By Rob Jordan

The 2012 Stephen Schneider Award for Climate Science Communication was presented to James Hansen on Dec. 4 at the Commonwealth Club of California, a nonprofit and nonpartisan public forum in San Francisco, by the club’s sustainability initiative Climate One. The award is named for former Stanford Woods Instsitute Senior Fellow and renowned climate scientist Stephen Schneider.

Hansen was lauded for his research “identifying human fingerprints on specific instances of extreme weather, putting him out in front of many of his peers.” Hansen is head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Adjunct Professor at Columbia University's Earth Institute in New York City.

"Throughout his entire career, Dr. Hansen has been an honest broker of information on the science of climate change,” said juror Ben Santer. “His focus has always been firmly fixed on performing the best possible science, and then letting the chips fall where they may."

Hansen is well known for his testimony on climate change to congressional committees in the 1980s, which helped raise broad awareness of the global warming issue. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1995 and was designated by Time magazine in 2006 as one of the 100 most influential people on Earth. 

This is the second year the award has been presented. It is given to a natural or social scientist who has made “extraordinary scientific contributions and communicated that knowledge to a broad public in a clear and compelling fashion.”

Stephen Schneider was internationally recognized for research, policy analysis and outreach in climate change. In 1975 he founded the interdisciplinary journal, Climatic Change, and continued to serve as its editor-in-chief until his death. He was honored in 1992 with a MacArthur Fellowship for his ability to integrate and interpret the results of global climate research through public lectures, seminars, classroom teaching, environmental assessment committees, media appearances, congressional testimonies and research collaboration with colleagues. He consulted with federal agencies and/or White House staff in the Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama administrations.

Schneider was an author for all four assessment reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) under the auspices of the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Program. He was one of four "generations" of IPCC authors honored for their work when the IPCC shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former Vice President Al Gore.


Photo (courtesy of NASA): James Hansen