Climate dissent launches at NASA

Respected astronaut, Walt Cunningham said, 'NASA should be at the forefront in the collection of scientific evidence and debunking the current hysteria over anthropogenic global warming.' So why isn't it?

Houston, no warming up here...
Peter C. Glover
On 12 April 2012 09:05

That’s the thing about flying to the moon. It gives you an untrammelled perspective and respect for the real world, facts and hard data. In a blast worthy of a rocket launch, 49 former NASA scientists, astronauts and engineers have finally had enough of NASA’s climate advocacy role. Going public with a letter to Chief NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, the group pull no punches in asserting the lack of empirical evidence in support of the agency’s “extreme position” as a bastion of climate change alarmism.

The letter’s co-signatories “respectfully request” that both NASA and its Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) – the latter run by the high priest of climate alarmism James Hansen – refrain from making “unproven remarks in public releases and websites”.

Claims that man-made CO2 is having a catastrophic impact on global climate change are “not substantiated, especially when considering thousands of years of empirical data.” And, alluding indirectly to the high-profile headline grabbing alarmism of James Hansen and his GISS team, the letter emphatically states “the science is NOT settled”.

The eminent group of co-signatories, including respected astronaut Walter Cunningham, flight designer Michael Collins and chief flights dynamics division engineer for 40 years, Dr Kenneth Cox, and a host of senior former eminent NASA ‘glitterati’, have clearly lost patience. They plainly want to bring NASA’s end-is-nigh speculative science back down to earth. The letter cites the “unbridled advocacy of CO2” as the major cause of climate change as nothing less than “unbecoming to NASA’s history of making an objective assessment of all available scientific data”.

The signatories call for an end to “unproven and unsupported remarks” sanctioned by NASA and GISS, “prior to a thorough study of the possible overwhelming impact of natural climate drivers is inappropriate”.  The letter amounts to a stark and very public rebuke to both NASA and the GISS headed by its alarmist-in-chief, James Hansen.

Why NASA has consistently failed to rein in Hansen in the light of his litany of scientific errors and predictions speaks volumes for a growing lack of scientific integrity at NASA in recent years.

In respect of Hansen, it is a case I was making back in 2008 in Dissing Hansen’.  Then I focused on the problems over GISS’s data fiddling, Hansen’s unfounded claims and other bizarre statements and activities. But I also noted two former NASA seniors who were even then battling to save NASA’s reputation from the public alarmist hysteria being spread by Hansen’s NASA GISS team. They were Walter Cunningham and, Apollo 17 moonwalker, Harrison ‘Jack’ Schmitt – both among the current letter’s 49-strong signatories.  

In a fine article in Launch magazine, entitled ‘Science, Ignorance is Bliss’ and published in mid-2008, Cunningham delivered a blistering denunciation of Hansen for fostering the “current hysteria” and listing a raft of Hansen science data “blunders”. In November 2007, ‘Jack’ Schmitt had gone further, abruptly resigning as chair of the NASA Advisory Council and as a member of the Planetary Society specifically over NASA’s and the Society’s stance in promoting the “global climate scare” in the absence of empirical evidence.

As I said back in 2008, “My guess is that Walt Cunningham and Jack Schmitt are not on Hansen’s Christmas card list”. Seems we can now add at least 47 other eminent NASA names that won’t make it in 2012 too.   

This new letter now reflects the level of dissent that must run through NASA’s ‘finest’, as it already does in the writings of numerous scientists concerned over NASA’s climate advocacy role. Over the past decade Hansen has, in NASA’s name, variously been shown to have conducted “tremendous data tampering” while assuming a growing persona as the “new Paul Ehrlich”. Hansen even claimed that “climate change is a moral issue on a par with slavery”.

During that time, NASA astronaut Buzz Aldrin formally rejected NASA’s global warming fears, stating: “The climate has been changing for billions of years”. Hansen’s own former supervisor, Dr John Theon, also went on record to complain that Hansen had “embarrassed NASA” and yet “was never muzzled”. Just for good measure, Hansen famously wrote on NASA letterhead paper to Queen Elizabeth and to the then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, in a bid to derail a UK Government decision to build a new coal-fired power plant. Not surprising since Hansen’s crusading zeal includes the belief that coal is “the enemy of the human race”.

Taken together, Hansen’s growing cult status with hard-lobbying activist green groups, including Greenpeace, appears to have paralyzed the NASA hierarchy into inaction, when anyone else would almost certainly have been relieved of their post. 

While Al Gore regards NASA’s Hansen as an “objective scientist”, Walt Cunningham’s assessment back in 2008 was more ‘empirical’: “NASA should be at the forefront in the collection of scientific evidence and debunking the current hysteria over human-caused, or anthropogenic global warming.” Instead he is forced to lament NASA’s declining scientific gravitas.

“Unfortunately”, he writes about NASA, “it is becoming just another agency caught up in the politics of global warming, or worse, politicized science. Advocacy is replacing objective evaluation data, while scientific data is being ignored in favour of emotions and politics.” And Cunningham drove home his point with typically ‘scientific’ force: “Warming in the upper atmosphere should occur before any surface warming effect, but NASA’s own data show that has not been happening.”

NASA’s James Hansen has endorsed a book wanting to “rid the world of Industrial Civilization”. But wouldn’t that mean ridding it of rocket-launching, space-cluttering, fuel-spewing, aeronautic agencies, too? Worth asking him at his next job appraisal, no?

Peter C Glover is International Associate Editor, Energy Tribune and co-author, Power Politics: The Inside Track on Energy or go to 

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