Mike Griffin Is In Denial About Global Warming Threat

NASA Administrator Michael Griffin Not Sure That Global Warming Is A Problem, National Public Radio

The comments on this topic, as well as those of our Administrator, are an embarrassment to me as a NASA Earth Scientist.

The issue is not whether or not the Earth's climate has changed in the geologic past due to "external" factors (including solar output, tectonic outgassing, etc).

The issue is that (a) current climate change is proceeding at an rate unprecidented in the geologic record; and (b) our civilization is adapted to an extremely narrow range of climate conditions. Mike Griffin is simply wrong when he states that some other climate could be more "optimal" - climate has been remarkably stable for the last 8000 years, and most societies around the globe are adapated to that static condition. Yes, a warming climate could enhance wheat production in northern Russia, but it would likely be detrimental to crops in Africa and (by the way) the Western Plains of the US.

The claim that "climate has always changed, therefore this is nothing new" ignores both the dramatic rate of climate change during the last century, as well as our collective dependence on the current climate regime.

I do agree that NASA's charter does include regulatory aspects that would dictate CO2 emissions. However, the Administrator's comments were a classic example of "passive agressive" leadership. In denial that global warming is a serious issue, Griffin grudgingly agrees to carry out research without any real enthusiasm. Imagine instead if he actually welcomed the challenge of grappling with climate change as a motivating force for his agency, and a national priority... what a difference that would be!



"MR. GRIFFIN: I have no doubt that global -- that a trend of global warming exists. 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. 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."

NASA Statement in Response to Inquiries Related to NPR Press Release

Editor's 30 may 10:00 pm EDT Update: Yawn. This is typical for NASA. Griffin reiterates and expands upon the non-controversial part of his interview and yet utterly avoids comment on the words he uttered that are certain to raise eyebrows on Thursday morning. Meanwhile, reading comments such as those made (below) by the President's Science Advisor, with Griffin's recent comments in mind, I guess Griffin must think that Marburger - and the White House - are wasting their time on this topic.

Editor's 31 May 11:45 am EDT Update: Then, of course, NASA PAO itself seems to be at odds with Griffin's official statements - this press release "NASA Research Finds That Earth's Climate is Approaching "Dangerous" Point" just went out from NASA GSFC PAO.

The U.S. Climate Change Vision, OSTP Director John H. Marburger III

"Climate science initiatives are critically important for the kind of long-range planning that must be done region by region around the world to rise to the challenge of climate change. Even modest advances in our understanding of weather and climate can have a positive impact. The United States is spending nearly $2 billion per year on climate science within a well-defined strategic plan, developed and reviewed in consultation with the international scientific community and the National Academy of Sciences."

NASA's Top Official Questions Global Warming, ABC

"Griffin's comments immediately drew stunned reaction from James Hansen, NASA's top climate scientist at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York. "It's an incredibly arrogant and ignorant statement," Hansen told ABC News. "It indicates a complete ignorance of understanding the implications of climate change." Hansen believes Griffin's comments fly in the face of well-established scientific knowledge that hundreds of NASA scientists have contributed to. "It's unbelievable," said Hansen. "I thought he had been misquoted. It's so unbelievable."

House Science and Technology Committee Chairman Chairman Responds to NASA Administrator's Comments on NPR

"I remain concerned that NASA is not doing as much as needs to be done on climate change data collection and research. Based on NASA's own five-year budget plan, the agency will be unable to start any of the new Earth observations initiatives recommended by the National Academies for the foreseeable future. That's not going to get us where we need to be in our understanding of climate change. NASA needs to do more."

Comments? Send them to nasawatch@reston.com. Your Comments thus far:


I have nothing to do with NASA, except that I like earth, fear global warming, and pay taxes.....

Given this recent statement by NASA's Administrator Michael Griffin, I now wonder what your watch group, and others out there, are thinking of this guy?

" In an interview broadcast this morning on National Public Radio's "Morning Edition" program, Griffin was asked by NPR's Steve Inskeep whether he is concerned about global warming.

"I have no doubt that a trend of global warming exists," Griffin told Inskeep. "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 said. "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."

I also wonder what's the longer term meaning of this NASA decision to delete the phrase "to understand and protect our home planet" from the NASA mission statement?

Does Griffin et al believe that NASA should use American tax-payer dollars for research on space exploration, to promote inhabitation of some other planet, while good old Earth warms up to endless climate catastrophic meltdown? Sure sounds like it, to one remote from NASA, but listening to some of the political news.


Dear Keith, I am amazed that so many NASAWATCH readers are so ignorant of the basic scientific consensus regarding global warming. You might do them a service by pointing to some of the relevant reports from the National Academy of Sciences, such as http://dels.nas.edu/basc/Climate-HIGH.pdf It seems to me that Michael Griffin has seriously hurt his chances of remaining NASA Administrator beyond 2009.


One of the comments likened Hansen's labeling of Griffin as arrogant to a pot calling the kettle black. Well, study after study, many performed using observations provided by NASA in cooperation with NASA scientists like Hansen, have indicated the dangers inherent if the current pace of anthropomorphic climate change is not slowed (or halted). These scientists are backing up what they say with cold, hard facts. Griffin is puffing out his chest and backs up his statements using beliefs. The situation actually reminds me of the old saying, "It ain't arrogance if you can back it up". The scientists can, Griffin can't...


I *really* hate to see NASA Watch turn into yet another website for the debate of Global Warming. Please, let's keep on the topic of what specifically the Administrator said, if at all possible. Don't feed the beast by posting those responses that are simple debating each other in general about Global Warming.

Personally, I find it ironic that James Hansen would label anyone "arrogant". If that's not the pot calling the kettle black I don't know what is. Regarding what the Administrator said: He is aware that Global Warming exists and is aware that the majority of scientific opinion indicates it is manmade. Controversy? Not yet. The Administrator then says "I don't think it is within the power of human beings to assure the climate does not change." Is that controversial? If so, why? It is fact that many variables affect global climate - most of which man has no ability to effect; therefore, the Administrator is absolutely correct. Is he in denial? No. The Administrator then asks a question..."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?" Is this controversial? If so, why? Even if humans were able to dictate global climate (which we can't) who is to say which climate is optimum for us all?


I thought that Griffin would be the kind of administrator NASA needed: intelligent, particularly knowledgable in the fields that NASA participates in, and unafraid to speak his mind. But now we know that not only is he committed to just manned space exploration but that his beliefs (that's all I can call them because they are not rooted in fact) are directly at odds with the conclusions and consensus on climate change that the scientists of his own agency help to develop (based on fact). I never thought I'd say this, but it's time for Griffin to step down. He has irrevocably torn the ties that bind him from a good portion of those who work for him.


I think President Bush's big announcement Thursday on reducing global greenhouse gases was actually done specifically to drown out Administrator Griffin's outrageous comments on climate change and keep them from becoming a huge news story.


While I do not agree with most of Mike Griffin's, and the Bush administration's science directives, I am in total agreement with Griffin's statement on NASA's position on Global Warming. A true scientist will tell you what he knows and what he doesn't know, which is what Griffin did. I respect him for making such an obviously 'career limiting' statement. Of course Dr. Marburger as Science Advisor to the President (which is akin to the Science Advisor to the Pope - yes, there is one!) had to make a standard rebuttal for his boss.


Dear Keith, Thanks you for opening this subject for comments.The hokey stick graph has not been soundly refuted as claimed by one very uninformed reader. See for example http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/5109188.stm or http://www.nature.com/news/2006/060626/full/4411032a.html. Our dear NASA administrator is also very uninformed about climate change and its historical impact on civilization. Griffin et al. should read The History of Global Warming by Spencer Weart. This book presents a lucid historical account of the science and the controversies behind the study of global warming.


The ignorant masses don't know enough to judge the science for themselves, so they rely on Al Gore for their "science". At least Griffin is educated enough to make an intelligent assessment of the situation.


I've carefully listened to Mr. Griffin's NPR interview twice and read the transcript as well and I can only come to the conclusion that Mr. Griffin is off his meds. Mr. Griffin is not a climate scientist - he's an aerospace engineer. It would be in his best interest to leave the global warming debate to those who understand it the best - climate scientists like Dr. Hanson. What's interesting to note is that the global warming deniers continue to use ad-hominem attacks against Dr. Hanson, the media, et al by calling Dr. Hanson a "blow-hard", an out and out liar and continuing to spread the typical right-wing lie that the jury is still out about global warming when every single climate scientist around the planet has stated repeatidly that the climate is warming up, that it IS in fact accelerating due to human activities. There is no debate anymore, anywhere. I live on the Gulf Coast, where we have suffered one of the worst weather-related disasters in decades - IE Hurricane Katrina. I don't need to wait for the Gulf of Mexico to come flooding into my living room to go "well, gee - I guess the scientists were right about that global warming thing." It's allready happened. For the record, I am an Independent voter. I personally believe that the Democrats and Republican parties are without a clue about science and will only act until after our enviroment has gone over the tipping point. But by then, it will be too late.


I think Dr. Griffin is the voice of reason. No one considered what he said, only that he wasn't a "true believer". Amazing that such a common sense answer could rile anyone up. What is wrong with what he said, other than it is presently not politically correct to have any other opinion than "man-made global warming" is fact. Who, in fact, determined what the ideal weather for the ENTIRE planet is supposed to be? - A concern citizen.


Keith: I have to say I am stunned by Griffin's global warming comments. Is he serious? Yes, temperature has changed dramatically through the millions of years life has been on the planet- much warmer and much colder than it is now. However (as I understand it- I am not an evolutionary biologist), it is the rate of change and it is the ability to evolve that is the issue. 100 years is a nanosecond comparatively, and many species will not be able to adapt when they otherwise would if the temperature increases occurred over 1,000-10,000 years as they have historically. Or, does he not believe in evolution, Armageddon is coming therefore it is a waste of our time? Should this bozo run NASA?


Hi Keith - I think you should ask if Griffin believe's in evolution!


Griffin is wrong on many levels: 1) The arrogance is to be found among those who want to /continue/ changing the climate purely so they can keep up their wasteful/polluting energy habits. Those who think that is a bad idea are not the arrogant ones. 2) For an engineer he has a surprisingly poor understanding of just how optimised the ecosystems of this planet are to current conditions. The relevant question isn't "is the current climate the best of all possible climates", but rather "will the new climate that arises result in substantial damage to the ecosystem (and to agriculture, and to society)?" The answer to the latter is a pretty clear yes, and he should have the brains to realize this. Sadly, it looks like Mike is just another example of an incompetent idiot carrying water for the administration. Heckuva job, Griffy.


Griffin's denial of Global Warming being an issue that must be dealt with is reminiscent of Shuttle program management that ignored SRB o- ring blow-by and ET foam liberation that resulted in the loss of Challenger and Columbia. Who has the right to say this environment is the right one ?!! How about our entire modern civilization that is based on this environment? If you think the economic impacts of reducing greenhouse gas emissions would be devastating to our economy, wait until your grandchildren get the bill for restructuring our entire society to adapt to drastically altered weather patterns and radical shifts in 6,000 miles of US mainland coastline.

Global Warming is indeed a theory, not in the uneducated common layman's understanding of the term theory (conjecture or speculation), but the scientific definition of theory (proven to explain the observed scientific data beyond reproach). A scientific hypothesis only reaches the rank of theory when it has been proven by insurmountable data and extensive peer review. The debate on Global Warming is over in the scientific community. The scientific method (look that up, it has specific meaning) is based on rigorous, world- wide peer review unmatched in any other field of human endeavor. There are very few qualified scientists (a small fraction of one percent) who do not agree that the plethora of scientific evidence from dozens of different scientific fields all point to the fact that humans are having a disastrous effect on the environment. This doesn't mean that we all go back to foraging and living in caves, but we must start taking steps to begin lessening our rampant disregard for the environment.

The right-wing sychophants call the left conspiracy theorists, when in fact their claim is that the entire global scientific community (and the media) is conspiring to trump up Global Warming in order to instill some New World Order. They hate Al Gore so much that they are willing to kill the message because of the messenger.


What is interesting is that Dr. Griffin's statement on NASA not be responsible for doing anything on Global Warming is in direct contridiction to the reasons to go into space in their just released "The Global Exploration Strategy: The Framework for Coordination" http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/178109main_ges_framework.pdf One major justification given for spending on space exploration is to solve problems on Earth. Wouldn't global warming qualify as a problem?


Mike Griffin's statement was realistic and stayed within the mandate of NASA. NASA is for research. Others can "wrestle" with climate change. Also, from what I read he said nothing about the effects of climate change. Yet his critics seem to suggest he did. Of course these are issues that need to be wrestled with. Griffin does not mention the effects of global warming, nor was he asked. Much of the environmental issues we face today are due to the arrogance of trying to "engineer" the environment to what we see as benificial to humans. So what do you critics of Griffin suggest? That now we try to manipulate global processes? Get real. We have proven we are not qualified to "engineer" the environment.


Having read the posted comments I think ...

Either most readers are "deniers" ... amongst whom I would count myself, prepared to question what politicians call science.

Or the "non-deniers" ("believers"?) can't be bothered to reply, presumably certain in their belief.

In line with the "X-files" poster "I want to believe", I would buy a poster "I am a denier", and a tee-shirt.

What I got from Dr Griffin's comments is that the world's climate has always been changing, and always will, despite the efforts of us humans to try to control it. Personally, I think the sun controls the climate.

What I do take from the "global warming" lobby is that perhaps we are not using our resources in the best manner, and this is what I think is behind this concept. Politicians have been trying to get us to be more responsible about the environment, and have had very little success (witness SUV sales). So I think they created this "global warming" stick. I note that the "hockey stick" graph from IPCC '98 has been soundly refuted, but the damage was done.


Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't NASA an acronym for "National Aeronautics and Space Administration"? Issues related to the Earth's atmosphere and oceans would appear to be within the bailiwick of NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.


As a mom, I know when the kids are doing something I don't want them to do, I distract them. Usually they forget and go do something harmless. Same with Griffin. Press wants to know why we [NASA] are ignoring an Earth observation system "in danger of collapse" so he distracts them by saying it isn't NASA's job to decide what is the best climate system. NOT THE ISSUE. We are funded to provide space observation of Earth systems (air, water, land). We have 2 mission launches scheduled in the next decade. That's the issue.


Mike Griffin makes a great point about questioning the basic assumption of what is or is not the optimum climate for some or all humans. In contrast, the self absorbed blow hard Hansen can't believe anybody would question his religious (not scientific) views. Funny how a guy who's been "muzzled" by "neo cons" OH MY! seems to show up on national media to great fanfare whenever required. And apparently has no fear whatsoever of calling his boss a moron in public. doesn't sound like he's muzzled or in any fear of his employ... odd, wouldn't work that way outside civil service though...


I was surprised that Mike seems to be unaware, or at least misspoke, regarding the longevity of homo sapiens. He states "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". This ignores the fact that modern man is only around 0.25 Myr old, and the only time frame of relevance is what one could refer to as "industrial man". This latter time span is not much different than the period of substantive records on the topic. So the historical record is a non-starter as used by Mike. He is an engineer so perhaps we should be a bit forgiving. Mike does raise the interesting questions of what is the "right" climate and who decides.


This is where I am glad Griffin is calling BullSh&t on the warmies who want to "do battle" against the evils of climate change. It's a pretty obvious to me and many others who are more educated in this that the whole ALGORE movement is political and bearly scientific. The thing that amazes me is how everyone genuflects (sic) to political correctness about this issue. Give Griffin credit for not being borged here. I quite agree that NASA should provide all the data necessary for scientific inquiry. They are not going to start giving tips on how to change the climate when many scientists are not in agreement with anthropic causes to climate change (on a global scale), despite what you read/hear from CNN/CBS/...BS....

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on May 31, 2007 11:45 AM.

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