[Vision2020] Sophie Prize Chair Speech for Scientist Hansen's Award: Norway to Extract Canada Tar Sands Oil

Ted Moffett starbliss at gmail.com
Thu Sep 9 11:07:18 PDT 2010

 http://www.sofieprisen.no/noop/page.php?p=Articles/513.html&d=1 Speech by
the chair of the board of the Sophie Prize, Nina Drange
Sophie Prize Ceremony June 22th 2010.

*Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends*

*We are gathered here today to celebrate Dr. James E. Hansen, winner of the
Sophie Prize 2010.*

Dr. James E. Hansen is an exceptional scientist who has decided that his
work and his insight must be communicated outside the academic corridors in
order to build the sense of urgency required to solve the greatest challenge
of our time – climate change.

Dr Hansen has played a key role in the development of our understanding of
human impact on the climate for more than 30 years. He is an outstanding
scientist with numerous scientific articles published in high-ranking
journals. His main focus has been on climatology, and primarily how
greenhouse gases affect the global climate. The list of Hansen’s
accomplishments is long and impressive. He is a member of the National
Academy of Sciences. He is an adjunct professor at the Department of Earth
and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University and at Columbia’s Earth
Institute. And lastly, he has been director of the NASA Goddard Institute
for Space Studies since 1981.

While Hansen’s scientific accomplishments are indeed impressive, what is in
particularly remarkable with this years’ Sophie Prize winner is his courage.
It is not popular in academia to put forward statements that may be
interpreted as part of a political agenda. And Hansen has felt himself being
forced to do just that. His understanding of the threats posed by the
man-made increase of carbon in the atmosphere has several times made him
leave his role as a scientist - to enter the role as a concerned grandfather
and political activist. This has not been easy, and the personal cost Hansen
has paid is substantial. During the administration of George W. Bush, his
reports were subject to censorship, and Hansen was himself kept under

Hansen is not a man who jumps to conclusions. Reading his recent book
“Storms of my grandchildren” is a journey through massive knowledge.
Although he has wanted the book to be accessible to the public, he never
succumbs to tabloid. James Hansen - the researcher - is strongly present
throughout the 300 pages. When he explains complicated processes related to
climate change, he does it with a thoroughness that reassures you that this
scientist knows what he knows, but also what he doesn’t know. Though at
times challenging, this reluctance to give the reader answers in black and
white adds to his credibility and integrity. He takes people seriously. He
respects them. And he believes that his knowledge will make a difference.
Must make a difference. I think he is right.

The dramatic and irreversible effects of climate change will not be felt the
strongest by those of us sitting in this room, by those of us who are
responsible for triggering climate change. It will be felt by our children
and grandchildren. And it is already being felt by those who are vulnerable
and poor in developing countries. One of the many disturbing truths in
Storms of my Grandchildren is that we are no longer talking about distant
“future generations”. We are talking about Hansen’s grandchildren and my
children – girls and boys that are already born. It is Hansen’s hope – and
my hope – that this short time horizon will bring us more urgency and closer
to a solution.

Hansen is very clear on what needs to be done to solve the challenges
related to climate change. He takes a constructive approach and calls for
action. Yes, we have still time, although very limited. The objective must
be to keep the level of carbon in the atmosphere below 350 ppm. And the
means to achieve this objective is simply to leave the remaining coal and
unconventional fossil fuels in the ground. We simply cannot afford to go
after that last drop of oil. Here Norway as a nation that has built its
wealth on oil has a particular responsibility for being in the forefront of
responsible action.

Climate change has global implications and demands global action. Not
somebody else’s action, but our action. Tar sand is an unconventional fossil
fuel and one of the dirtiest sources of energy. I happen to be a shareholder
in Statoil – as are all of you here today with a Norwegian citizenship.
Statoil is planning to extract oil from tar sand in Canada. As Hansen
pointed out in his letter to prime minster Stoltenberg a few weeks ago tar
sand is one of the best and most effective ways to accelerate climate
change. Do we really want to build our wealth at the expense of our
children’s future?  No.  Fortunately there are signs that the world is
waking up to this fact. Last week President Obama said the following words
in the aftermath of the BP oil spill disaster:  “I say we can’t afford not
to change how we produce and use energy – because the long-term costs to our
economy, our national security, and our environment are far greater. “
Politicians who want change need our help as individuals, as citizens and as
owners of Statoil. And we all need the insight and arguments of this year’s
Sophie Prize winner to succeed.

We cannot let shortsighted economic interests lead the way any longer. The
urgency of the situation calls for policy action beyond the usual channels
and by more than the usual suspects. James Hansen has through his work and
not to speak of engagement showed us a way forward. Due to him we can no
longer tell our children and grandchildren that we did not know.

The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer said the following: All truth
passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently
opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident. Let us hope that the
time has passed for denial and ridicule and that the time has come for the
self-evidence of Dr Hansens knowledge, insight and courage.


Vision2020 Post: Ted Moffett
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