Saturday, February 04, 2006

NASA's Hansen Claims Government Wants to Keep Him Mum on Climate Change

NASA's Hansen Claims Government Wants to Keep Him Mum on Climate Change

The following is a complicated tale that takes place and is told at the intersection of science, public policy and the media: Last month, NASA's top climate scientist, James Hansen, director of the agency's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, issued an entreaty for the United States to sharply reduce emissions of greenhouse gases that ultimately warm the world. Technologies exist to make a significant dent, Hansen told his audience at the American Geophysical Union meeting, so the federal government needs to adopt them.

Shortly afterward, Hansen claims, word came down from on high that NASA public information principals would review all of his lectures, papers and postings to the Goddard Web site and would vet all interview requests from journalists. Hansen took his story to Andrew Revkin, who writes about climate and the environment for the New York Times. The Times framed the story on its toniest lot: Sunday, page A1, above the fold. (And the story shall live on, it appears: It already ranks as the Times' most e-mailed story over the past week, even kicking A Million Little Pieces author James Frey to the curb.) In the piece, Hansen charged that NASA public affairs staffers were acting as censorious handlers on orders from a White House that does not want to reduce carbon emissions.

"Communicating with the public seems to be essential" where climate change is concerned, Hansen told the Times, "because public concern is probably the only thing capable of overcoming the special interests that have obfuscated the topic."


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