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Interview with Dr. James Hansen, Director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies   
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Greetings, caring viewers, and welcome to today’s Planet Earth: Our Loving Home featuring leading climate scientist Dr. James Hansen.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or more commonly known as NASA, is a US agency which is responsible for the nation’s space program. In its mission statement, NASA defines its goal to “pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery, and aeronautics research.” 
The NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), at Columbia University in New York City, is a laboratory of the Earth Sciences Division of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and a unit of the Columbia University Earth Institute.

Dr. Hansen works as the Director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, where he is leading the research on the planet’s atmosphere and global climatic change. With a Ph.D. in physics, this distinguished American scientist has received more than 20 awards, starting in 1977 with the Goddard Special Achievement Award.

On February 16, 2008, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) honored him for his exemplary actions in helping foster scientific freedom and responsibility.

Dr. Hansen also received the Shining World Hero Award from Supreme Master Ching Hai, “in recognition of boldly speaking the truth, generating worldwide awareness of the state of our planet and advocating change to save our wondrous planet.”

At the invitation of the Swedish Church, Dr. Hansen recently attended the Interfaith Climate Summit, where approximately 1,000 delegates and leaders from the world’s various religious traditions met in Uppsala, Sweden.

The topic of discussion was on caring for the environment and how to communicate the urgent message to the planet’s citizens on the need to halt global warming. At the summit, Dr. Hansen called for eliminating coal usage through strong governmental action to mitigate the effects of climate change.

In an interview with Supreme Master Television’s correspondent in Sweden, Dr. Hansen further discussed environmental goals to help save the planet.

So we have to set the goal that we want to curb climate change.

Dr. James Hansen:
I think next year is a critical year. We need to find a replacement for the Kyoto Protocol. And it has to be different and more effective. The Kyoto Protocol was not very effective because it had escape valves; even those countries that thought they were coming close to their objectives, actually their emissions increased.

We need to have a better agreement which really identifies the things that have to be done, and that is going to have to include the beginnings of a phase out of coal.

So that is the critical factor which I would hope that the politicians will be honest and not just make targets; they need to look at what actually needs to be done.

If you just look at how much carbon there is in oil, gas and coal, you see that the real, biggest problem in the long run is coal and because carbon dioxide has a lifetime so long and a large fraction of it stays in the air for more than a thousand years.

So we simply cannot burn all the fossil fuels. It doesn’t help to slow down the rate at which you burn them a little.

Like many scientists have affirmed, eliminating carbon-based fuels will have far-reaching benefits for the economy, as well as the health of the planet and its inhabitants.

That means we have to actually reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere; it’s already increased to about 385 parts per million (ppm).

If we want to stop the warming and stop the melting of more ice, we are going to have to reduce the CO2 at least back to 350 ppm, and perhaps even somewhat lower.

So that’s a tall order, it requires phasing out the coal emissions but it also means that we are going to need to improve our agricultural and forestry practices.

That means, for example, reforestation of the marginal lands where deforested and which are not being used for crops and so we could re-grow trees on those areas. And also the agricultural practices, we need to use no till and low till agriculture and even bio-char, work charcoal into the soil, so that the soil stores more carbon.

Dr. Hansen offers his solution on how to effectively phase out fossil fuel use.

Dr. James Hansen: 
Now for example, we import food from halfway around the world, while we could just as well buy it from a farm nearby. But it’s so cheap to fly it because there’s no tax on aviation fuel.

There was an agreement 50 years ago not to tax aviation fuel so we’re really wasting on the fossil fuels. 

Now if we want to phase out the fossil fuels, which we’re going to have to do if we want to maintain a planet that looks like the one that we inherited from our parents, then we’re going to have to apply a price to the carbon emissions.

And the way that would work, if you wanted the public to accept it, I think you have to give up 100% of that tax back to the public. And you do that on a uniform basis, so everybody gets the same dividend.

But if you have two cars and a big house, then your price, your tax will be larger than the average, but the person who does a better than average job of reducing his carbon emissions
will make money.

And if the public knows that the tax rate is going to increase with time, then they’re going to take the steps to reduce their fossil fuel use. And eventually we can get to a carbon-free society.

So it’s possible, and frankly, the economy would improve because it would spur innovations. People would try to invent things that use less fossil fuels or no fossil fuels, and then if you give people this dividend, they will have the money in their pocket that they can afford to buy
these new products.

We have to make real changes. It can’t be a case of setting a goal of 80% reduction by 2050.


What is your personal opinion about vegetarianism?

Dr. James Hansen:
My personal opinion about vegetarianism is that, I think we should move in that direction. Now, my daughter and my daughter in law are both vegetarians.

Dr. James Hansen: And they’ve influenced us, so that we have meals for them, which are vegetarian. And we also try to go mostly that direction.

Leading climatologist Dr. James Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), provides his expertise on today’s show regarding effective actions one can take to help curb climate change.
Dr. James Hansen: There are many things that people can do to reduce their carbon emissions, but changing your light bulb and many of the things are much less effective than changing your diet because if you eat further down on the food chain rather than animals, which have produced many greenhouse gases, and used much energy in the process of growing that meat, you can actually make a bigger contribution in that way than just about anything.

So that, in terms of individual action, is perhaps the best thing you can do.

But you also have to do things that influence the decisions of policy makers.

Do you think organizations should consider making advocating vegetarianism a major part of their global warming campaigns?

Dr. James Hansen:
Yes, in fact, probably the single action that a person can take, an individual can take to reduce carbon emissions is vegetarianism.

Dr. James Hansen:
One of the things that we’ve realized in just the last year or two is that there are feedbacks that begin to come into play and amplify the direct effect of human-made emissions.

One of those is the release of methane as permafrost melts, and from the continental shelf under the ocean.

That comes about because of the warming; as the planet gets warmer, the ice melts and it releases this frozen methane.

So that is potentially very dangerous. The way that we can avoid that is by reducing the warming or by stopping the warming.

HOST: Research by Briton Dr. Andy Thorpe of University of Portsmouth has found that methane emissions are playing a more significant role in global warming, as their proportion is on the rise.

Compared to CO2, which has increased by 31 percent during the past 250 years, methane has increased by 149 percent during the same period.

Moreover, methane is far more potent, trapping 72 times more heat than CO2 over a 20 year period.

Dr. James Hansen:
The climate forcing by methane is about half as large as the forcing due to the carbon dioxide. So by itself, if we could stop the methane from increasing that is a significant fraction of the problem.

We would also reduce the carbon dioxide somewhat by means of going back to more natural vegetarian type diets as opposed to having meat diets.

That is the biggest single thing, in terms of our personal lifestyle say, we could change in order to help solve the climate problem.

How do you think that this all can come together and we can make a change in the future?

Dr. James Hansen:
There’s a big gap between what we now understand scientifically and what the public knows,
and we need to communicate better with the public and make them understand what is needed in order to preserve the planet, because most people want to preserve for their children and grandchildren a planet like the one that we’ve had.

And I think religions can be helpful in that regard.

To conclude today’s show, we share Dr. Hansen’s wish for the world’s citizens.

Dr. James Hansen:
My prayer would be that people recognize how wonderful creation is, how the planet is incredible, the life we have on this planet.

With my granddaughter Sophie, I planted milkweeds last summer because it’s incredible.

The monarch butterflies, unbelievable, if you study how that works, how its life cycle works and it ends up migrating all the way to Mexico.

But there are so many things like that, and we are endangering those species if we continue down the path that we are on and burn all the fossil fuels.

We are going to eliminate a large fraction of species on the planet, which people just need to recognize what a remarkable world that we have and that we need to preserve this.

You can call it creation, you can call it whatever you like, depending on your religion or you are not religious, but it is something that is so wonderful that we have to preserve it.

Greetings to Supreme Master TV, my message to you is Be Veg, Go Green, Save the Planet.

Thank you, Dr. Hansen, for your expertise and wise advice on halting global warming through a vegetarian diet and fossil fuel use reduction.

May the world quickly unite in its efforts to help save the planet.

We appreciate your presence today for Planet Earth: Our Loving Home, airing every Wednesday on Supreme Master Television. Up next, stay tuned for Enlightening Entertainment, right after Noteworthy News. Farewell and God bless!

For more details on the work of Dr. James Hansen of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) please visit:

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