United States: Top climate scientist arrested in anti-coal protest

Issue 

NASA climate scientist James Hansen was among the 29 people arrested for trespass at an anti-coal mining protest in Raleigh County, West Virginia on June 23.

The protesters called on the administration of President Barack Obama to ban the highly destructive practice of mountaintop removal mining — a coal-mining technique where mountain peaks are demolished with explosives.

US environmental journalist John McQuaid estimated mountaintop removal mining has damaged more than 1 million acres of forest and ruined countless streams in the Appalachian mountains over the past 20 years.

Others arrested at the protest included actor Daryl Hannah, executive director of the US Rainforest Action Network Michael Brune and former congressperson Ken Hechler.

The Environmental News Service said on June 23 that Hansen told protesters: "It is our responsibility to make sure our representatives feel the full force of citizens who speak for what is right, not what is politically expedient."

The climate activists pointed to recent studies assessing the Appalachians as a prime area for commercial-scale wind farms. Wind power could produce more energy and create many more sustainable jobs to the area — if mountain peaks are not exploded by the coal companies first.

Hansen, regarded as one the world's top climate scientists, has said coal-fired power must be phased-out as rapidly as possible to avert runaway climate change.

In a June 22 Yale Environment 360 opinion piece, Hansen called for Obama to act. "We must make clear ... that we the people want mountaintop removal abolished and we want a move toward a rapid phase-out of coal emissions now.

"The time for half measures and caving in to polluting industries is over. It is time for citizens to demand — yes, we can."