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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 3:29:58 PM , Rating: 1
Jason, as one of the other posters pointed out, you're just trying to curtail or silence the discussion here.

In addition, there's nothing special or unusual about discussing politics - politics are discussed in the DT comments nearly every day in one form or another.


RE: A Couple Criticisms
By masher2 (blog) on 9/26/2007 3:49:15 PM , Rating: 3
I think Jason's point in general is accurate. We certainly want to avoid sinking into political polemic. Where I think he goes off base is in the definition of "discussing politics" which to most people implies taking a side on a political issue.

This article isn't promoting or attacking any particular politician; it's merely demonstrating a link between politics and one particular effect its had on climate science.


RE: A Couple Criticisms
By TomZ on 9/26/2007 4:02:30 PM , Rating: 2
I think it's also important to distinguish between the articles and the comments. I can certainly understand some restraint in terms of the topics and content of the articles. When it comes to the comments, however, I think that DT readers (and DT authors) should have more liberty to speak as they please (again, within reason). I think this even would include not just discussing politics as you say, but taking sides - I think that's legit in the comments section anyway.


RE: A Couple Criticisms
By Murst on 9/26/2007 4:14:24 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
it's merely demonstrating a link between politics and one particular effect its had on climate science


And you have not proven that, which is what I think Jason is stating. You simply injected your own opinion into what was happening and wanted it taken as fact. Just because Hassen got money from Soros, that doesn't mean it influenced his articles. Were Hassen's views different prior to receiving money? Did they change after receiving it? You would have to prove these things instead of making crazy accusations in order to prove your point.


RE: A Couple Criticisms
By TomZ on 9/26/2007 4:19:55 PM , Rating: 1
Michael is not saying one caused the other - he is saying there is clearly a potential conflict of interest by illustrating the money trail involved here. Are you disagreeing that there is a potential conflict of interest in this situation?


RE: A Couple Criticisms
By Murst on 9/26/2007 4:24:54 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
For Hansen to secretly receive a large check from Soros, then begin making unsubstantiated claims about administrative influence on climate science


To me, it seems like Michael is trying to say that one caused the other... I just cannot see how you could read that differently.

How exactly did you interpret the sentance above?


RE: A Couple Criticisms
By TomZ on 9/26/2007 4:39:07 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
How exactly did you interpret the sentance above?

I interpret that as X happened followed by Y - and it is left to the reader to decide if X caused Y. Direct cause-effect is hard to prove, so the best we can do is decide whether it is reasonable that X could cause Y or not.


RE: A Couple Criticisms
By Murst on 9/26/2007 5:01:38 PM , Rating: 2
To determine causality, you would have to prove that Y happened because of X. Simply stating that Y followed by X, without any other backing, is rather silly if you want to determine causality.

For example, you certainly wouldn't agree that an increase in C02 emissions due to human behavior is causing global warming. However, a global temperature rise has followed an increase in C02 emissions due to human behavior. Both of us will agree that this is not enough to establish AGW.

I guess I just do not see how you could come to the conclusion that the reason why Hassen is writing these articles is because of Soros. Even though I think Michael brings up some very good points about Hassen's research, I do believe that Hassen would have held the same viewpoint on global warming if Soros was not in the picture. There's just nothing in the article that would make me think otherwise.

Again... do I think Hassen's research has any credibility? Not really. If Dick Cheney was funding Hassen, I would hold the same view of Hassen's research. It really has nothing to do with where the money came from. The entire argument that it is all politically motivated is complete conjecture. A much more believable is that Hassen acted unethically in reporting his research.


RE: A Couple Criticisms
By Keeir on 9/26/2007 5:13:19 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
You simply injected your own opinion into what was happening and wanted it taken as fact.


I am reading this whole article differently I guess.

The problem with the Soros money to Hansen is appearance and disclosure. As a scientist and governmental employee Hansen 1. should not have accepted contributions from any political based group (IE OSI) 2. should have disclosed possible conflicts of interest promptly (Hienz and Gore incidents). 1 and 2 are basic forms of Scientific, Engineering and Professional conduct guidelines. This creates the appearence that Hansen has politicized his science which is essentially the same thing as politicizing his science.


RE: A Couple Criticisms
By Murst on 9/26/2007 5:36:57 PM , Rating: 2
I will agree with you that Hansen did not act ethically. However, what I disagree with is that politics influenced his research. To me, it actually makes much more sense the other way around (that it was Hansen that drew the money from Soros, and it was Hansen who drew the attention of Gore).

Could Soros pay off a scientist to alter his research to attempt to prove a theory? Sure. But why would he do that? There is a ton of scientists who would argue that theory anyways. Simply give them money to research and let them do their own thing. The exact same thing appears to have happened with Hansen. There just doesn't seem to be any proof that his research and viewpoints were changed after receiving money, which is what the article is attempting to imply.


RE: A Couple Criticisms
By Keeir on 9/26/2007 7:04:40 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
However, what I disagree with is that politics influenced his research.


By that you mean did OSI (et al) directly stipulate that Hansen change research to recieve funding? I would call that research fraud. I do not see the article implying research fraud at all. The article does imply that HANSEN has a significant personal bias on climate research. But, Hansen could have had his own views and expressed them when appropriate without turning his research into a political tool with the assistance of a lobby/activist group.


RE: A Couple Criticisms
By tcsenter on 9/27/2007 6:43:54 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I will agree with you that Hansen did not act ethically. However, what I disagree with is that politics influenced his research. To me, it actually makes much more sense the other way around (that it was Hansen that drew the money from Soros, and it was Hansen who drew the attention of Gore).
e.g. the NRA doesn't pay candidates to vote against gun control, the NRA supports candidates who would oppose gun control as a matter of principle, with or without the NRA's money. IOW, the money gravitates to the position, not the other way around.

I agree this is generally the way it works, though not in every case. However, the left works tirelessly to discredit the message via any perceived conflict of interest on the part of the messenger. It is only fair it be held to the same standard.

I'm confident we'll find you here taking the same position the next time someone tries to discredit research that is critical of or contradictory to anthropogenic global warming orthodoxy merely because the author was a paid intern, research fellow, or consultant for Exxon 15 years ago (or some other such nonsense). ;-)


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