NASA Chief Downplays Global Warming

Published July 1, 2007

Global warming is not a crisis and should not be a high-priority issue for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), NASA Administrator Michael Griffin said in an interview broadcast May 31 on National Public Radio. Griffin’s public comments sparked a remarkably insubordinate tirade of criticism from NASA scientist and perennial global warming alarmist James Hansen.

Climate Always Changing

“I have no doubt that … a trend of global warming exists,” said Griffin. However, he noted, “I am not sure that it is fair to say that it is a problem we must wrestle with. To assume that it is a problem is to assume that the state of Earth’s climate today is the optimal climate, the best climate that we could have or ever have had, and that we need to take steps to make sure that it doesn’t change.”

Griffin then criticized that assumption: “First of all, I don’t think it’s within the power of human beings to assure that the climate does not change, as millions of years of history have shown, and second of all, I guess I would ask which human beings–where and when–are to be accorded the privilege of deciding that this particular climate that we have right here today, right now, is the best climate for all other human beings. I think that’s a rather arrogant position for people to take.

“Nowhere in NASA’s authorization, which of course governs what we do, is there anything at all telling us that we should take actions to affect climate change in either one way or another,” Griffin added. “We study global climate change–that is in our authorization–we think we do it rather well. I’m proud of that, but NASA is not an agency chartered to quote ‘battle climate change.'”

Publicly Slams Boss

Hansen, who has received a quarter-of-a-million dollars in grant money from Teresa Heinz Kerry’s left-wing Heinz Foundation, and thereafter publicly endorsed Heinz’s husband, John Kerry, for president in 2004, has given more than 1,400 on-the-job interviews regarding global warming.

Although Hansen’s views conflict with those of Griffin, Hansen’s NASA superiors have rarely if ever said anything directly critical of Hansen’s comments. Nevertheless, Hansen received tremendous media attention last year by asserting NASA was engaging in censorship by asking him to notify his superiors before granting on-the-job interviews.

Despite his claims of being subjected to censorship, Hansen was quick to vilify Griffin for saying global warming is not a crisis.

“It’s unbelievable,” Hansen added. “I thought he had been misquoted. It’s so unbelievable.”

Countered Griffin in a news release, “NASA is the world’s preeminent organization in the study of Earth and the conditions that contribute to climate change and global warming. … It is NASA’s responsibility to collect, analyze, and release information. It is not NASA’s mission to make policy regarding possible climate change mitigation strategies.”

Griffin’s Job Threatened

Hansen’s criticisms of Griffin led to a wave of criticism from global warming alarmists, with some calling for Griffin to be fired.

“I was shocked by the statement, and I think the administrator ought to resign. I don’t see how he can be the effective leader of a science agency if he doesn’t understand the threat of global warming,” said Michael Oppenheimer, a Princeton University professor, lead author for the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and longtime manager of the environmental extremist group Environmental Defense, in an interview with ABC News.

Hansen Refuted

Hansen himself, however, has been publicly exposed as being on the wrong side of science.

In May 2007 testimony in a federal district court, Hansen claimed a 2 to 3º warming of the Earth this century would melt the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, resulting in sea levels rising up to 100 feet. Such an assertion directly contradicts the IPCC, which believes a 3º rise in temperatures is likely this century but that Antarctica will nevertheless not lose any ice mass.

“Rapid sea level rise is unsupported by the evidence,” summarized Alabama State Climatologist John Christy in testimony rebutting Hansen’s claims.

S. Fred Singer, professor emeritus of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia and former director of the U.S. Weather Satellite Service, noted the hypocrisy of alarmists seeking to silence the NASA administrator. “Mike Griffin is speaking as an independent scientist,” Singer said.

“Griffin is essentially saying, ‘Show me the evidence for manmade global warming,'” Singer added. “The evidence does not exist, Griffin knows, because NASA pioneered the satellite instruments for measuring atmospheric temperatures–the only truly global data we have. The data show no warming trend since 1998.”

James M. Taylor ([email protected]) is senior fellow for environment policy at The Heartland Institute and managing editor of Environment & Climate News.