While tech watchers fret about Google, US censors chief climatology expert

While tech watchers fret about Google, US censors chief climatology expert

Summary: Dr. James Hansen, NASA's chief climate scientist, has dire news on global warming and he's being pressured to shut up.

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TOPICS: Google
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Are policy officials censoring scientists? James Hansen, the top climate scientist at NASA,  says he is being censored after calling for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, the New York Times reports.

Hansen said that officials at NASA headquarters had ordered the public affairs staff to review his coming lectures, papers, postings on the Goddard Web site and requests for interviews from journalists.

Dr. Hansen said he would ignore the restrictions. "They feel their job is to be this censor of information going out to the public," he said.

A spokesman for NASA said it was a blanket policy to facilitate an orderly flow of information to the public.

 

Dr. Hansen strongly disagreed with this characterization, saying such procedures had already prevented the public from fully grasping recent findings about climate change that point to risks ahead.

"Communicating with the public seems to be essential," he said, "because public concern is probably the only thing capable of overcoming the special interests that have obfuscated the topic."

Despite a number of run-ins with White House would-be handlers in the past, "Dr. Hansen said that nothing in 30 years equaled the push made since early December to keep him from publicly discussing what he says are clear-cut dangers from further delay in curbing carbon dioxide."

In several interviews with The New York Times in recent days, Dr. Hansen said it would be irresponsible not to speak out, particularly because NASA's mission statement includes the phrase "to understand and protect our home planet."

He said he was particularly incensed that the directives had come through telephone conversations and not through formal channels, leaving no significant trails of documents.

Dr. Hansen's supervisor, Franco Einaudi, said there had been no official "order or pressure to say shut Jim up." But Dr. Einaudi added, "That doesn't mean I like this kind of pressure being applied."

The fresh efforts to quiet him, Dr. Hansen said, began in a series of calls after a lecture he gave on Dec. 6 at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. In the talk, he said that significant emission cuts could be achieved with existing technologies, particularly in the case of motor vehicles, and that without leadership by the United States, climate change would eventually leave the earth "a different planet."

The response has been heavy pressure and threats, Hansen says.

After that speech and the release of data by Dr. Hansen on Dec. 15 showing that 2005 was probably the warmest year in at least a century, officials at the headquarters of the space agency repeatedly phoned public affairs officers, who relayed the warning to Dr. Hansen that there would be "dire consequences" if such statements continued, those officers and Dr. Hansen said in interviews.

Among the restrictions, according to Dr. Hansen and an internal draft memorandum he provided to The Times, was that his supervisors could stand in for him in any news media interviews.

 

Topic: Google

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13 comments
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  • SHHhhhh . . . You'll Wake the Children!

    . . . "dire consequences" if such statements continued, . . .

    How about Dire Consequences if we continue to abuse a planet that's only getting smaller and more crowded.
    lbattis@...
    • What if the data is misleading?

      The problem with these "reports" is that there is no real science
      here. People extrapolate out to preposterous conclussions that are
      completely unfounded because they are operating with a small
      subset of information, but because an "expert" says it's so, why we
      have to believe it don't we? Do you have any idea what percentage
      of "experts" there has ever been have been wrong about their
      conclusions and what percentage of the time they were wrong? It's
      "astronomical". If every wrong expert conclusion were a star, you
      could populate the galaxy with stars left over.
      slylabs13
      • I Agree

        Who's to say he's right? Me? I don't thinks so! What do I know?
        If the man was on NASA's clock, I should think they would have the right to censor him. If the data were reviewed by publishing it in peer group publications, if he spoke as a member of that group...
        scottwarren
  • Who signs his paycheck?

    Are we talking about research he did FOR NASA while on the
    clock?? Oh you betcha yer daggum bum they have a right to censor
    him. It's not HIS information it's THEIRS. What if there are flaws in
    the study? He spouts off to the press to make a name for himself,
    meanwhile the sacred public is misled and people get their panties
    all up in a bunch and protests are launched and people are calling
    for government action, and why? Some guy forgot who signed his
    paycheck.
    slylabs13
    • ...Ummm... *WE* do...!

      "Are we talking about research he did FOR NASA while on the
      clock?? ... It's not HIS information it's THEIRS."

      Actually, it's not THEIR information; it's OURS.

      Any work done by an agency of the government is (nominally)
      done for the benefit of the American people. (You know:
      "...government OF the people, BY the people, and FOR the
      people..."?)

      "What if there are flaws in the study? "

      Funny... Usually on ZDNet we get people pointing out that
      "Open-Sourcing" information allows two million error-checkers
      to examine and, if necessary, correct it, while keeping it
      proprietary doesn't help anyone but tha "owner"... Or am I in the
      wrong thread? <gr>
      MikeMoyle
    • Lest you forget....

      First, NASA is a _government_ agency. Second, it is funded by tax-paying citizens such as myself. Third, methinks he knows who signed his paycheck.

      In the first place, the U.S. government has no place censoring anyone. It is a 1st Amendment issue. In the second place, since NASA is funded by my tax dollars, the information is not "theirs" but mine. In the third place, his paycheck is signed by yours-truly (in case you don't know who that is, it's ME: Joe Taxpayer.)

      Cheers,
      Robert Reese~
      sixit
  • Seems like he's getting his message out

    Despite any attempts to censor him. It does make me wonder if he's being censored so heavily how was he able to give all those interviews to the New York Times....I don't know sound like more liberal wackiness to me.
    maldain
    • Future censorship- not about rewriting the past

      It is pretty clear from the article that he is being told that in the future he won't be allowed to either present new information to the public, or continue to provide the information he already has, without being censored.

      So you are right, he got some messages out in the past. The story is about the moves to silence him in the future.

      Simple, no wackiness! He's being told "shut up, we don't like the facts, and we don't like you telling the voters". Replace voters with shareholders and it is the Enron approach but at a national level.
      Indulis
  • It's about bloody time

    Thanks to the special interests trying to keep him quiet, it appears he has not only gotten the message out but started the government on a tactful way to begin to adopt his recommendations.
    In the State of Union address Bush spoke of being less dependent on foreign oil... and using alternatives. Good timing...

    Cheers
    jimjutte
  • Moonbat theories

    Sometimes an employer needs to make an employee realize that he needs to behave in a particular manner or risk losing his job. This seems to be a reasonable expectation of any employer, that their employee will not embarrass them with inane public statements.

    An example would be the situation if a representative for the Center for Disease Control began making speeches that AIDS were not spread by homosexual sexual conduct, but by nighttime visitations from space aliens. "Global warming" is no less poppycock than that example, and the moonbat's employer - the federal government - has every right to ask him to keep his nutcase ideas to himself and not speak on behalf of any government agency.
    jsm555
    • I was going to let this one slide...

      ... but, no.

      "...began making speeches that AIDS were not spread by
      homosexual sexual conduct, but by nighttime visitations from
      space aliens"

      Had you said "unprotected sexual contact", or the like, I probably
      would have let it pass. But by specifying homosexul contact, and
      ignoring that ANY activity that risks direct transfer of any bodily
      fluids between two people (including any unprotected sexual
      activity, accidental needle-sticks, blood spray during an accident
      or surgery, to name several others) can transfer the HIV, you do
      your argument, and your readers, a disservice

      Secondly, if htere were sufficient evidence that your "space
      aliens" had seeded HIV and that evidence had appeared
      repeatedly in peer-reviewed publications and been corroborated
      ny other researchers (say, for instance, that the genome of the
      Human Immunodeficiency Virus was radically different than
      anything found in terrestrial organisms), then that would lift the
      argument out of the range of "poppycock" into something that
      should be further examined and discussed.

      Thirdly, the point of publishing scientific reports, with data and
      conclusions, is so that they CAN be examined and potentially
      shot down. A good researcher, while s/he might want good
      press, DOESN'T want to be embarrased in public any more than
      anyone else, and knows that publishing faulty research will do
      exactly that. (Or SHOULD know; apparently Dr Hwang Woo-suk
      never learned that, but it's generally true...)

      There is sufficient evidence that global warming may be
      occurring that NOT discussing it publicly seems, to me, to be
      irresponsible.

      The final question, it seems to me, is not "Are we causing global
      warming?", but rather"If global warming IS occurring, what, if
      anything, could we do about it and when should we start?"

      Saying that it's "poppycock", or telling a researcher that the
      possibility shouldn't be discussed because it's politically
      expedient seems to me to be misguided, at best.
      MikeMoyle
  • Support Scientist

    First of all slylabs13, ust to reiterate a previous poster's comment, the data isn't just NASA's, it's OURS. NASA is a government organization. The government works for you, me, and all the other voters in this country.

    Yeah, this guy is employed by NASA. If they have internal regulations that he is flaunting, they have the right to terminate his employment. But as a citizen of this country, he also has the right to do what he thinks is right; especially if it involves supporting and defending the principles this country's government is based on.

    2005 was the warmest year on record. And the 5 warmest years have all occurred during the past decade. Yeah, it might be a short-term, localized occurrence. And yeah, I've read Michael Chriton's, "State of Fear". However, humans ARE having an impact on the environment, humans ARE having an impact on climate; and humans ARE increasing the buildup of more greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere, we are accelerating the warming of the planet.

    And it definately won't be the same planet when the process has run its course.
    Dr_Zinj
  • The sky is falling

    I'm all for this guy. Information is better than no information. Bring it on! And I believe the federal government needs a warrant to censor a US citizen.

    A hole in the ozone the size of Texas, polar ice caps melting and now plants (soon to be trees) growing in Antarctica where there was once ice.

    Global warming triggers an ice age folks. As citizens of this planet we need to seriously wake up and smell the coffee, not wait until the sky falls in!
    chickenlittle101