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GISS's James Hansen  (Source: NASA)
New issues swirl around controversial NASA branch

NASA's primary climate monitoring agency is the Goddard Institute of Space Studies.  Operating out of a small office at Columbia University, GISS is run by Dr. James Hansen. Official NASA climate statements come through GISS ... which means they must get by  Hansen.  Many other scientists and agencies make climate predictions, but Hansen's top the list for scare  factor, predicting consequences considerably more dire than his colleagues.

Hansen specializes in climate "modeling" -- attempting to predict future events based on computer simulations. In 1971, Hansen wrote his first climate model, which showed the world was about to experience severe global cooling. NASA colleagues used it to warn the world that immediate action was needed to prevent catastrophe.

Most research papers are rather dry reading, written to be as unemotional as possible. Not so with Hansen's reports, whose works scream alarmism even in their titles: "Climate Catastrophe," "Can We Defuse the Global Warming Time Bomb," and "The Threat to the Planet." Hansen was most recently in the news when an amateur blogger discovered an error in his climate data, a mistake Hansen later discounted as unimportant to the "big picture" of compelling public action on climate change.

But who is James Hansen? Is he an impartial researcher seeking scientific truth? Or a political activist with an axe to grind?

In 2006, Hansen accused the Bush Administration of attempting to censor him. The issue stemmed from an email sent by a 23-year old NASA public affairs intern. It warned Hansen over repeated violations of NASA's official press policy, which requires the agency be notified prior to interviews. Hansen claimed he was being "silenced," despite delivering over 1,400 interviews in recent years, including 15 the very month he made the claim.  While he admits to violating the NASA press policy, Hansen states he had a "constitutional right" to grant interviews.  Hansen then began a barrage of public appearances on TV, radio and in lecture halls decrying the politicization of climate science.

Turns out he was right. Science was being politicized. By him.

A report revealed just this week, shows the 'Open Society Institute'  funded Hansen to the tune of $720,000, carefully orchestrating his entire media campaign. OSI, a political group which spent $74 million in 2006 to "shape public policy," is funded by billionaire George Soros, the largest backer of Kerry's 2004 Presidential Campaign. Soros, who once declared that "removing Bush from office was the "central focus" of his life, has also given tens of millions of dollars to MoveOn.Org and other political action groups.

Certainly Soros has a right to spend his own money. But NASA officials have a responsibility to accurate, unbiased, nonpartisan science. For Hansen to secretly receive a large check from Soros, then begin making unsubstantiated claims about administrative influence on climate science is more than suspicious -- it's a clear conflict of interest. 

But the issues don't stop here.  Hansen received an earlier $250,000 grant from the Heinz Foundation, an organization run by Kerry's wife, which he followed by publicly endorsing Kerry.  Hansen also acted as a paid consultant to Gore during the making of his global-warming film, "An Inconvenient Truth," and even personally promoted the film during an NYC event.

After the the GISS data error was revealed, Hansen finally agreed to make public the method he uses to generate "official"  temperature records from the actual readings. That process has been revealed to be thousands of lines of source code, containing hundreds of arbitrary "bias" adjustments to individual sites, tossing out many readings entirely, and raising (or lowering) the actual values for others, sometimes by several degrees.  Many areas with weak or no rising temperature trends are therefore given, after adjustment, a much sharper trend.  A full audit of the Hansen code is currently underway, but it seems clear that Hansen has more explaining to do.

George Deutsch, the NASA intern who resigned over the censorship fallout, said he was initially warned about Hansen when starting the job, "People said ... you gotta watch that guy. He is a loose cannon; he is kind of crazy. He is difficult to work with; he is an alarmist; he exaggerates.'" 

Hansen's office did not return a request from DailyTech for an interview for this article.

Update: Hansen has denied receiving direct funding from OSI.  Investors Business Daily is standing behind the story, claiming the funding first passed through the Government Accountability Project, which then used it to package Hansen for the media.


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RE: A Couple Criticisms
By TomZ on 9/26/2007 2:12:42 PM , Rating: 2
I personally don't think your criticism rings true. Michael is right to trace the money trail with GISS, since money is a pretty common source of corruption. The evidence in this case seems pretty convincing.

I agree that Hansen might be "just trying to do his job"; however, I think he may have lost sight of what his job is, and how to remain an objective scientist. He seems to have turned into a politician himself and seems to be injecting his own views into GISS papers and possibly into the actual data itself. It's pretty unbelieveable this could happen in this day and age.

Let's talk about prosecution!!! Well, I'm kidding about that...I think....


RE: A Couple Criticisms
By JasonMick (blog) on 9/26/2007 2:24:26 PM , Rating: 1
I wasn't talking about Hansen. I don't doubt that Hansen was out of line.

I was referring to the many Ph.D researchers under him, whose names are being perhaps unfairly smeared, without individual examination.

The main problem I had with the political points was that the Kerry-Hansen link was tenuous at best. Hansen's work has been regarded as a sort of "do good cause" so it is not surprising that philanthropic organizations such as the Heinz Foundation donated to his research. Patronism of research is nothing new.

As to Soros funding Kerry's campaign, so what. Kerry did not make global warming his chief focus. Rather, he talked a whole lot about a whole bunch of other things. A few scant sound bytes where he says hes against global warming, don't change the fact that the issue was not his primary focus. So this link is very tenuous at best.

I think you could say Soros is politically interested, but that is aside the point, and not entirely relevant.

As to the Gore connection, maybe that is more relevant, but why would Gore not hire one of the loudest voices on Global warming to advise a movie about global warming? I don't see this as cronyism...its just a sensical move. I am sure Gore will move to distance himself from Hansen if Hansen's work is discredited.

There are plenty of other more respectable researchers doing GW work than Hansen, including some at the GISS, and many at CIRES.

Be careful when you mix politics and GW unless you can 100% back up your allegations. Otherwise it is lost as sensationalist political FUD. Considering your good points about the bias and unscientific practice in Hansen's research, that would be a shame.


RE: A Couple Criticisms
By porkpie on 9/26/2007 2:35:46 PM , Rating: 5
Let me spell it out for you.

1. Soros makes defeating Bush his life's goal.
2. Soros gives fat check to Hansen
3. Kerry gives fat check to Hansen
4. Hansen begins denouncing Bush as "interfering" with NASA research and endorses Kerry.

See how it all ties together?


RE: A Couple Criticisms
By JasonMick (blog) on 9/26/2007 2:38:32 PM , Rating: 1
Bush has nothing to do with Hansen's factual accuracy. Stay on point.

And take a look at #3.
If you are referring to the Heinz contribution, $250,000 in terms of a research contribution is hardly a "fat check". I was working under a professor at Oakland University (hardly a huge college), which had several million in contributions just from DARPA.

You are grasping at straws.


RE: A Couple Criticisms
By TomZ on 9/26/2007 3:00:59 PM , Rating: 2
$250K might not be a lot for Oakland University, but it might be for Hansen and/or GISS (not sure who exactly received the funds - I assume GISS). Your comparison is invalid.


RE: A Couple Criticisms
By onelittleindian on 9/26/2007 3:30:29 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
$250,000 in terms of a research contribution is hardly a "fat check".
When Exxon tried to give a climate researcher a $10K check, everyone said it was a huge amount and forced them to retract the offer. Now 25X more is "no big deal"? Talk about a double standard!


RE: A Couple Criticisms
By Ratwar on 9/26/2007 7:39:53 PM , Rating: 1
Yeah, I mean, $250,000 is chicken feed compared to what Exxon dishes out!

http://ethicsdaily.com/article_detail.cfm?AID=7741 ($2.32 million)

Note: I'm sure certain Global Warming advocates receive plenty of bias funding as well. I'm just trying to demonstrate that bias funding is hardly a one sided deal.


RE: A Couple Criticisms
By masher2 (blog) on 9/26/2007 7:48:42 PM , Rating: 2
From you own link, one of the funded organizations was The Acton Institute. From their mission statement:
quote:
The Institute organises seminars for religious leaders, academics and business leaders which aim to link economics and religion. It publishes books, journals, and opinion about related issues
Are you seriously trying to compare funding an organization like this with funding a government research scientist?

The Congress of Racial Equality and the Competive Enterprise Institute. Off all the various groups funded, only one seems to have anything directly to do with global warming, and even your own link doesn't claim any researchers were directly funded.


RE: A Couple Criticisms
By tcsenter on 9/27/2007 6:01:30 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Are you seriously trying to compare funding an organization like this with funding a government research scientist?
lol! It is amazing, isn't it?

A corporation gives nearly $1 million to several privately-funded advocacy groups or organizations and the global warming zealots chant "follow the money".

Soro's foundation gives about the same amount to one scientist who heads the government's CLIMATE RESEARCH AGENCY (i.e. funded by tax payers), and the left casually dismisses it as 'no big deal, the government doesn't pay much and he has a family to support, it doesn't influence his research.'

Hell, the left chants "follow the money" when an eminently-qualified scientist received corporate money 10 years ago pursuant to some work performed 10 years ago, even where there has been absolutely no funding or connection since (e.g. Fred Singer), or when a scientist merely is affiliated with an organization or group that has received corporate funding at some point in time.

But the left cutting a huge check directly to a leading GOVERNMENT scientist while he holds a position of public trust?

'No big deal, it doesn't influence his research.' lol!


RE: A Couple Criticisms
By pliny on 9/26/2007 10:29:35 PM , Rating: 3
The $250,000 presumably refers to his 2001 Heinz Foundation award http://www.giss.nasa.gov/research/news/20010305/. It wasn't research funding.


RE: A Couple Criticisms
By porkpie on 9/27/2007 9:35:26 AM , Rating: 3
So that $250K went right into Hansen's personal pocket, rather than the GISS budget? That's even worse.


RE: A Couple Criticisms
By Keeir on 9/26/2007 2:56:03 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I think you could say Soros is politically interested, but that is aside the point, and not entirely relevant.


I think its very important to know more about the contributors to understand possible motives. You make the best example of it right in your post.

From the article it appears Soros main objective was to use Hansen and Global warming to advance completely unrelated political objectives. This is a different sort of bias than accepting money from an organization that wants, for example, people to use bicycles. Or "save the enviroment" type groups. In this sense its important to get a clear enough picture of the funding to sense what kind of additional bias it might introduce into the research.


RE: A Couple Criticisms
By Ringold on 9/26/2007 5:51:15 PM , Rating: 2
That's a great point. Those who seek influence in the halls of power are plenty intelligent enough to know that they can pursue one goal they may not at all care about at the time to advance a larger goal. Not everything has to be done in a perfectly linear fashion.


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