Scientists Speak Up About Bush Muzzling

Ken AshfordEnvironment & Global Warming & Energy1 Comment

I don’t watch 60 Minutes anymore, but last night it ran a segment featuring James Hansen, a government scientist fed up with how the Bush Administration censors and edits the news about global warming.  Think Progress has an excerpt of the show:

HANSEN: In my more than three decades in the government, I’ve never witnessed such restrictions on the ability of scientists to communicate with the public.

PELLEY: Restrictions like this email that Hansen’s Institute received from NASA in 2004: “…there’s a new review process… The White House [is] now reviewing all climate related press releases.” Why the scrutiny of Hansen’s work? Well, his Goddard Institute for Space Studies is the source of respected, but sobering research on warming. It recently announced 2005 was the warmest year on record. Hansen started at NASA more than 30 years ago, and spent nearly all of that time studying the earth. How important is his work? We asked someone at the top – Ralph Cicerone, president of the nation’s leading institute of science, the National Academy of Sciences.

CICERONE: I can’t think of anybody who I would say is better than Hansen. He might argue that there’s two or three others as good, but nobody better

PELLEY: And Cicerone, who’s an atmospheric chemist, said the same thing that every leading scientist told us.

CICERONE: Climate change is really happening.

PELLEY: So what is causing the changes?

CICERONE: Well, the greenhouse gases. Carbon dioxide and methane and chloro fluoro carbons and a couple of others – which are all, the increases in their concentrations in the air are due to human activities. It’s that simple.

PELLEY: But if it is that simple, why do climate science reports look like this after they’ve been edited at the White House? With science labeled “not sufficiently reliable.” It’s a tone of scientific uncertainty that the president set in his first months in office after he pulled out of a global treaty to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

BUSH: We do not how much our climate could or will change in the future. We do not know how fast change will occur, or even how some of our actions could impact it.

PELLEY: That ambiguity annoyed Hansen, so he went public a year and half ago saying this about the Bush administration in a talk at the University of Iowa.

HANSEN: I find a willingness to listen only to those portions of scientific results that fit predetermined, inflexible positions. This, I believe, is a recipe for environmental disasters.

PELLEY: Ever since he said that, NASA’s been keeping an eye on Hansen. NASA let us sit down with him, but only with a NASA representative taping the interview. Other interviews have been denied.

HANSEN: And I object to the fact that I’m not able to freely communicate via the media. National Public Radio wanted to interview me, and they were told they would need to instead interview someone at NASA headquarters. And the comment was made that they didn’t want Jim Hansen going on the most liberal media in the nation. So, I don’t think that kind of decision should be made on that kind of basis. I think we should be able to communicate the science.