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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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By Verran on 9/26/2007 3:35:07 PM , Rating: 2
This seems considerably more vague than the typical masher blog. It also seems to side-step your most compelling points and focus on the vague and relatively inconsequential ones.

It seems like you've already got more than enough ammo to discredit this guy's "science":

--His stuff is "sensationalist" at best
--His science is actually "predicting" weather, which so far has been largely inaccurate and thus rather inconclusive
--Joe-Blow blogger punched a big 'ol hole in his numbers
--The "formula" he's released since is incredibly "unscientific" and makes all sorts of baseless changes to data and conclusions

When you've already got these points like a gun at your hip, a couple of donations totaling $1M between Kerry's wife's foundation and a vocally Anti-Bush guy seems like a drop in the pond. Besides, the only direct political accusation I see here is that after this funding, he accused Bush's people of "censoring" him. Is that the paid bias? A censorship accusation? To me, that's just not very compelling, especially in contrast to the beefs listed above.

Perhaps a comparison of these donations relative to the yearly GISS budget might provide more weight? But even then, I doubt many people are shocked to find out that someone on either side of the GW debate is politically backed...

I'm certainly not trying clear this guy of wrong doings. I think his stuff is best described as "FUD". But given all of your VERY compelling and well-reasoned avenues of discrediting this guy, the political one seems the weakest to me.

RE: hmmm
By masher2 on 9/26/2007 3:45:05 PM , Rating: 3
All true, and the only thing I can say in defense is that the "meatier" problems with Hansen's science are being saved up for a future column. Stay tuned!

RE: hmmm
By James Holden on 9/26/2007 6:38:33 PM , Rating: 2
Yep been following this a while. I'd really love to see his GISS data audited.

By the way did anyone watch Boston Legal last night? The whole Global Warming thing made me think of these blogs.

RE: hmmm
By Ringold on 9/26/2007 8:03:30 PM , Rating: 2
As much as TOS holds a permanent, hallowed place in my heart, Shatner's doing his best work now.

RE: hmmm
By Ratwar on 9/26/2007 7:42:35 PM , Rating: 2
Couldn't we accuse you of being "sensationalist", as you are writing this blog before you have all the facts?

RE: hmmm
By TomZ on 9/26/2007 8:06:45 PM , Rating: 2
I think the point is there are too many things to cover in a single blog post.

But yea, I think Michael's being a little bit "sensationalist," but I don't see anything wrong with it. It's an interesting article.

"We are going to continue to work with them to make sure they understand the reality of the Internet.  A lot of these people don't have Ph.Ds, and they don't have a degree in computer science." -- RIM co-CEO Michael Lazaridis
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