May 30, 2007; Washington, DC - NASA administrator Michael Griffin tells NPR News that while he has no doubt "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."
In an interview with Steve Inskeep airing tomorrow on NPR News' Morning Edition, Administrator Griffin says "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."
Arrogant? As in coming from someone who does not live in a coastal community or someone who does not live in drought-prone areas of Africa?
Arrogant? As in we have the right to alter the climate to benefit humans at the expense of all other life? We're on top, right?
Just askin'. I don't know, of course.
Here's what Dr. James Hansen (NASA GISS) had to say as quoted from the Washington Post:
"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."Then
Hansen said Griffin's comments help explain why NASA's earth science budget has been severely cut.And, interestingly, here is what Congress and the White House had to say (also from the Washington Post):
And this is an excerpt pulled from NASAwatch.com. Just because. I actually can't figure out who wrote these words. I just say that as a private citizen, Y.E.S.
In Congress, House Science and Technology Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.) said, "Setting aside NASA Administrator Griffin's personal views on the significance of global warming, 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," he said. "That's not going to get us where we need to be in our understanding of climate change."
White House science adviser John H. Marburger distanced the administration from Griffin, saying that "nobody should think that he was speaking for anyone but himself."
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!
He is correct that NASA's role is the science and not policy action. But his own subsequent statements are in direct contradiction to that. As he was representing NASA in his official capacity at the time of the interview, he really should not have ventured into that sort of speculation.
So now that I'm on a roll with respect to global warming...
There is so much that I'd like to go into detail with on this subject but am hesitant to, for some obvious and for some not-so-obvious reaons. Let me just say this: scientists really aren't big idiots. They're really not - I promise. They don't sit around reading blogs and say "Oh sh*t!!! Maybe the sun really *IS* causing all this warming stuff!!!". You know what? (newsflash) They've actually thought about this for many years (decades) and have spent time and effort on it and have researched it and if you are interested enough in real results, I'll email you tons of peer-reviewed references that address any "Rush-Limbaugh" sorts of arguments you may have. The scientific consensus now is that humans are changing the climate. Period. I would LOVE it if some real science came out and showed that humans were not causing climate change, really I would. And if it really was fundamentally sound, it would be absolutely EMBRACED by scientists. The reason they haven't embraced some of these other arguments (variance in solar output for example) is that nothing compelling and fundamentally sound has been published yet. Perhaps it will be one day. But the current information and best research we have right now most definitely identifies humans burning fossil fuels as the largest contributor.
And for those who argue that "the climate has always changed", if you take the time to look at geologic records, you'll see that we are changing the climate on a time scale that is off-the-charts in quickness relative to anything the world has seen since the emergence of the human species. While climate change in general has always occurred (YES WE KNOW THAT!), the point is that we are changing it so quickly that species are not able to adapt. That is what makes this global warming significant, and is a point that Mr. Griffin seems to have missed.
I am so tired of the masses of scientific wannabes that think if they spend time researching blogs they'll prove the scientific consensus is wrong. You know what? Blogs do not equal real education and training. And whatever your thoughts are about scientists, I tell you again that most are very well able to separate personal political ideology from science. Science itself is pure, and the atmospheric/climate scientists I know are as well. As a naive youngster interested in learning how the atmosphere around me worked, I had no idea that one day the very foundation of what I learned as "searching for truth" would be hijacked by politics and twisted into an ugly facade by those less interested in science and those more interested in politics.
I'm not in a good place right now. Is it obvious?