NASA Global Warming Soap Opera Takes Dramatic New Twist

Published June 18, 2007

The NASA global warming soap opera heated up again May 31 with another plot twist that would have viewers shaking their heads in disbelief if it were a fictitious television program.

After repeatedly crying “censorship” and claiming NASA officials sought to diminish his influence in the global warming debate, NASA scientist and global warming alarmist James Hansen is now publicly ridiculing his boss, NASA Administrator Michael Griffin, for voicing the opinion that global warming is not a crisis.

During a National Public Radio interview on May 31, Griffin gave his personal opinion that global warming is not alarming. “I have no doubt that … a trend of global warming exists,” said Griffin. However, “I am not sure that it is fair to say that it is a problem we must wrestle with.”

Griffin pointed out the Earth’s temperature has always been either rising or falling, and there is little reason to assume today’s temperatures are perfect. Temperatures have been warmer than today many times in the Earth’s past, including 1,000 years ago when the Vikings maintained numerous farming communities in Greenland.

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 presenting a global warming alarmist point of view. Although Hansen’s views conflict with those of NASA Administrator 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 merely asking him to notify his superiors before granting on-the-job interviews.

Despite his hypersensitivity to anything that could be construed as NASA undermining his global warming opinions, Hansen clearly has no problem with publicly vilifying other NASA employees, including his boss Griffin, for asserting that global warming is not a crisis.

“It’s an incredibly arrogant and ignorant statement,” Hansen told ABC News regarding his boss’s global warming comments.

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

In another soap opera twist, self-described defenders of open scientific debate are following Hansen’s lead in vilifying Griffin, and some are even calling for his job.

“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,” 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, told ABC News.

If being on the wrong side of science or the United Nations should cost NASA officials their jobs, then Hansen is the one who should be worried about keeping his job. In federal district court testimony in April, Hansen claimed a 2 to 3 degree warming of the Earth this century would melt the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, resulting in sea levels rising up to 100 feet. That directly contradicts the IPCC, which concludes a 3 degree 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.

So the NASA soap opera continues. Will Hansen continue to cast himself as the victim being “censored” by his boss’s requirement that he give advance notice of on-the-job interviews? Is it even possible that anybody giving more than 1,400 interviews is being stifled and censored? Will Griffin lose his job for daring to take a position different from that of his subordinate employee? And what the heck is the leader of an extremist environmental activist group doing on the faculty of Princeton and writing global warming reports for the United Nations?

Stay tuned for more of “As the Cosmos Turns.”

James M. Taylor ([email protected]) is senior fellow for environment policy at The Heartland Institute.