Sophie’s choice in ‘Sophie’s Planet,’ a series of letters by grandfather James Hansen

James Hansen, the acclaimed American scientist and climate activist, has written a new book titled “Sophie’s Planet,” which comprises a series of moving and insightful letters he wrote to his 18-year old granddaughter, Sophie Kivlehan, about climate change and the fight to preserve life on the planet, has told reporters that the Taiwan-sponsored $1 million Tang Prize for sustainability came just in time.

He shared the prestigious prize, funded by Taiwanese philanthropist Samuel Yin, with the California-based Indian-American scientist Veerabhadran Ramanathan.

“Sophie’s Planet” will be published in January 2019 by Bloomsbury Press in New York.

“I could not have finished the book without the help of the Tang prize,” Hansen told reporters. “So if the book is successful and has any influence on the future of young people, this award will have been what made it possible.”

Now 77 years old, Hansen told the Taiwanese media recently that he remains frustrated trying to get people to understand how urgent it is that something is done about the climate issue, in particular young people.

He said he hopes his book will be successful at communicating with the younger generation, and thanked the Tang Prize for helping him achieve that goal, the Central News Agency reported.

Hansen is the single most credible scientific voice worldwide on the issue of global warming. In his celebrated first book, “Storms of my Grandchildren,” he tried to present the full truth about climate change, a truth born out in the years since as climate disasters continue to ravage our world. The urgency is apparent; the response so far, inadequate.

But Hansen remains an optimist. In his new book, set for publication in early 2019, a series of moving and insightful letters to his granddaughter, Sophie Kivleban, 18 years old, he speaks about the fight to preserve life on the planet, a fight that for her generation will be as personal as it is political-as much about policy actions as about the right of the Monarch, Sophie’s favorite butterfly, to live and thrive on this Earth.

According to the publisher, “Sophie’s Planet” turns toward solutions, asking: How can we connect the dots from climate observations to necessary policies? What can be done to preserve our planet for the young people who will follow us? And how can we make the climate story clear to these young people, to prepare them for what will be one of their generation’s central struggles: the fight for environmental justice?

Hansen’s conversations with Sophie offer a fascinating glimpse behind the scenes of a life spent at the highest levels of environmental research and policy-including the realms where dark motives prevail-as well as a moving clarion call for the future of the climate change fight. The book is certain to become a bestseller in English and in over 35 other languages worldwide as well, according to publishing sources in New York.

Hansen was awarded the Tang prize “for sounding the alarm on climate change, elucidating the physics of climate forcings and feedbacks, quantifying the dangers of global warming, and tirelessly advocating for meaningful action and solutions,” the Tang Prize citation said.

The Tang Award was given to Hansen in June 2018 as acknowledgement for his alerts on climate change, clarifying the physical characteristics of climate forces and feedback mechanisms, and presenting global warming threats with quantitative data. He will fly to Taipei in September to accept the prize and give lectures around the country as several college campuses.

Hansen is famous for his climate activism and as director of the Program on Climate Science, Awareness and Solutions of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, and he is known for his scientific achievements and forthright public communication of science that has led to action for the benefit of humanity.

Ramanathan was born in India and currently holds the positions of Victor Alderson Professor of Applied Ocean Sciences and director of the Center for Clouds, Chemistry and Climate at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego.

Ramanathan won the prize “for making seminal contributions to our fundamental understanding of climate change and impacts of air pollution, and taking direct action to advocate and facilitate effective mitigation policies,” the Tang Prize citation said.

The two Tang laureates will each receive a cash prize of $666,000, a generous research grant , and a beautifully-designed Tang medal in September.

An awards ceremony will be held on September 21 in Taiwan, and the two laureates will give a series of lectures at universities around Taiwan from September 25-27.

The biennial award was established by Taiwanese entrepreneur and philanthropist Samuel Yin in 2012 to serve as what some pundits in Taiwan have called the ”Asian Nobel Prize.” The first Tang Prize award ceremony was held in 2014.

About the Author
Danny Bloom is editor of The Cli-Fi Report.
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