Edinburgh Medal Address by James Hansen

Submitted by edg on Wed, 28 Mar '12 4.51am
Time & place

James Hansen's Edinburgh Medal address, entitled The Case For Young People and Nature, will offer people a chance to hear one of the world's pre-eminent and passionate climate scientists talk about a moral issue of unprecedented scope – climate change.

Hansen heads the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City, and is an adjunct professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University.

Hansen has criticised successive US governments, including the current Obama administration, for pursuing policies that are exacerbating climate change rather than taking necessary actions to mitigate climate catastrophe.

Hansen highlighted the problem of global warming in 1981, but chose to withdraw for 15 years from the media "hoopla" after sharing his forecasts with Congress, to focus more on other areas of scientific research.

A grandfather, who in recent years has felt morally compelled to speak out about an escalating problem (he sees sea levels rising 18ft over the next century), he has been censored, arrested, and is a key target of the influential climate-denier lobby.

More than 30 years ago Hansen, who is 70, and his team created one of the first global climate models and used it to predict much of what has happened in the climate since.

Since then the threats posed by global warming have increased markedly because of the absence of effective policies. Unless prompt action is taken to place a rising price on carbon emissions -- by collecting a fee from fossil fuel companies and distributing the funds to the public - the planet will be committed to devastating consequences borne upon today's young people.

Dr Simon Gage, Director of the Edinburgh International Science Festival, describes Hansen as “a scientist whose tireless and principled voice has had such an impact on the climate debate. His advocacy around the most pressing issue of our time and his insistence that he has a duty to society as well as to science makes him an outstanding recipient."

On hearing of his award Dr Hansen responded: “I am honoured to receive the Edinburgh Medal and I hope that I can use the occasion to draw attention to the urgency of addressing climate change, with a different approach, one that would be effective. Our parents did not know that their actions could harm future generations. We will only be able to pretend that we did not know.”

The Vote of Thanks, following the Edinburgh Medal Address will be given by Professor James Curran, MBE, Chief Executive of SEPA, who has worked in environmental science and regulation for 30 years.

The above TED talk was given at Long Beach California, a few weeks ago.

This Edinburgh Medal Address is sold out, but Hansen is appearing at two other EISF Climate Change events.

Edinburgh Medal Recipients

The Edinburgh Medal is given each year to men and women of science and technology whose professional achievements are judged to have made a significant contribution to the understanding and well-being of humanity. The Medal is supported by the City of Edinburgh Council and SEPA.

  • 1989 Professor Abdus Salam
  • 1990 Professor Stephen J Gould
  • 1991 Professor Jane Goodall
  • 1992 Professor Heinz Wolff
  • 1993 Professor Wangari Maathai
  • 1994 Professor Manuel Pattarroyo
  • 1995 Sir John Crofton
  • 1996 Professor Richard Levins
  • 1997 Professor Amartya Sen
  • 1998 Sir David Attenborough
  • 1999 Professor Jocelyn Bell Burnell
  • 2000 Professor Lynn Margulis
  • 2001 Sir John Sulston
  • 2002 Lise Kingo
  • 2003 Professor Wang Sung
  • 2004 Professor Stephen Rose
  • 2005 Professor Colin Blakemore
  • 2006 Professor James Lovelock
  • 2007 Dr Richard Horton
  • 2008 Professor Chris Rapley CBE
  • 2009 Professor John Beckwith
  • 2010 Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys
  • 2011 Professor Carl Djerassi
  • 2012 Dr James Hansen