No individual could do other than admire the feats of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), established by the US Government in 1958. From the Pioneer satellite launches to the moon landings and current Mars Rover explorations, NASA has achieved so much and earned the admiration of the public and scientists worldwide.
It is such a pity that, when it comes to information about the climate, NASA has allowed science and empirical evidence to take a back seat whilst a few of its activist scientists have been allowed to make unfounded, alarmist statements about climate change. Those statements have been soundly criticized by many scientists from around the world and other NASA personnel.
Back in 2010, NASA had on its website an excellent article under the heading: “What are the primary forcings of the Earth system?” which correctly pointed out that the sun is the main driver of climate, with clouds and many other factors playing contributing roles. Carbon dioxide was correctly seen to be a bit player in the climate system, but that information was about to be changed by NASA’s activist scientists.
The principal purveyor of questionable climate science at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space (not climate) Studies (GISS) was astronomer Dr. James Hansen (left), who retired in 2013. Hansen used his position at NASA to promote without any empirical evidence the notion that anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions are leading to catastrophic global warming. Hansen also revealed his activist position when he made this emotive comment:
The trains carrying coal to power plants are death trains. Coal-fired power plants are factories of death. When I testified against the proposed Kingsnorth power plant, I estimated that in its lifetime it would be responsible for the extermination of about 400 species.
Unfortunately GISS is that section of NASA that issues the global climate data so eagerly reported by the media. Curiously, NASA, a space agency, didn’t point to uncontaminated satellite data which show relatively unchanged tropospheric temperatures. Rather, it pointed to questionable temperature data from surface weather stations. Former GISS director Hansen always claimed his unit’s data analysis and quality control are rigorous, saying:
Our analysis programs that ingest GHCN [Global Historical Climate Network] data include data quality checks that were developed for our earlier analysis of MCDW [Monthly Climatic Data for the World] data.
Steven Goddard (and others) beg to differ with Hansen, saying (emphasis added):
We looked at how US temperature data sets have been adjusted — with more recent versions of historical data sets showing a steeper rise in temperature than they used to.
We observe that the data has been consistently adjusted towards a bias of greater warming. The years prior to the 1970s have again been adjusted to lower temperatures, and recent years have been adjusted towards higher temperatures.
Activist scientists at work at NASA? Surely not, I hear you say — but bear in mind that Hansen has openly expressed his right to break the law in the cause of climate activism, so why violate the rules and ethics of science by gingering up the numbers? Such playing fast and loose with the data led investigative journalist Donna Laframboise to describe Hansen as:
… a full-blown activist. Not the peaceful, law-abiding kind, but the sort who feels the need to repeatedly break the law and get himself arrested.
In 1986 Hansen was hopelessly wrong when he predicted:
Within 15 years global temperatures will rise to a level which hasn’t existed on earth for 100,000 years.
In 1988, Hansen made headlines when he testified before then-Senator Al Gore’s Science, Technology and Space committee. Collaborating with Hansen, Senator Timothy Wirth gloatingly admitted the deception:
We called the Weather Bureau and found out what was historically the hottest day of the summer… so we scheduled the hearing that day, and bingo, it was the hottest day on record in Washington, or close to it … we went in the night before and opened all the windows so that the air conditioning wasn’t working inside the room.
When questioned about this deliberate deception in 1993, Wirth, who served as the lead US negotiator for the Kyoto climate talks, admitted to his involvement saying:
We’ve got to ride the global warming issue. Even if the theory of global warming is wrong, we will be doing the right thing …
Dr. Martin Hoerling, of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), referred to Hansen’s alarmism as “patently false” and “policy more than it is science”, with Hansen deliberately ignoring the many natural forces that influence climate change.
Physicist Dr. Lubos Motl pointed out:
Hansen is not a scientist. He is a fanatically obsessed activist who lost his ability to look at the world objectively decades ago.
Hansen not only stage-managed climate drama for the media, he also exhibited a refined skill for the “gentle massaging” of temperature data with the ability to turn a period of cooling into a warming trend. Here is one example which saw the recorded temperatures in Wellington, New Zealand, from 1880 to 1970 “adjusted” to bring about Hansen’s desired result. The records showed
… a clear cooling trend until Hansen removed the pre-1940 temperatures and lowered the 1940-1980 temperatures to turn a cooling in Wellington to a steep warming trend.
So how does uncontaminated satellite temperature data compare to NASA’s ground-based temperature version? Apparently there is little comparison, as discussed here: and made obvious by the chart below:
Hansen was well known for his many foolish predictions so eagerly lapped up by by an even more foolish media. We were provided with a typical example of Hansen hyperbole when, in 1988, journalist Bob Reiss interviewed Hansen for the Washington Post’s Outside magazine. Reiss recalled:
I went over to the window with him and looked out on Broadway in New York City and said, If what you’re saying about the greenhouse effect is true, is anything going to look different down there in 20 years?
Reiss noted that Hansen looked for a while then said:
Well, there will be more traffic. The West Side Highway [which runs along the Hudson River] will be under water. And there will be tape across the windows across the street because of high winds. And the same birds won’t be there. The trees in the median strip will change.
There will be more police cars. Why? Well, you know what happens to crime when the heat goes up.
New York can get droughts, the droughts can get more severe and you’ll have signs in restaurants saying “Water by request only.
Hansen in 2008 called for the chief executives of oil, gas and coal companies to be put on trial for “crimes against humanity and nature”, accusing them of spreading doubt about global warming in the same way that tobacco companies blurred the links between smoking and cancer.
In 2009 Hansen released his book, Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity.
Hansen provided no empirical evidence for his contention that the burning of fuels, such as coal, petroleum and natural gas generates huge quantities of carbon dioxide causing the Earth to heat dramatically. What his book offers is the unfounded assertion that there will be no world left for our grandchildren to enjoy.
In 2009, Hansen forwarded a letter to Barack and Michelle Obama urging the newly elected president to introduce a tax on carbon emissions that would “decarbonize” the economy while redistributing wealth to those who earn less. Here we see activist Hansen’s other goal.
I worked as the head of the NASA Weather and Climate Program which included up to 300 scientists in NASA, in academia, and in the private sector… Jim Hansen had… some very powerful political friends. Al Gore was a Senator… and subsequently became vice-president. Now there isn’t too much a NASA person can do when he’s up against that kind of a challenge … In the early ’90’s I realized the whole thing was a great big fraud … Recent developments have convinced me that it is my duty to speak out, and to help educate the public about what we’re going to get into if we don’t stop this nonsense.
It is self-evident that Hansen used his position at NASA as leverage to gain the attention of a larger audience. NOAA’s Dr. Martin Hoerling commented that Hansen’s science is “patently false” and “policy more than it is science.” In 2010 NASA’s Dr. Reto Ruedy conceded the National Climatic Data Center’s procedure of only using the best stations is more accurate than NASA’s temperature readings. He admitted that some of NASA’s procedures led to less accurate readings – even before any adjustments were made.
Blake Snow reported that:
E-mail messages obtained by a Freedom of Information Act request reveal that NASA concluded that its own climate findings were inferior to those maintained by the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU) — the scandalized source of the leaked Climate-gate e-mails.
In 2012 No Tricks Zones‘ Pierre Gosselin described, with evidence, how Hansen continued to “massage” US temperature data to (again) produce warming where there was none. This is the original temperature trend:
Here is the US temperature trend after Hansen had worked on it:
Gosselin demonstrated how Hansen falsified climate data to influence taxpayers and policymakers not just once but on numerous occasions. He pointed out that attempts to hide the subterfuge failed:
Until about ten years ago, NASA showed the US on an 80-year-long cooling trend, with the three hottest years being in the 1920s and 1930s. They have deleted the raw data from their website and blocked archiving, but John Daly captured it.
Dr. Friedrich Karl Ewert examined NASA’s global temperature data, especially the datasets from GISS. His findings pointed to some NASA personnel having
… intentionally and systematically rigged the official government record of global temperatures to show recent global warming where none would exist without the upwards revisions.
Ewert randomly selected 120 stations from across the world and compared the 2010 archived data to the 2012 data and found that they had been “modified” to produce the impression of warming.
Journalist Gunter Ederer reported:
In view of the magnitude of the scandal, one would think that there would be an investigation.
He does not believe this will be the case because global warming has turned into a trillion-dollar industry and that too much money is now at stake with many beneficiaries involved.
Like so many climate alarmist hypocrites, Hansen is only too happy to denounce emitters of carbon dioxide whilst he flies to wherever he feels the need to speak or demonstrate. For instance, he flew to the UK to support Greenpeace activists who invaded the UK’s Kingsnorth power plant in Kent, causing thousands of dollars worth of damage.
It is clear that Hansen advocates sabotage and other illegal actions in order to cripple industry. This is evidenced by his support for destruction and lawlessness in the book: “Times Up: An Uncivilized Solution to a Global Crisis” by activist Keith Farnish. Hansen says of Farnish’s book: “Keith Farnish has it right: time has practically run out, and the ‘system’ is the problem.” In Chapter 10 of Hansen’s book, “Storms of My Grandchildren” , he says:
If we burn all reserves of oil, gas, and coal, there is a substantial chance we will initiate the runaway greenhouse. If we also burn the tar sands and tar shale, I believe the Venus syndrome is a dead certainty.
Important factors that strongly influence global climate, such as the sun, have always been ignored or downplayed by GISS personnel. In 2013, NASA’s Dr. Tony Phillips noted the solar impact on temperatures
There is, however, a dawning realization among researchers that even these apparently tiny variations can have a significant effect on terrestrial climate.
More than 100 peer-reviewed, published papers show that the sun is a more important driver of global climate than atmospheric carbon dioxide:
As far back as 1937, A.E. Douglass showed a very high correlation between the 22-year sunspot cycle and droughts on the Great Plains of North America. As expected, such evidence was ignored by the IPCC and NASA’s Hansen and his fellow careerist in the false alarm business, Dr. Gavin Schmidt.
As Dr. Tim Ball observed:
Of course, Douglass’ work is anathema to the IPCC and its adherents at NASA GISS because it looks at variables of climate change that don’t fit their politically distorted human CO2 obsession. A quote from Douglas illustrates their problem.
Dr. Martin Hertzberg explains the difference between a scientist and fear-mongering propagandist:
There is a simple way to tell the difference between a scientist and a propagandist. If a scientist has a theory, he searches diligently for data that might actually contradict his theory so that he can modify or refine it.
If a propagandist has a theory, he carefully selects only the data that might agree with his theory and dutifully ignores the data that disagrees with it.
In the case of James Hansen, he doesn’t even bother with the data. All he has to support his theory are half-baked computer models that are totally out of touch with reality, and have already been proven to be wrong. By any reasonable definition, Hansen’s scenarios and those he helped Gore and the IPCC to concoct are the work of fear-mongering propagandists.
So how did politics and climate alarmism infiltrate and influence the NASA environment?
We’ll address the institutional corruption eating at the heart of NASA’s culture and credibility in the upcoming PART II of this series.
Dr. John Happs has an academic background in the geosciences with special interests in climate, and paleoclimate. He has been a science educator at several universities in Australia and overseas and was President of the Western Australian Skeptics for 25 years