Wednesday, June 13th 2012, 3:19 AM EDT
During a 2008 CBS 60 Minutes interview, Al Gore, who was launching a major global warming crisis advertising campaign at the time, responded to a question by Leslie Stahl about skeptics stating, âI think those people are in such a tiny, tiny minority now with their point of view. Theyâre almost like the ones who still believe that the Moon landing was staged in a movie lot in Arizona and those who believe the world is flat.â So wouldnât you expect that some of those people who actually witnessed the Earth from orbit and walked on the MoonâŠ those âflat-Earthersâ âŠ to know better than to question the scientific basis for his alarmist climate claims? Well, apparently, this just isnât the case.
Seven Apollo astronauts, along with two former NASA Johnson Space Center directors and several former senior management-level technical experts, have recently lodged formal complaints to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, Jr. regarding the dismal and embarrassing state of the agencyâs climate science programs. These charges were presented in two separate letters that were hand-delivered, then publicly released.
The first letter, dated April 10, admonished the agency for its role in advocating a high degree of certainty that man-made CO2 is a major cause of climate change, while neglecting basic empirical evidence that calls the theory into question. The group also charged that NASA in general, and the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in particular, has failed to make an objective assessment of all available scientific data on climate change, and is relying too heavily upon complex climate models that have proven to be scientifically inadequate for climate predictions. It specifically asked that GISS, headed by Dr. James Hansen, be required to ârefrain from including unproven remarks in public releases and websites.â
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The second letter, dated May 11, took issue with formal statements by NASA Chief Scientist Dr. Waleed Abdalati, which contradicted a response he had made to the first letter that: âAs an agency, NASA does not draw conclusions and issue âclaimsâ about research findings.â Yet only eight days later, Abdalati testified at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing that the sea level was projected to rise between 0.2 meters and 2 meters within the next 87 years. He said that the lower ranges were less likely, and that ââŠthe highest values are based on warmest of the temperature scenarios commonly considered for the remainder of the 21stcentury.â He added: âThe consequences of a 1 meter rise in sea level by the end of this century would be very significant in terms of human well-being and economics, and potentially global socio-political stability.â
The second letter from NASA retirees observed that the range of Abdalatiâs conclusion is âastoundingâ, and ââŠif hard data points to a probable rise, it should be stated with its probability. Can you imagine one of your predecessors, Dr. Thomas Paine, declaring, âOur Apollo 11 Lunar Landerâs target is the sea of Tranquility [in the Moonâs equatorial region], but we may make final descent within a range that included Crater Clavius [near the South Pole]?ââ The letter then urged Administrator Bolden to make a commitment to equal or exceed, ââŠthe agencyâs reputation for careful reliance upon rigorous science.â It asked him to âJoin us, please, in encouraging your colleagues to achieve the level of excellence the world has come to expect from Americaâs National Aeronautics Administration!â Expressing the need for urgency, the letter ended with: âWaiting is not an option!â
Dr. Abdalatiâs Senate testimony included a qualifying statement on a subject that is typically missed or ignored in climate science media reporting and policy deliberationsâŠ namely that all those projections are based upon theoretical models that simply cannot be validated or trusted. He admitted, to wit: âThe modeling activity is an integrated effort jointly carried out by NASA, the National Science Foundation, and the Department of Energy (DOE). NSF also invests in basic observations and process studies that are either directly coordinated with or are complementary to NASAâs activities, and DOE is building dynamical models of Greenland and Antarctica, where future sea level rise projections take advantage of observations provided by NASA and NSF. Through these investments and activities, the scientific community is making progress toward addressing the wild-card of the sea level rise equation, but we are still a ways off from a level of understanding that would allow us to predict future changes accurately [italics added]â.
One signatory of the NASA letters, Dr. Tom Wysmuller, developed polynomial regression algorithms (coding) used by climate scientists and modelers. As he pointed out to me: âWeather and climate comprise the sum total of an almost infinite series of interactive events occurring on a molecular and atomic level. Climate models involve particularly massive large scale approximations, which is why their predictions are less than robust.â
Yes, models are, indeed, still a very long way off from any ability to accurately predict such climate-related changes. Even the U.N.âs Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2001 Summary Report for Decision Makers chapter titled Model Evaluation contains this confession: âWe fully recognize that many of the evaluation statements we make contain a degree of subjective scientific perception and may contain much âcommunityâ or âpersonalâ knowledge. For example, the very choice of model variables and model processes that are investigated are often based upon subjective judgment and experience of the modeling community.â
In that same report, the IPCC further admits: âIn climate research and modeling, we should realize that we are dealing with a coupled non-linear chaotic system, and therefore that the long-term prediction of future climate states is not possible.â
Kevin Trenberth, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and lead author of 2001 and 2007 IPCC report chapters, has also admitted that IPCC models have failed to duplicate realities. Writing in a 2007 âPredictions of Climateâ blog appearing in the science journal Nature.com he stated, âNone of the models used by the IPCC are initialized to the observed state, and none of the climate states in the models correspond even remotely to the current observed stateâ.
Doesnât that pretty much say it all?
One might imagine that if any organization can be trusted for reliable climate information, it would be NASA, especially the NASA organization named after Dr. Robert H. Goddard who is widely recognized as the âFather of American Rocketryâ. Yet it is important to understand that the Goddard Institute for Space Studies relies primarily upon surface (not satellite) data that is mostly supplied by others. And even some top NASA scientists consider the dataset produced by GISS inferior to data provided by two other principal organizations, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrationâs National Climate Data Center Global Historical Climatology Network, and the University of East Angliaâs Climate Research Unit (CRU)âŠ home of the famous âClimateGateâ e-mail scandal.
As reported in a CRU memo to USA Todayâs weather editor from Reto Ruedy at GISS: âWe are basically a modeling groupâŠfor that purpose what we do is more than accurate enough [to assess model results]. But we have no intention to compete with either of the other two organizations in what they do bestâ. He clarified this point, saying ââŠthe National Climate Centerâs procedure of only using the best stations is more accurateâ.
And just how good is that CRU data? One ClimateGate e-mail entry posted by data base programmer Ian âHarryâ Harris doesnât provide much public confidence, reporting: â[The] hopeless state of their [CRU] data base. No uniform data integrity. Itâs just a catalogue of issues that continues to grow as theyâre foundâŠThere are hundreds if not thousands of pairs of dummy stationsâŠand duplicatesâŠAarrggghh! There truly is no end in sight. This project is such a MESS. No wonder I needed therapy!!â
CRU Director Phil Jones has acknowledged that âAlmost all the data we have in the CRU archive is exactly the same as in the Global Historical Climatology Network (GHCN) archive used by the NOAA National Climate Data Centerâ. NASA GISS also uses NOAA data, applying its own adjustments. While all three data bases suffer from the same flaws, NASAâs âtuningâ tends to show the warmest trend anomalies, with CRUâs generally the lowest. Such differences result from various assumptions regarding unknowns such as changing urbanization and other land use influences that contaminate surface temperature recordings.
Dr. Ruedy of GISS also confessed in an e-mail that ââŠ[the United States Historical Climate Network (USHCN)] data are not routinely kept up-to-dateâ, and in another, that NASA had inflated its temperature data since 2000 on a questionable basis. âNASAâs assumption that the adjustments made the older data consistent with future dataâŠmay not have been correct.â He went on to say, âIndeed, in 490 of the 1,057 stations the USHCN data was up to 1 C degree colder than the corresponding GHCN data, in 77 stations the data was the same, and in the remaining 490 stations the USHCN data was warmer than the GHCN data.â
GISS Director James Hansen first gained worldwide attention in 1988 following testimony before then-Senator Al Goreâs Committee on Science, Technology and Space. There, he stated 99% certainty that temperatures had in fact increased, and that there had been some greenhouse warming, although he then made no direct connection between the two. This observation was consistent with concerns about a particularly warm summer that year in some U.S. regions.
Then in a January 29, 2006 New York Times interview, Hansen charged that NASA public relations people had pressured him to allow them to review future public lectures, papers and postings on the GISS website. But in January 15, 2009 testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works-Minority Committee, his former boss Dr. John S. Theon, retired chief of NASAâs Climate Processes Research Program, took issue with the interference charge, stating: âHansen was never muzzled even though he violated official agency position on climate forecasting (i.e., we did not know enough to forecast climate change or mankindâs effect on it). Hansen has embarrassed NASA by coming out with his claim of global warming in 1988 in his testimony before Congress.â
Dr, Theon also testified that: âMy own belief concerning anthropogenic [man-made] climate change is that models do not realistically simulate the climate system because there are many very important sub-grid scale processes that the models either replicate poorly or completely omitâ. He observed: âFurthermore, some scientists have manipulated the observed data to justify their model results. In doing so, they neither explain what they have modeled in the observations, nor explain how they did itâŠthis is contrary to the way science should be done.â He then went on to say âThus, there is no rational justification for using climate model forecasts to determine public policyâ.
Over time, Hansenâs pronouncements have become ever more dramatic, warning that the planet is reaching a global warming âtipping pointâ which will cause catastrophic floods, draughts and all manner of other climate crises unless human greenhouse gas emissions are radically reduced almost immediately. He was recently arrested during demonstrations in front of the White House against the Keystone pipeline, his third arrest for activist disruptions. Yet despite the ongoing embarrassment he brings to NASA and those who have built its remarkable space development legacy, Hansen continues to retain his government position with apparent impunity.
It is more than just unusual for a civil servant, particularly one featured as a media celebrity in connection with such irresponsible activities, to be tolerated by NASAâŠ or by any tax-supported government agency, for that matter. This shameful behavior dishonors our public trust, and should not be allowed to stand.
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