Politics Outweighs Science in Global Warming Debate

Published April 6, 2010

[Editor’s note: This is the fourth installment in a series by scientist/astronaut Walter Cunningham, pilot of the Apollo 7 space mission and holder of a master’s degree in physics. Cunningham has served on the Advisory Board for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.]

Comprehensive data about our biosphere is essential to understanding our climate and giving policymakers the information necessary for making critical decisions about climate policy. Our national government has two agencies assigned to sense, measure, collect, analyze, reduce, and produce scientific findings on the biosphere: The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Scientists are using data recently generated by NASA to understand the Gulf Stream warming mechanism and its effect on European weather. This will allow us to improve our models and produce better seasonal forecasts.

NASA’s Aqua satellite is confirming that the dominant greenhouse gas, water vapor, works to counteract carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, information that is ignored by global warming alarmists because it contradicts an assumption used in all of their warming models. This is but one of many examples of “selective ignorance” displayed by the alarmists.

Policy efforts and the monitoring of international environmental agreements are doomed to failure without an adequate satellite system to furnish the data. But interagency wrangling and budgetary issues are crippling our satellite monitoring capability. As much as a third of our Earth-monitoring satellites will need replacing in the next couple of years.

Agencies Affected by GW Politics
NASA and NOAA are uniquely positioned to debunk the current hysteria over allegations of anthroprogenic global warming (AGW), but unfortunately, they too appear to be caught up in the politics of global warming. Allowing their science to be politicized could destroy their credibility.

One of the early alarmists about AGW was a NASA scientist, James Hansen. Hansen is a true believer who has been preaching AGW for 20 years, ever since he quit working on a model to prove global cooling. While giving hundreds of speeches and interviews, Hansen nevertheless insisted that the Bush administration was trying to “censor” him.

No one in the mainstream media seemed to care that Hansen is a longtime political activist who preaches AGW even when NASA’s own data contradict him. Ideologues like Hansen are hailed as heroes and prophets by biased media, while those who dispute the popular wisdom are either ignored or ridiculed.

Skeptics Ignored or Attacked
In today’s politically correct environment, many are reluctant to dispute the popular wisdom; when they do, they are frequently ignored. When NASA Administrator Michael Griffin, Hansen’s boss and a distinguished scientist in his own right, attempted to draw a distinction between Hansen’s personal and political views and the science conducted by the agency, he was quickly forced to back off.

It is the true believers who, in the absence of supporting facts, try to silence their critics. When former NASA mathematician Ferenc Miskolczi wrote a paper pointing out that “greenhouse warming” may be mathematically impossible, he was not allowed to publish his work.

Miskolczi had dared to question the simplifying assumption in the warming models that the atmosphere was infinitely thick. He pointed out that when you use the correct thickness—about 65 miles—the greenhouse effect disappears. Ergo: no AGW.

Miskolczi resigned in disgust and published his proof in the peer-reviewed Hungarian journal Weather.

Walter Cunningham ([email protected]) maintains the waltercunningham.com Web site.