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Sensing Change: Pieter Tans

This interview was conducted as part of the Institute’s yearlong Sensing Change initiative exploring the interconnections between art, science, and our changing environment.

Pieter Tans is a senior scientist in NOAA’s Climate Monitoring and Diagnostics Laboratory. Since the 1970s, Tans has worked to increase our understanding of the global carbon cycle. He is responsible for a number of discoveries that have allowed scientists and the general public to gain more factual information about the changes in our climate. 

You can ask, well, who cares if it gets a little warmer? Personally, I care. Why? Because the difference between an ice age and today is only a few degrees of global average temperature.

—Pieter Tans

At the current rate of climate change, species adaptation won’t have a chance to catch up, according to Pieter Tans. 

Pieter Tans suggests sea level rise may happen sooner than we expect. 

Peiter Tans speaks about the struggle of being a scientist with an opinion. 

Simple images are often the most powerful, says Pieter Tans. 

The sciences should be taught as an organic whole, says Pieter Tans.

Tans discovered that carbon dioxide can be stored in land ecosystems in the Northern Hemisphere when it’s not accounted for in an ocean or the atmosphere. In addition to his instrumental role in creating the CarbonTracker and the AirCore Atmospheric Sampling System, Tans oversees the monitoring of carbon dioxide measurements taken at the Mauna Loa, Hawaii, site, where in May 2013 levels of the gas in the atmosphere passed 400 parts per million, a long-feared milestone. Tans has also encouraged free access to his and other scientists’ research data, fostering a collaborative environment among the wide network of atmospheric scientists.

Learn more about Tans and his research:


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