Update: NASA, James Hansen, and the Politicization of Science
September 26, 2007 11:04 AM
GISS's James Hansen
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?
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
being politicized. By him.
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
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
"There is a single light of science, and to brighten it anywhere is to brighten it everywhere." -- Isaac Asimov
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