UK. Duke of Edinburgh presents WWF Conservation Medal

Tuesday, 21 November 2006

Renowned climate scientist Dr James Hansen is this year’s recipient of the Duke of Edinburgh Conservation Medal, awarded annually by WWF for outstanding service to the environment. Dr Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, was presented with his medal by the Duke of Edinburgh in a ceremony today at St James’s Palace in London.

“Dr Hansen was among the first to see the looming threat of climate change and to sound the alarm,” said James Leape, WWF International’s Director General. “For more than two decades he has made huge contributions to scientific understanding of climate change and to raising awareness among decision-makers and the public.”

“From his plain-speaking before the US Congress in 1988 about the implications of climate change to his recent warnings that we have only a short time to act before we face irreversible damage to our planet and its natural systems, he has been at the forefront of climate science. We are pleased to be able to recognize his outstanding achievements.’’

Dr Hansen, 65, is a physicist who joined NASA in 1967. Since the 1970s he has worked on computer simulations of the Earth’s climate in a bid to understand humanity’s impact upon it. In 1988, he appeared before committee hearings of the US Congress. His remark to reporters later that “the greenhouse effect is here and is affecting our climate now’’ helped take the “greenhouse’’ concept of heat-trapping gases into popular parlance. More recently, he has spoken out about the concept of “tipping points’’ where, because of climate change, natural systems may experience sudden, rapid and possibly irreversible change.

In accepting his award, Dr Hansen reiterated the need for urgent action. “There is still a huge gap between what is understood about global warming, by the scientific community, and what is known about global warming, by those who need to know, the public and policymakers.” he said. “We must close that gap and move our energy systems in a fundamentally different direction within about a decade, or we will have pushed the planet past a tipping point beyond which it will be impossible to avoid far-ranging undesirable consequences. This fate can be avoided with policies that make sense for other reasons, policies that result in cleaner air and reduced dependence on fossil fuels, but the changes must begin soon to avoid economic disruption and hardship.”

The citation for Dr Hansen’s award reads: “In recognition of his groundbreaking research on man's impact on the Earth's climate and his courage in sounding the alarm; thereby helping to awaken the world to the fact of climate change and galvanize international action to address it."

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 21 November 2006 )