Thursday, April 27, 2006

Don't Shoot The Global Warming Messengers

Dr. James Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, is a courageous man. He's unpopular within the Bush White House (and treated and written about accordingly), and has even been subject to pressure within his own agency as well.

  • From the New York Times, January 29, 2006: "After a December 6th speech to the American Geophysical Union's annual meeting in San Francisco, officials at the headquarters of the space agency repeatedly phone public affairs officers, who relayed the warning to Dr. Hansen that there would be "dire consequences" if such statements continued."

  • From the same article: "[Dr. Hansen said...] Communicating with the public seems to be essential because public concern is probably the only thing capable of overcoming the special interests that have obfuscated the topic."

  • And again, showing that this obfuscation doesn't only affect Dr. Hansen: "At climate laboratories of NOAA, many scientists who routinely took calls from reporters can now do so only if the interview is approved by administration officials in Washington, and then only if a public affairs officer is present or on the phone. Where scientists' points of view on climate policy align with those of the administration, however, there are few signs of restrictions on extracurricular lectures or writing."

  • The Washington Post, on January 29, 2006, said: "When Hansen posted data on the Internet in the fall suggesting that 2005 could be the warmest year on record [which turned out to be the case], NASA officials ordered Hansen to withdraw the information because he had not had it screened by the administration in advance, according to a Goddard scientist who spoke on the condition of anonymity. More recently, NASA officials tried to discourage a reporter from interviewing Hansen for this article and later insisted he could speak on the record only if an agency spokeswoman listened in on the conversation. They're trying to control what's getting out to the public," Hansen said, adding that many of his colleagues are afraid to talk about the issue. "They're not willing to say much, because they've been pressured and they're afraid they'll get into trouble."

Most scientists agree that human activity has caused the Earth to warm. The debate now is whether climate change is progressing so rapidly that, within the lifetime of your children, humans may be helpless to slow or reverse the trend toward "changes that constitute practically a different planet."*

More on this subject to follow soon . . .

* Dr. James Hansen quoted in The Washington Post, 1/29/06