NASA Slammed for Fudging Climate Science

Mon, 2008-06-02 17:28Mitchell Anderson
Mitchell Anderson's picture

NASA Slammed for Fudging Climate Science

A scathing report from NASA this week slammed their own PR department for systematically misleading the public on climate science.

The Inspector General of NASA penned the investigation in response to a complaint by fourteen US Senators, alleging that NASA was colluding with the White House to downplay the known dangers of climate change. Specifically, the Senators wanted NASA “to conduct a full and thorough investigation into the suppression of science and censorship of scientists at [NASA].”

The Inspector General confirmed major and systemic problems with how NASA was portraying climate science to the public: NASA Headquarters Office of Public Affairs managed the topic of climate change in a manner that reduced, marginalized, or mischaracterized climate change science made available to the general public…”

The heavy hand of the Bush Administration was plainly evident in the findings of this report:

“The supporting evidence detailed in this report reveals that climate change scientists and the majority of career Public Affairs Officers strongly believe that the alleged actions taken by senior NASA Headquarters Public Affairs officials intended to systemically portray NASA in a light most favorable to Administration policies at the expense of reporting unfiltered research results.”

In other words, the free and open flow of scientific information, on the most pressing issue facing the planet, was apparently downplayed in an effort to suck up to the White House.

The report also turned their attention to the infamous gagging of Dr. Jim Hansen by NASA brass in December 2005:

“Our investigation confirmed that, contrary to its established procedures, the NASA Headquarters Office of Public Affairs declined to make one of NASA’s scientists, Dr. James E. Hansen, available for a radio interview with National Public Radio in December 2005. Our investigative efforts revealed that NASA’s decision was based, in part, on concern that Dr. Hansen would not limit his responses to scientific information but would instead entertain a discussion on policy issues.”

NASA PR flacks maintained that there was nothing untoward in this decision, made by a political appointee in the public relations department. The report however concluded: “The evidence, however, reflects that this appointee acted in accord with the overall management of climate change information at that time within the NASA Headquarters Office of Public Affairs.”

The investigation further found that such political appointees to the NASA public relations department were seemingly at the root of many of the problems:

“Relations between NASA’s climate change science community and the NASA Headquarters Office of Public Affairs had somehow deteriorated into acrimony, non-transparency, and fear that science was being politicized—attributes that are wholly inconsistent with effective and efficient Government. The investigation also uncovered that one of the underlying contributing factors of these problems may have, in fact, been in the very structure of the NASA Headquarters Office of Public Affairs, where political appointees were placed in the seemingly contradictory position of ensuring the “widest practicable” dissemination of NASA research results that were arguably inconsistent with the Administration’s policies, such as the “Vision for Space Exploration.”

It seems that Bush’s (bird)brainchild of sending a human to Mars is still casting a long shadow on the science program of NASA. Perhaps this boondoggle was contrived as a distraction and resource drain on the NASA Earth Sciences program? The oil lobby might not want NASA uncovering inconvenient truths about the progress or causes of climate change…

All of this seems consistent with what some NASA scientists have been saying for years. Last year, Jim Hansen delivered a damning critique of such White House interference in testimony to Congress:

“Interference with communication of science to the public has been greater during the current administration than at any time in my career. In my more than three decades in government, I have never seen anything approaching the degree to which information flow from scientists to the public has been screened and controlled as it has now.”

These revelations about political meddling in the important business of climate science are shocking, but not a big surprise. One only wonders what else will fall from the tree in the waning days of the Bush administration. Perhaps we might learn more about the reasons of why the $100 million Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) was strangely canceled, after completion but before it was launched. Stay tuned…


Previous Comments

and we also have.

3 June 2008: A NOTE ON NASA’S JAMES HANSEN BEING MUZZLED BY NASA

I see that we are once again having to hear how NASA’s James Hansen was dissuaded from talking to the press on a few of the 1,400 media interviews he was involved in over the years.

Well, I had the same pressure as a NASA employee during the Clinton-Gore years, because NASA management and the Clinton/Gore administration knew that I was skeptical that mankind’s CO2 emissions were the main cause of global warming. I was even told not to give my views during congressional testimony, and so I purposely dodged a question, under oath, when it arose.

But I didn’t complain about it like Hansen has. NASA is an executive branch agency and the President was, ultimately, my boss (and is, ultimately, Hansen’s boss). So, because of the restrictions on what I could and couldn’t do or say, I finally just resigned from NASA and went to work for the university here in Huntsville. There were no hard feelings, and I’m still active in a NASA satellite mission and fully supportive of its Earth observation programs.

In stark contrast, Jim Hansen said whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted to the press and congress during that time. He even campaigned for John Kerry, and received a $250,000 award from Theresa Heinz-Kerry’s charitable foundation – two events he maintains are unrelated. If I had done anything like this when I worked at NASA, I would have been crucified under the Hatch Act.

Does anyone besides me see a double standard here?

-Roy W. Spencer
The University of Alabama in Huntsville

that your “boss” was the US, not it’s president. He/she is a transitory administrator, ultimately responsible to the electorate. Does the president have the right to dictate whether or not the people have access to factual information?

Fern Mackenzie

NASA was not accused of “fudging the science”. They put the muzzle on NASA scientists commenting on matters relating to climate change policy. Big difference.

And Hansen, who always gets more press then any other climate change scientist, is the one who complains about censorship. How does that contradiction make sense?

Lastly, saying GoreSat was “strangely canceled” is hard to fathom. Many of us know why it was cancelled. It could no longer be launched on the shuttle and NASA decided the value of the science did not justify reconfiguring it make it suitable to be launched from a rocket.

And interestingly, when Miskolczi resigns from the NASA of his own accord, you inactivists call it censorship; but when Hansen is outright muzzled by the NASA, you call it freedom.

As always, in the inactionosphere, up is down.

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http://frankbi.wordpress.com/ International Journal of Inactivism
“Al `Fat Al’ Gore [is fat]” – Harold Pierce

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