NASA Administrator Griffin “not sure” global warming is a problem or long-term concern

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In an interview to be aired tomorrow morning, May 31, on NPR Morning Edition, NASA Administrator Michael Griffin says: “I’m aware that global warming exists….Whether that is a long term concern or not, I can’t say….To assume that it is a problem is to assume that the state of Earth’s climate today is the optimal climate, the best climate that we could have or ever have had….I think that’s a rather arrogant position for people to take.” Now there’s a framing that’s worthy of Phil Cooney.

Here’s the press release put out May 30 by NPR:

National Public Radio
PRESS RELEASE
Wednesday, May 30, 2007

ON NPR NEWS MORNING EDITION TOMORROW, THURSDAY, MAY 31, 2007

TRANSCRIBED EXCERPT BELOW; AUDIO AVAILABLE THURSDAY MORNING AT http://WWW.NPR.ORG

May 30, 2007; Washington, DC – NASA Administrator Michael Griffin tells NPR News that while he has no doubt “a trend of global warming exists, I am not sure that it is fair to say that it is a problem we must wrestle with.”

In an interview with Steve Inskeep airing tomorrow on NPR News’ Morning Edition, Administrator Griffin says “I guess I would ask which human beings – where and when – are to be accorded the privilege of deciding that this particular climate that we have right here today, right now is the best climate for all other human beings. I think that’s a rather arrogant position for people to take.”

Transcribed excerpts of the interview are below. All excerpts must be credited to NPR News’ Morning Edition. The interview airs tomorrow morning, Thursday, May 31. Local station’s air time of the program is available at http://www.npr.org/stations. Audio of the interview will be available at http://www.npr.org. Television usage must include on-screen credit with NPR logo.

-NPR-

Contact: Leah Yoon 202.513.2306 / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
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STEVE INSKEEP: One thing that’s been mentioned that NASA is perhaps not spending as much money as it could on is studying climate change, global warming, from space. Are you concerned about global warming?

MICHAEL GRIFFIN: I am aware that global warming—I’m aware that global warming exists. I understand that the bulk of scientific evidence accumulated supports the claim that we’ve had about a one degree centigrade rise in temperature over the last century to within an accuracy of 20 percent. I’m also aware of recent findings that appear to have nailed down—pretty well nailed down the conclusion that much of that is manmade. Whether that is a long term concern or not, I can’t say.

MR. INSKEEP : And I just wanted to make sure that I’m clear. Do you have any doubt that this is a problem that mankind has to wrestle with?

MR. GRIFFIN: I have no doubt that global—that a trend of global warming exists. I am not sure that it is fair to say that it is a problem we must wrestle with. To assume that it is a problem is to assume that the state of earth’s climate today is the optimal climate, the best climate that we could have or ever have had and that we need to take steps to make sure that it doesn’t change. First of all, I don’t think it’s within the power of human beings to assure that the climate does not change, as millions of years of history have shown, and second of all, I guess I would ask which human beings – where and when – are to be accorded the privilege of deciding that this particular climate that we have right here today, right now is the best climate for all other human beings. I think that’s a rather arrogant position for people to take.

MR. INSKEEP : Is that thinking that informs you as you put together the budget? That something is happening, that it’s worth studying, but you’re not sure that you want to be battling it as an army might battle an enemy.

MR. GRIFFIN: Nowhere in NASA’s authorization, which of course governs what we do, is there anything at all telling us that we should take actions to affect climate change in either one way or another. We study global climate change, that is in our authorization, we think we do it rather well. I’m proud of that, but NASA is not an agency chartered to quote “battle climate change.”

(END)

Here’s NASA’s non-responsive “statement in response to inquiries”—

NASA Statement in Response to Inquiries Related to NPR Press Release

PRESS RELEASE
Date Released: Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Source: NASA

NASA Administrator Michael Griffin responded Wednesday to inquiries related to a National Public Radio press release. The radio network’s release contained excerpts from an interview that included comments on global climate change.

“NASA is the world’s preeminent organization in the study of Earth and the conditions that contribute to climate change and global warming. The agency is responsible for collecting data that is used by the science community and policy makers as part of an ongoing discussion regarding our planet’s evolving systems. It is NASA’s responsibility to collect, analyze and release information. It is not NASA’s mission to make policy regarding possible climate change mitigation strategies. As I stated in the NPR interview, we are proud of our role and I believe we do it well.”

This is disingenuous stonewalling. Griffin in the interview is not just avoiding statements about “mitigation strategies”—rather he is expressing a level of scientific uncertainty about global warming as a long-term problem that betrays the most basic conclusions of the IPCC 2007 report, which are agreed to by the leading climate scientists and signed off on by all the leading governments, including the U.S.

Griffin should either get up to speed on the state of climate science, including the work of Jim Hansen and other leading scientists at NASA and throughout the U.S. and international scientific community, and stop making such foolish statements—if, in fact, he truly is this ignorant, which we find hard to believe.  Or, alternatively, he should stop falling on his sword on behalf of White House politics—if he knows better but is refusing to tell a straight story, which we think is a more likely explanation.  In either case, the leading scientists agree that global warming is a real, serious problem, even as the Earth science and observations budget at NASA undergoes damaging cutbacks.  This is not the kind of leadership we need right now. Maybe when he’s replaced as NASA Administrator he’ll be offered a job at ExxonMobil.       

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