This Day in History

June 23, 1988: James Hansen Testified to Senate About Climate Change

Time Periods: 1975
Themes: Climate Justice, Environment, Science

Portrait, available as a poster, by Robert Shetterly of Americans Who Tell The Truth.

Coal is the single greatest threat to civilization and all life on our planet. . . . the dirtiest trick that governments play on their citizens is that they are working for ‘clean coal.’ . . .The trains carrying coal to power plants are death trains. Coal-fired power plants are factories of death. — James Hansen

On June 23, 1988, NASA scientist James Hansen testified to the U.S. Senate stating the greenhouse effect had been detected, indicating that the climate was in fact changing.

Hansen was also arrested on this day in 2009 during a protest against mountaintop removal mining at Massey Energy Company.

James Hansen testifying in front of the U.S. Senate in the 1980s.

Hansen has stated,

Several times in Earth’s long history rapid global warming of several degrees occurred. . .  In each case more than half of plant and animal species went extinct. New species came into being over tens and hundreds of thousands of years. But these are time scales and generations that we cannot imagine. If we drive our fellow species to extinction we will leave a far more desolate planet for our descendants than the world that we inherited from our elders.

Below are resources for teaching about coal and climate justice.

This event is included on the Zinn Education Project’s Climate Crisis Timeline.