Laureates 2007

2007 Future - Quest for Energy

James Hansen

jhansenDr. Hansen, affiliated with the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, is one of the small handful of scientists whose detailed and persistent scientific work has brought about a change in the public perception of planet Earth through a broad study of the forces that control the escape of energy to space, and the origin and planetary response to these forces.

Among his specific seminal contributions to climate research are these: (a) understanding of the various forces that govern Earth's radiation budget whereby increasing amounts of trace gases and aerosols in the atmosphere prevent the escape of terrestrial infrared energy, thereby causing the planet to warm; (b) understanding the changes to Earth's energy balance through large scale calculations with general circulation models and studies of paleoclimatic data; and (c) quantitative assessment of global thermometric records to document changes in Earth's mean surface temperature in response to these energy restrictions. These calculations confirm the natural greenhouse effect of about 32 degrees C that was already in existence prior to the Industrial Revolution, and the augmented effect of about 0.8 degrees C from the atmospheric concentration increases observed during the late 20th Century for carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and other gases and aerosols.

Dr. Hansen is well-known for his temperature forecasts from his general circulation atmospheric model, calculated and published in 1988, of future temperature rises for Earth's atmosphere, in which his "moderate growth scenario" for the intervening 18 years is in excellent agreement with the observed global temperature change to 2006. In addition, Dr. Hansen has considered the possibilities of control on different greenhouse gases and aerosols and offered suggestions of the most likely areas for special efforts in suppressing the accumulating greenhouse contributors.

The 2007 Dan David Prize honors Dr. James Hansen for his significant contributions in the field of Quest for Energy.