Jim Hansen on “Obstruction of Justice”


The science of climate change is clear and we no longer have the excuse of not realizing the “inter-generational injustice and inequity” of allowing more coal-fired power plants to be built, says Jim Hansen.  Commenting on the arrest on charges of “obstruction of justice” of nonviolent protestors opposing the construction of a coal-fired power plant in Virginia, he says that government officials and candidates who talk about “clean coal” as though it exists don’t get the essential point.

See Hansen’s full comment on his Columbia University website.  An excerpt:

“Obstruction of justice??”  My first thought was that this case might help draw attention to the inter-generational injustice and inequity of continued building of coal-fired power plants.  Is the Orwellian double-speak in the charge of “obstruction of justice” not apparent?

Executives in the coal and other fossil fuel industries are now aware of the damage that continued coal emissions causes for present and future life on the planet.  Yet their response is to promote continued use of coal, and in some cases even encourage contrarians to muddy the issue in the public’s mind.  Their actions raise issues of ethical responsibility to the young and the unborn, and a question of legal liability, it seems to me….

My recommendation, as you can see in my presentation at Virginia Tech last week…is that this is the time to exert maximum effort to use the democratic process….
This, it seems to me, is the reality of the present situation in the United States.  The fossil fuel industry has enormous power, with big influence on the public, as well as on politicians.  Although practical steps to stabilize climate, with other benefits, can be defined, it will be difficult to overcome fossil fuel special interests, and we are running out of time…. 

The science of climate change has become clear in recent years: if coal emissions to the atmosphere are not halted, we will drive to extinction a large fraction of the species on the planet.  Already almost half of summer sea ice in the Arctic has been lost, coral reefs are under great stress, mountain glaciers are melting world-wide with consequences for fresh water supplies of hundreds of millions of people within the next several decades, and climate extremes including greater floods, more intense heat waves and forest fires, and stronger storms have all been documented.
Our parents did not realize the long-term effects of fossil fuel use.  We no longer have that excuse.  Let us hope that the courage of these young people will help spark public education about the climate and environmental issues, and help us preserve nature for the sake of our children and grandchildren.

We highly recommend reading Hansen’s scientific publications and his articles and statements for wider audiences, affidavits in court cases, letters to government officials, and so forth.  Scientific journal publications are posted on his NASA Goddard Institute of Space Studies website.  His work that draws on his expertise to make personal statements as a citizen are posted on his Columbia University website.


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