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."
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