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NASA top climate scientist James Hansen to retire from Goddard Institute, sue gov’t

  • James Hansen pre-arrest 2013.jpg

    Feb. 13, 2013: Top NASA scientist James Hansen, head of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, speaks to the press prior to his latest arrest. (Alice Ollstein, Free Speech Radio News)

  • NASA's James Hansen Arrested

    Aug. 29, 2011: NASA's leading climate scientist James Hansen, director of the Goddard Institute for Space Science, is arrested Monday outside the White House in a public protest over an oil pipeline. (Tar Sands Action / Ben Powless)

Talk about biting the hand that feeds you!

NASA’s James Hansen, director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies and a controversial and highly vocal voice of alarm about the planet’s changing climate, will retire as the director of the space institute, NASA announced Tuesday -- and plans to immediately sue his former employer.

'It was becoming clear that there were people in NASA who would be much happier if the sideshow would exit.'

- James Hansen

Hansen will step down from his $180,000 a year position to join a number of lawsuits challenging the federal and state governments for their failure to police industry over man’s effect on the climate, the New York Times reported.

Hansen was clearly aware of the irony.

“As a government employee, you can’t testify against the government,” he told the Times.

Hansen is a central figure in the battle against climate change; on Feb. 13, he was arrested alongside of actress Daryl Hannah, activist Bill McKibben and a small group of activists protesting the planned Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to the U.S. Gulf of Mexico.

That was at least the fourth arrest for the climate scientist -- and his high profile was raising eyebrows at NASA headquarters.

“It was becoming clear that there were people in NASA who would be much happier if the ‘sideshow’ would exit,” Hansen told the Times.

Several climate blogs skeptical of the theory that man’s actions are harming the planet literally rejoiced at the news.

“Celebrate! It’s a happy day for science!” wrote Marc Morano, editor of the widely read ClimateDepot.com blog. “NASA and science deserved much better than James Hansen.”

Peter Hildebrand, director of the Earth Sciences Division at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., will serve as interim director until a new director is selected through a competitive process, NASA said. His colleagues offered a far different characterization of the career of the longest serving director in the institute’s history.

“Jim Hansen has demonstrated the spirit of an American pioneer. He has pushed forward the frontier of our knowledge of Earth’s climate system and of the impacts that humanity is having on Earth’s climate,” said Nicholas E. White, director of the Sciences and Exploration Directorate at Goddard.

Hansen is likely to work out of a converted barn on his farm in Pennsylvania, although he has not ruled out setting up a small institute of his own.

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