Constitutional basis by which the Court could require the U.S. government to deliver a plan defining how it would reduce emissions consistent with what science shows is necessary to stabilize climate. Young people had filed their case based on the “trust” concept, the argument that the present generation has a fiducial responsibility to deliver a safe atmosphere and climate to the next generation.

The “trust” concept is well established in law and American history, as Thomas Jefferson, a farmer, argued that his generation must not deplete the soil, but rather must leave it in equally fertile condition for the next generation. However, our current Administration argued against the young people, saying that it had established the Environmental Protection Agency, and thus had sufficiently carried out its duties. Industrial polluters joined the federal government in court, arguing against the case filed by the young people.

In my opinion, the Court’s initial ruling was for the best, because it forces attention upon our most fundamental rights. Our Constitution’s purpose to “provide the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity…” implies obligations to the young and the unborn. Our nation was founded on the “self-evident” concept that all people have equal rights. The Constitution assures that all people, including young people, will receive “equal protection of the laws” and that no one can be deprived of property without “due process” of law. Furthermore, this focus on fundamental rights has global relevance because of substantial commonality of our Constitution with The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In an amicus brief that I filed with 10 of my colleagues we point out that the claim by the United States government that climate change presents “the possibility of some remote future injury” evinces a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of the climate threat. Our brief makes clear that atmospheric CO2 today is already in the dangerous zone, and the government should present a plan to reduce fossil fuel emissions and increase carbon uptake by the land and biosphere at rates required to reduce atmospheric CO2 this century to at most 350 ppm.

The situation is crystal clear. The climate threat is undeniable. Yet the executive and legislative branches of government, concerned with short-term politics, are failing to protect young people.

We must be sure that the judges ponder the full implications of their ruling. It would be very helpful if the court room were packed with young people, so that the judges can look in the eyes of the youth who will feel the benefit or brunt of their decision.

This court, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, is widely viewed as our most important court save only the Supreme Court, and it frequently has had a central role in affecting our national policies and law. Its judges are frequently tapped as Supreme Court Nominees.

The three judges who will hear the young people’s case are Chief Judge Garland (Clinton appointee), Senior Circuit Judge Ginsburg (Reagan appointee once nominated for the Supreme Court), and Circuit Judge Srinivasan (Obama appointee).

The Court will hear three cases on Friday morning May 2, with the case for young people (Alec L. et al. vs. Gina McCarthy, et al.) scheduled first, thus expected to be 9:30 AM. The lawyer for the young people will have 30 minutes to present their case and the government and industry will have 30 minutes to respond. The judges frequently interrupt, so much of the 30 minutes for each side may be used by the judges, but the two sides will have equal time.

After the case is argued, i.e., at about 10:30 AM the youth plan to have a rally outside the courthouse, and we will probably make plans to have lunch together, perhaps outside, depending on weather. I believe that witnessing this historic day in court for youth is worth missing a day of school, and indeed would be educational. The presence of sufficient youth could make a difference. The courtroom will hold about 120 people and there is an overflow room where the arguments can be live-streamed. If we should end up with more people than can fit in the courtrooms, their attendance outside and at the rally will make the proceedings all the more effective.

Some information on the hearing is at and a short film on the overall matter is at

Those people planning to attend, or organize attendance by a class or individual youth, should send an e-mail to both my program coordinator Nicole <> and Meg <>. We will send further details and updates as plans progress.

Jim Hansen


Radio: NPR “On Point” plays Ambassador speeches, Guest Jared Diamond

Ambassadors steal the show, “Jared Diamond Speaks to the Young on Environmental Challenges” the APRIL 4, 2014 episode of NPR’s On Point with Tom Ashbrook.

Listen here:

OK, so the Ambassadors are not the guests; but they are briefly featured voices of a generation, and Jared Diamond is good company! The celebrated author of Guns, Germs, and SteelThe World Until Yesterday and Collapse talks about a new adaptation of an old favorite, The Third Chimpanzee, now retitled:

The Third Chimpanzee for Young People: On the Evolution and Future of the Human Animal by Jared Diamond

Audio clips of Ambassadors Zoe and Isaac figure prominently in the discussion. The lively broadcast explores how humans, and in particular young people growing up with a dangerous changing climate, might respond to our greatest challenge.

History professor and bestselling author Diamond begins this interview, “the current generation is the first generation that faces the risk of the whole world being messed up.” As a parent, the author had to answer to his own children when their school assigned one of his books for class. He says historically young people have regularly faced overwhelming threats to civilization; but children now grow up worrying about the end of all civilizations.

After playing clips from Ambassadors’ speeches, Jared Diamond suggests that young people who understand what is happening to their future can have a powerful influence on how families respond.

The Ambassador audio clips come from Zoe’s speech before the Governor’s Climate Legislative Executive Workgroup in Seattle and Isaac’s speech to the Power Past Coal Rally in downtown Portland.

Be forewarned: after hearing Jared Diamond, you might have to break down and buy the book. It sounds perfect for families who face this crisis together. Although you’ll find no simple answers and only a 50-50 wager on how humans will turn out, Diamond sounds genuinely hopeful for a History professor who has devoted his life to studying the end.

James Hansen Admires Ambassador Action

Ambassadors visit Sen Patty Murray

Ambassadors from Plant-For-The-Planet shared their plan to end the climate crisis with U.S. Senate staffers last week in downtown Seattle. They made very specific requests for the Senators to consider new language when they discuss climate change, drawing on Dr. James Hansen’s research into how humans might make the world cooler near 2100, but only if we act now.

One week later the preeminent climate scientist and former head of NASA climate research blogged about their brave efforts: You can read Dr. Hansen’s admiring words here: “Children and Adults on Climate Policy: Evidence that They ‘Get It'”

From his blog: “The bravery and insight of people in Washington and Oregon, as they oppose fossil fuel interests that threaten the future of young people, is exceptional and encouraging.”

The Ambassadors draw such inspiration from Dr. Hansen’s important research on behalf of “Young People, Future Generations, and Nature”; and yet in this blog the roles reversed. Clearly James Hansen draws his inspiration from the next generation, the grandchildren he strives to protect. Now his life’s work and climate science messages are starting to reach young people who “Get It”.

You can talk to your Senators, like the Ambassadors. Tell your congressperson to

  • Stop saying the words “2°C Goal” or “Target” in speeches.
  • Start telling Senators there is a real plan to keep global warming close to 1.2°C and to protect children
  • Write laws to reduce carbon pollution 6% per year and plant our share of 1,000 billion trees
  • Put a price on carbon pollution
  • Pledge “No New Carbon Pollution” to oppose dirty energy infrastructure, exploration, and exports
  • You need them to take bold action now on climate in order to protect children in the future.

As the founder of Plant-For-The-Planet, Felix Finkbeiner, says: “For us children, whether the sea level will rise 1 meter or 6 meters is not an academic question, it’s a question of survival.”

Your Senators should know that from now on you depend on them to act courageously; we all do.

Let’s act courageously.

VIDEO – Ambassadors Share Plan with Governor Inslee’s Climate Workgroup

Zoe and Wren TVW CLEW Olympia
Zoe and Wren speak to the Gov’s hearing. CLICK BELOW to watch!


Thanks a billion Zoe and Wren! Stay tuned when they finish to hear from a surprised grownup!

Zoe and Wren speak to Governor Inslee’s Climate Workgroup

Two 7th graders from Seattle announced the Washington Billion Tree Campaign as part of Plant-For-The-Planet’s global reforestation effort. With clear moral authority the 2 ambassadors set the new goal of 6% emission cuts to hold earth to 1-degree warming for this generation. Is the Workgroup listening?

From Zoe’s point of view “While I was giving my speech, I looked up at the governor and saw him taking a picture of me. It kind of freaked me out because, well, the governor was taking a picture of me, and shouldn’t it be the other way around? So I tried to keep giving my speech,  and not burst out laughing, but I got a little tripped up.”

“It was kind of freaky, but exciting.” She would definitely recommend the experience for ambassadors everywhere. “Speaking with Wren was really nice, but I probably wasn’t as scared as she was because it was her first speech, but she did great!”

Wren had the important task of announcing Washington’s Billion Tree Campaign to the Governor at the hearing. Her energy and enthusiasm certainly made tree-planting sound like fun. When Wren concluded, “So who’s ready to plant some trees?” the entire room erupted in applause and cheers!

According to Zoe there’s no time to waste. “We really need to get started because we keep talking about it, but how many trees have we actually planted? The Governor can help get people to plant trees, and he could create jobs by paying people to plant trees in our forests.”

Like the Plant-For-The-Planet campaign says, “STOP TALKING. START PLANTING.”

SIGN and SHARE their petition. The public comment period ended, but with the Workgroup split along party lines, your input is still welcome. You can also share comments directly by email:

 Ambassadors Wren and Zoe from Plant-For-The-Planet share a moment with Washington Governor Jay Inslee in Olympia.
Ambassadors Wren and Zoe from Plant-For-The-Planet share a moment with Washington Governor Jay Inslee in Olympia.

From Olympia’s newspaper The News Tribune:

Majority at Olympia climate hearing make case for less fossil fuel


Staff writer December 13, 2013

“Climate scientists may have reached a consensus about the danger of human contributions to climate change, but getting a political consensus for how to respond will take some time at the Washington state Capitol.

Friday’s third and final hearing before Gov. Jay Inslee’s climate workgroup elicited an array of messages from the environmental movement, business groups, the oil industries and a slew of individuals — including two school kids from Seattle who are part of a project planting trees and said they can’t afford to wait for action.

 Most of the roughly 50 people who spoke at the three-hour hearing at the Capitol urged the bipartisan workgroup — which has two legislators from each major party and Inslee as its non-voting chairman — to recommend that the Legislature take immediate steps to reduce carbon pollution from fossil fuels, which is implicated in global warming.”

More news and links from Olympia soon!

Check back for ambassador activity every week. Or better yet,  click to “Follow” us here on climatechangeforfamilies, so you’ll get a notice when we post news!

New Interactive Map of Earth’s Forests

New york Times Article, a great read.

A new interactive map of the Earth’s forests allows an incredibly detailed view of the gains and losses observed during 12 years of satellite data. The world can now see where we have new planting and where we are cutting down forests in perfect detail down to 33 yards. Take a look. and bookmark the site.

It’s beautiful and a great tool for research that will get updated each year, but what it shows us in glorious intervactive detail is not a “pretty picture” because of how we are accelerating loss of forests around the world, which still outpaces new growth, especially in poor countries in the tropics.

Plant-For-The-Planet ambassadors have our work cut out for us. And now for the first time ever we can see exactly where that work is most needed.

If you zoom way in, you can see your neighborhood and your favorite park . You can even see where you might want to plant a tree!

MindDrive: High Schoolers Build an Electric Car (VIDEO)

When I was just a freshman in high school I saw a picture in a magazine of a car that drove only on electricity. Since I grew up in a refinery town along the Houston Ship Channel, the oil capital of the world, it took me a while to figure out why you would even think to build an “electric” car! That seemed about as crazy as “barefoot” shoes, a car that didn’t run on gas! That didn’t make any sense. At first. But once I got it into my head, that you could drive around all day, never go to a gas station, plug into your house at night, no refineries, no oil imports, no tailpipe needed, the idea stuck with me. I wanted one.commuta-car The magazine said I could buy one in a showroom in 2 years, and that was when I was going to get my driver’s license. I was so excited! I told everybody I was going to be the first kid in Texas with an electric car! But the showroom never showed up. And I bought the first of a dozen gasoline powered cars I have owned in my lifetime.

Now, instead of waiting for a showroom to show up, watch this amazing video of what the high school students in Kansas City are doing. You’ll love it!

Now they are headed to DC! Give them the support they deserve and we’ll see more and more programs like this all over the country!

These students are ready to transform transportation. Electric cars can drive on clean fossil-free electricity from renewable wind and solar. Upend the oil industry. Move over coal and gas. Clean conversions are here.

The climate solutions are all right in front of us, if we will only take the initiative to make them real today.

The Divesters!

Pretend you are a Marvel superhero at the climax of the latest summer blockbuster. The evil psychopaths are two minutes away from successfully wiping out life on Earth. Your kids, pets, house, purple mountains, favorite band, everything, sea to shining sea, the whole planet is depending on you. Is there anything you wouldn’t do? Any risk you wouldn’t take? How much would it be worth to you to stop the final annihilation of life on earth?

Silly superhero question: Would you invest part of your retirement portfolio in the villain’s corporation?

Guess what? That’s your choice today. Your superhero task? Change your behavior, starting with your investments, before it’s too late. Ask your superhero self, will I divest from fossil fuels and get everybody else to do the same? Can we leave carbon in the ground to save life on Earth?

You can use a simple toolkit online to divest. Join 300 “Fossil Free” campaigns today at universities, schools, churches, cities, private foundations to eliminate our carbon investments. Divestment successfully draws attention to change a corrupt system. “Today,” one minister recently wrote, “the American economy is as entangled in fossil fuels as it was in slavery in the 1850’s.”

The Carbon Bubble

The fossil fuel industry has 5 times more carbon in reserves currently on the books than we can safely burn. Energy producers must leave at least 80% of reserves in the ground if humans want to survive this mess.

The industry must agree to do business in light of climate science:

•             They need immediately to stop exploring for new hydrocarbons.

•             They need to stop lobbying in Washington and state capitols across the country to preserve their special breaks.

•             Most importantly, they need to pledge to keep 80% of their current reserves underground forever.

Forget the energy renaissance, Arctic drilling, hydro-fracking technology, forget new exploration when you can’t safely burn 20% of the stuff you’ve already got.

Shareholder’s Report

Can we properly value a corporation based on how much carbon they hold and refine, if 80% of that must be preserved underground?

At the rate we’re burning carbon, we can only risk another 16 – 17 years of dirty energy at most. Are you planning on living another 20 years? I am. It’s going to be a different world. Before 2050 a fossil-free world. I can’t wait.

Scientists predict 6 – 8% reductions every year going forward starting in 2013 will get CO2 back to levels for which life is adapted, below 350ppm. Delay until 2020 to start? 15% annual reductions, cost the world trillions more, meanwhile risk runaway climate feedbacks. A morally bankrupt choice, by anybody’s accounting.

I can’t retire on money from the very corporations that, to keep their share prices high, spend millions to increase market saturation and make our children’s future suffering as difficult as possible. Only one industry removes carbon from where it’s been safely stored underground for millions of years. There is no way to drill, frack, strip mine, or blow up mountains sustainably.

I’m a conservative; I want to preserve my planet as it was when I grew up. I teach my kids, “You make a mess, you clean it up.” Simple. Leave the earth living for someone else to enjoy.

Radicals tell the public that you can’t trust greedy NASA scientists. Radicals pay lobbyists to re-write the laws, as if they can break the laws of physics and nature. Radicals accelerate the uncontrolled climate experiment they are running with our only planet. 90 million tons of greenhouse gas pollution every day! That’s geo-engineering!

When will they stop? That completely depends on you and me.

I’m a carbon addict in recovery. Since W left the White House I haven’t purchased gas for my car. Since we heat our home carbon-free, we disconnected the gas line. I eat no meat, drink tap water not bottled, buy local when I can. I won’t ride in a plane. But my individual carbon footprint (20% of an avg American) will only protect my kids once I get you to lower yours too.

Together we can immediately initiate this rapid transition away from carbon, as the International Energy Agency recommended this week in their report, Redrawing the Energy- Climate Map.

Like that superhero in the movie, my actions shape the future of life on Earth. And yours do too! We are re-writing our future. We are the generation that goes into history books for doing something no other generation has ever done: We rescue all life as we know it from certain disaster. We do it by getting everybody on the same team. We’ll do it right now, in this decade, because that’s all the time we’ve got. I know we’ll do it because NOT doing it, NOT giving it everything we’ve got, NOT saving millions of years of biodiversity and thousands of years of human civilization and everything you ever cared about… that’s NOT an option! Humans caused it, humans will stop it.

One way to stop: Join the Fossil Free campaign. Divest all holdings from these fuel corporations whose business success ends life on Earth. Get your church, school, and city to divest, while you can make a difference.

Let’s look at how to live well, not large. Live simply that others may simply live. Give them a future to look forward to, a future they can love. Live a life that gives life, for others. Let’s all leave something behind we can be proud of.

“The true meaning of life is to plant trees under whose shade you never intend to sit.”

Happy Father’s Day!

World Reaches CO2 Milestone: 400ppm

Seasonally adjusted, our global average CO2 is now 395ppm; but May 9th marks the first day in human history when we crossed the 400ppm threshold at Mauna Loa. –M. Foster

The New York Times           May 10, 2013

Heat-Trapping Gas Passes Milestone, Raising Fears


The level of the most important heat-trapping gas in the atmosphere, carbon dioxide, has passed a long-feared milestone, scientists reported Friday, reaching a concentration not seen on the earth for millions of years.

Scientific instruments showed that the gas had reached an average daily level above 400 parts per million — just an odometer moment in one sense, but also a sobering reminder that decades of efforts to bring human-produced emissions under control are faltering.

The best available evidence suggests the amount of the gas in the air has not been this high for at least three million years, before humans evolved, and scientists believe the rise portends large changes in the climate and the level of the sea.

“It symbolizes that so far we have failed miserably in tackling this problem,” said Pieter P. Tans, who runs the monitoring program at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that reported the new reading.

Ralph Keeling, who runs another monitoring program at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, said a continuing rise could be catastrophic. “It means we are quickly losing the possibility of keeping the climate below what people thought were possibly tolerable thresholds,” he said.

Virtually every automobile ride, every plane trip and, in most places, every flip of a light switch adds carbon dioxide to the air, and relatively little money is being spent to find and deploy alternative technologies.

China is now the largest emitter, but Americans have been consuming fossil fuels extensively for far longer, and experts say the United States is more responsible than any other nation for the high level.

The new measurement came from analyzers atop Mauna Loa, the volcano on the big island of Hawaii that has long been ground zero for monitoring the worldwide trend on carbon dioxide, or CO2. Devices there sample clean, crisp air that has blown thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean, producing a record of rising carbon dioxide levels that has been closely tracked for half a century.

Carbon dioxide above 400 parts per million was first seen in the Arctic last year, and had also spiked above that level in hourly readings at Mauna Loa.

But the average reading for an entire day surpassed that level at Mauna Loa for the first time in the 24 hours that ended at 8 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on Thursday. The two monitoring programs use slightly different protocols; NOAA reported an average for the period of 400.03 parts per million, while Scripps reported 400.08.

Carbon dioxide rises and falls on a seasonal cycle, and the level will dip below 400 this summer as leaf growth in the Northern Hemisphere pulls about 10 billion tons of carbon out of the air. But experts say that will be a brief reprieve — the moment is approaching when no measurement of the ambient air anywhere on earth, in any season, will produce a reading below 400.

“It feels like the inevitable march toward disaster,” said Maureen E. Raymo, a scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, a unit of Columbia University.

From studying air bubbles trapped in Antarctic ice, scientists know that going back 800,000 years, the carbon dioxide level oscillated in a tight band, from about 180 parts per million in the depths of ice ages to about 280 during the warm periods between. The evidence shows that global temperatures and CO2 levels are tightly linked.

For the entire period of human civilization, roughly 8,000 years, the carbon dioxide level was relatively stable near that upper bound. But the burning of fossil fuels has caused a 41 percent increase in the heat-trapping gas since the Industrial Revolution, a mere geological instant, and scientists say the climate is beginning to react, though they expect far larger changes in the future.

Indirect measurements suggest that the last time the carbon dioxide level was this high was at least three million years ago, during an epoch called the Pliocene. Geological research shows that the climate then was far warmer than today, the world’s ice caps were smaller, and the sea level might have been as much as 60 or 80 feet higher.

Experts fear that humanity may be precipitating a return to such conditions — except this time, billions of people are in harm’s way.

“It takes a long time to melt ice, but we’re doing it,” Dr. Keeling said. “It’s scary.”

Dr. Keeling’s father, Charles David Keeling, began carbon dioxide measurements on Mauna Loa and at other locations in the late 1950s. The elder Dr. Keeling found a level in the air then of about 315 parts per million — meaning that if a person had filled a million quart jars with air, about 315 quart jars of carbon dioxide would have been mixed in.

His analysis revealed a relentless, long-term increase superimposed on the seasonal cycle, a trend that was dubbed the Keeling Curve.

Countries have adopted an official target to limit the damage from global warming, with 450 parts per million seen as the maximum level compatible with that goal. “Unless things slow down, we’ll probably get there in well under 25 years,” Ralph Keeling said.

Yet many countries, including China and the United States, have refused to adopt binding national targets. Scientists say that unless far greater efforts are made soon, the goal of limiting the warming will become impossible without severe economic disruption.

“If you start turning the Titanic long before you hit the iceberg, you can go clear without even spilling a drink of a passenger on deck,” said Richard B. Alley, a climate scientist at Pennsylvania State University. “If you wait until you’re really close, spilling a lot of drinks is the best you can hope for.”

Climate-change contrarians, who have little scientific credibility but are politically influential in Washington, point out that carbon dioxide represents only a tiny fraction of the air — as of Thursday’s reading, exactly 0.04 percent. “The CO2 levels in the atmosphere are rather undramatic,” a Republican congressman from California, Dana Rohrabacher, said in a Congressional hearing several years ago.

But climate scientists reject that argument, saying it is like claiming that a tiny bit of arsenic or cobra venom cannot have much effect. Research shows that even at such low levels, carbon dioxide is potent at trapping heat near the surface of the earth.

“If you’re looking to stave off climate perturbations that I don’t believe our culture is ready to adapt to, then significant reductions in CO2 emissions have to occur right away,” said Mark Pagani, a Yale geochemist who studies climates of the past. “I feel like the time to do something was yesterday.”


In ‘March Toward Disaster,’ World Hits 400 PPM Milestone

Published on Friday, May 10, 2013 by Common Dreams

Levels of atmospheric CO2 have never been this high in human history; will ‘rise in carbon be matched by rise in climate activism’? – Andrea Germanos, Common Dreams

We did it, and it’s nothing to cheer about.

The world hit the “sobering milestone” of 400 parts per million (ppm) of CO2 on Thursday—a first in human history—marking “a moment of symbolic significance on road of idiocy” the world has chosen, as well as a call for urgent climate action. 

Reaching this level represents a global failure to address the runaway greenhouse gas emissions; as Al Gore wrote today, it shows “we are reaping the consequences of our recklessness.”

Hitting 400 ppm “symbolizes that so far we have failed miserably in tackling this problem,” Pieter P. Tans, who runs the monitoring program at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told the New York Times.

And if you’re experiencing a sense of doom that we’ve reached a level of CO2 the Earth hasn’t seen for at least three million years, you’re not alone.

“It feels like the inevitable march toward disaster,” Maureen E. Raymo, a Columbia University earth scientist, warned.

At the Guardian, George Monbiot slams the 400 ppm mark as “a moment of symbolic significance on road of idiocy.” He writes:

The problem is simply stated: the power of the fossil fuel companies is too great. Among those who seek and obtain high office are people characterised by a complete absence of empathy or scruples, who will take money or instructions from any corporation or billionaire who offers them, and then defend those interests against the current and future prospects of humanity.

This new climate milestone reflects a profound failure of politics, in whichdemocracy has quietly been supplanted by plutocracy. Without a widespread reform of campaign finance, lobbying and influence-peddling and the systematic corruption they promote, our chances of preventing climate breakdown are close to zero.

So here stands our political class at a waystation along the road of idiocy, apparently determined only to complete the journey.

Climate change movement, which has campaigned around 350 ppm being the safe upper limit for atmospheric CO2, created a website to reflect on what this alarming new milestone means, and how we can move forward.

On the site, Payal Parekh, coordinator for Global Power Shift, calls “Crossing the 400 ppm threshold […] a somber reminder that we haven’t taken the action we need. Nevertheless there is good reason for hope—activists all across the globe are fighting the fossil fuel industry and demanding clean, just and affordable solutions to our energy needs.”

Also urging climate action is co-founder Bill McKibben, who writes that “The only question now is whether the relentless rise in carbon can be matched by a relentless rise in the activism necessary to stop it.”

If we don’t get off this fast-moving greenhouse gas train, Scripps geochemist Ralph Keeling warned weeks ago, we’re on track to “hit 450 ppm within a few decades.”


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Finally! Climate Change Introduced to U.S. Science Curriculum

Good news and bad news:

The good news is that U.S. students will for the first time receive instruction on climate change following the adoption last Tuesday of new science education guidelines. The guidelines also take a firm stand that children must learn about evolution, the central organizing idea in the biological sciences for more than a century. (Even though some extreme right-wingers choose to deny that reality.)

The bad news is that states are not required to adopt these standards, even though 26 states, including Arizona, California, Iowa, Kansas and New York, have committed to seriously considering them.

The Next Generation Science Standards are the first broad national recommendations for science instruction since 1996. They were developed by a consortium of 26 state governments and several groups representing scientists and teachers.

The consortium said the guidelines were intended to combat widespread scientific ignorance, to standardize teaching among states, and to raise the number of high school graduates who choose scientific and technical majors in college.

This is critical for the economic future of America, as the U.S. continues to lag in comparison to other countries: in a 2009 global education survey, for example,  Shanghai ranked number one, while the United States came in 26th, out of 65 places worldwide in combined scores for math, science and reading.

One reason for this is that in many states, extensive scientific instruction does not begin until high school. A recent survey of 923 elementary teachers in the San Francisco Bay Area found that 80 percent of those teachers devote less than an hour a week to science, and another 16 percent spend no time on science.

In many ways, these science standards resemble a separate set of guidelines known as the Common Core, which are changing instruction in  English Language Arts and Mathematics: the idea is to  impose and raise standards, with a focus on critical thinking and primary investigation. To date, 45 states and Washington D.C. have adopted the Common Core standards.

Similarly, these new science standards also emphasize hands-on learning and critical thinking, rather than memorizing facts.

From The Guardian:

“Climate change is not a political issue and climate change is not a debate. It is science. It is strongly supported heavily research science, and our hope is that teachers will not see this as a political issue or a political debate,” [Mario Molina, deputy director at the Alliance for Climate Education] said.

He said the new standards will help guide teachers on teaching climate change. However, it was critical that science organisations offer support and resources to teachers who may not be as familiar with climate change as with other areas of science.

Predictably, there was immediate opposition to these new standards.

From The New York Times:

For instance, as the standards were being drafted, a group called Citizens for Objective Public Education, which lists officers in Florida and Kansas, distributed a nine-page letter attacking them. It warned that the standards ignored evidence against evolution, promoted “secular humanism,” and threatened to “take away the right of parents to direct the religious education of their children.”

There will be resistance, predictably from states such as Oklahoma and Texas, but at least this is a step forward.

What do you think?

Originally posted:

Dr. James Hansen Retires From NASA is honoring Dr. Hansen for his leadership across 4 decades of climate change. is honoring Dr. Hansen for his leadership across 4 decades of climate change.

Galileo. Darwin. Hansen.

A giant among scientists for taking on the burden of the most controversial and essential science in history. He faced down congress, faced censorship, and faced religious leaders in a race against time to save the world. And he never stopped working to advance knowledge. Our survival, and the survival of life as we know it, hinges on how quickly we learn to respond to the evidence that we are digging our own graves when we dig up fossil fuels. We create our own ruin, and only together can we stop it.

Yet we debate, deny and ignore the work of this man and a generation of scientists that he inspired around the world who are trying to help us save ourselves.

Today he retires.

Thank you Dr. James Hansen for a career of public service that predicts (and might still change) the course of history on earth. We owe a moment of pause to thank the man who more than any other one person has furthered the science and helped the world understand what climate change is, what it would do, and what we must do to avoid the very worst before it happens. Because of his dedication and skill, now we know: Stop using fossil fuels, Change the history of Earth.

Essential James Hansen links:


Scientific Case for Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change for Young People and Nature:

Take a trip to NASA’s website to explore the amazing work Dr. Hansen guided. Consider how much this man has done to further our understanding of our only home, to make us all more aware of how our destiny rests in our hands.

Link to the page where current updates from his most important works can be found all in one place:

In his career, Dr. Hansen taught us about climate tipping points. But lately he’s been describing a “human tipping point”. Here’s hoping his work was not in vain, that you and I will take up his call to urgent action, and that we will work tirelessly to stop using fossil fuels and reach the “human tipping point” in time. We can still abandon this human-caused mass extinction event, driven by an insatiable ship of fuels. But we have to do it today.

Sign a petition today in honor of Dr. James Hansen demanding the State Dept reject the Keystone XL pipeline, a fitting tribute for a man who was arrested twice in front of the White House demanding a stop to the pipeline.

Visit and sign:


Read his  Op-Ed in the LA Times on April 4th to preview what Dr. Hansen plans to do in “retirement”.

Read more about his career in this April 4th tribute in the NYTimes. From the article, “Jim has a real track record of being right before you can actually prove he’s right with statistics.”

Dr. Hansen certainly did his best. Now it’s up to you and me.