In November 2008, NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), run by Dr James Hansen, and one of the four bodies responsible for monitoring global temperatures, announced that October 2008 was the "hottest on record". Which must have come as something of a shock to the countless millions who trudged through the heavy snow and ice in what they had been told was an unseasonally cold October. But then Hansen should know. He is, after all, climate alarmism's ‘Mr Big'. But then this is far from the first time Hansen has been caught ‘fiddling' the climate figures.
In October, two independent monitors at Watts Up With That and Climate Audit, performed their own detailed analysis of Hansen's reported data. What they found should disturb us all. They discovered that the GISS readings from across a swathe of Russia that appeared to reveal a warming of 10 degrees above average were not readings for October at all. They were a repeat of September's readings.
A highly embarrassed GISS was forced to own up. GISS retracted the figures - and then immediately set about obfuscating its original error claiming they had discovered a new "hotspot" in the Arctic. This caused even more confusion. Intriguing as the new vacation prospect opened up by the GISS report might be, satellite indicators throughout the Fall consistently revealed the Arctic sea ice had undergone a remarkably fast, post-summer recovery with 30 percent more ice than for the same period in 2007.
A GISS spokesman sought to explain the false Russian temperature figures by shuffling off blame to "other bodies" on whom GISS rely and over whom they have no means of "quality control". The problem is it's NASA's GISS published figures that are mostly quoted precisely because they are regularly higher than those reported by other monitoring bodies. Not to mention they go a long way to underpinning the UN's IPCC 'end is nigh' climate scenario, too. Neither is it the first time Hansen's NASA figures have been challenged as at odds with other monitoring evidence.
In June 2008, NASA temperature data was challenged again over its higher recordings of temperatures compared to the other official bodies. Back in 1998, satellite data from associate bodies at Remote Sensing Systems (RSS) and the University of Alabama at Huntsville (UAH) were broadly in agreement with those at NASA. Tens years later, NASA's reported figures are regularly higher than those published by RSS and UAH. One reason put forward for the NASA anomaly is that its figures are derived from a grid of ground-based thermometers (the less efficient method) and not by (the far more efficient) taking of satellite readings. But does it matter. Just what is at stake? Well, governments panicked into uneconomic measures; policies which mostly hurt the poor by avoiding the utilization of cheap and plentiful Western energy resources. Resources like plentiful and cheap coal - Hansen's literal bête noir, which he believes is "the enemy of the human race".
In pursuit of his campaign to have the West abandoning its precious coal reserves, Hansen recently took it upon himself in a bid to influence the UK Government to refuse a licence for a coal-fired power station at Kingsnorth in Kent. Kingsnorth is prospectively the first of six coal-fired stations under consideration. Hansen knows only too well that if the UK greenlights the Kingsnorth plant it could kick start a similar program across Europe - and in turn create pressure to follow suit in the US (which has over 25 percent of the world's highest quality coal reserves). If that were to happen, the resultant boost to global CO2 emissions would effectively send the chief climate alarmist message, quite literally, up in smoke. So Hansen took up his pen and wrote to lobby over the decisions with letters to the British PM and to the Queen herself.
Next Hansen - ignoring the hypocrisy as do most leading alarmists - jetted to the UK to give evidence in defence of a group of Greenpeace activists in a British criminal case. The activists had invaded the existing Kingsnorth facility causing thousands of dollars worth of criminal damage. Ignoring the evidence of red-handed guilt, perversely, the jury acquitted whereupon Hansen expressed his public backing for the right to break the law in the cause of climate activism. Hansen didn't say whether this was official NASA policy.
Back in April 2006, Hansen's reading of the climate conditions led him to go out on yet another predictive limb. Hansen said, "We suggest that an El Nino is likely to originate in 2006 and that there is a good chance it will be a 'super El Nino', rivalling the 1983 and 1997-8 El Ninos, which were successively labelled the 'El Nino of the century'." Most other leading climate scientists were mystified at Hansen's reading of weather conditions. Mickey Glanz at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder Colorado warned, "The graveyard is filled with missed El Nino forecasts." Roger Pielke, Jr, Professor in Environment Studies at Colorado University, pointed out, "Dr Hansen has bet some of his public credibility in making such a forecast. If he is proven right... contrary to all models and statistics, then his credibility will rise far beyond its already stratospheric levels. If he was wrong, he will be brought back to Earth by his critics who will use this against him. In short, he is taking a big risk, with potential for a big pay-off or a big cost." Suffice to say, it never happened.
Al Gore regards Hansen as an 'objective scientist', but in 2004 Hansen received a grant of $250,000 from the Heinz Foundation shortly before publicly endorsing Teresa Heinz's husband, John Kerry, for the presidency. While those who argue the skeptics case are consistently accused of being in the pay of Big Oil, Hansen got a free pass from the liberal media on the Heinz grant. As Senator James Inhofe, of the US Committee on Environment and Public Works put it, "It appears the media makes a distinction between oil money and ketchup money."
NASA does fine work and there are fine people working for NASA. Some have even gone on record disparaging both Hansen and his publicity-seeking methods. In an article Science, Ignorance is not Bliss (Launch magazine, July/August 2008) former astronaut Walter Cunningham delivered a blistering denunciation of Hansen for fostering the "current hysteria" of climate alarmists by misusing NASA data. Cunningham states, "NASA should be at the forefront in the collection of scientific evidence and debunking the current hysteria over human-caused, or anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW)." Nor is Cunningham happy at what Hansen is doing for NASA's reputation as a serious player in scientific research. He says of NASA, "Unfortunately, it is becoming just another agency caught up in the politics of global warming, or worse, politicized science. Advocacy is replacing objective evaluation data, while scientific data is being ignored in favor of emotions and politics."
And, for good measure, Cunningham reminds us of yet another Hansen blunder. "After warning 2007 would be the hottest year on record," says Cunningham, "what we experienced was the coolest since 2001." Lamenting that the GW debate had deteriorated into a "religious war" between "true believers and non-believers" Cunningham astutely observes about those who follow Hansen's logic, "it is impossible to reason a person out of positions they have not been reasoned into." Cunningham states Hansen is "a political activist who spreads fear even when NASA's own data contradicts him." To drive home his point that Hansen is circumventing the real science, Cunningham highlights that, "warming in the upper atmosphere should occur before any surface warming effect, but NASA's own data show that has not been happening." Cunningham goes on to note how when Hansen's boss, Michael Griffin, "a distinguished scientist in his own right, attempted to draw a distinction between Hansen's personal and political views and the science conducted by his agency" he was "forced to back off".
In November, another former NASA astronaut, the award-winning Harrison 'Jack' Schmitt, the Apollo 17 moon-walker and former chair of NASA Advisory Chair, resigned from the Planetary Society. Schmitt's resignation letter identified the Society's new 'roadmap' that attempted to link space exploration and climate change research on earth. In his resignation letter Schmitt states: "You know as well as I, the 'global warming scare' is being used as a political tool to increase government control over American lives, income and decision making. It has no place in the Society's activities." My guess is that Walt Cunningham and Jack Schmitt are not on Hansen's Christmas card list.
That James Hansen has a private fame-seeking agenda and is using NASA to peddle it as he makes predictive blunder after predictive blunder in their name is patently clear. Which begs the question: Why is James Hansen - a publicity-seeking leftwing political activist, responsible for issuing false climate data to the detriment of NASA's reputation and against the public good - still picking up a pay check in a top public sector job? And just how much are Hansen's headline grabbing, ultimately false, pronouncements helping to propel governments towards hugely expensive precipitous climate action?
Peter C Glover is European Associate Editor with US-based Energy Tribune and writer on political, energy and media affairs. He is a former national spokesman for the UK Crown Prosecution Service