Are 49 Former NASA Astronauts, Scientists and Engineers Climate Change Deniers?

The blogosphere is buzzing about a letter sent to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden by 49 former NASA astronauts, scientists, and engineers complaining about the agency's promotion of "catastrophic forecasts" of man-made climate change. The full letter via The Financial Post is below:

 March 28, 2012

The Honorable Charles Bolden, Jr.

NASA Administrator

NASA Headquarters

Washington, D.C. 20546-0001

Dear Charlie,

We, the undersigned, respectfully request that NASA and the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) refrain from including unproven remarks in public releases and websites. We believe the claims by NASA and GISS, that man-made carbon dioxide is having a catastrophic impact on global climate change are not substantiated, especially when considering thousands of years of empirical data. With hundreds of well-known climate scientists and tens of thousands of other scientists publicly declaring their disbelief in the catastrophic forecasts, coming particularly from the GISS leadership, it is clear that the science is NOT settled.

The unbridled advocacy of CO2 being the major cause of climate change is unbecoming of NASA’s history of making an objective assessment of all available scientific data prior to making decisions or public statements.

As former NASA employees, we feel that NASA’s advocacy of an extreme position, prior to a thorough study of the possible overwhelming impact of natural climate drivers is inappropriate. We request that NASA refrain from including unproven and unsupported remarks in its future releases and websites on this subject. At risk is damage to the exemplary reputation of NASA, NASA’s current or former scientists and employees, and even the reputation of science itself.

For additional information regarding the science behind our concern, we recommend that you contact Harrison Schmitt or Walter Cunningham, or others they can recommend to you.

Thank you for considering this request.

It seems unlikely that Bolden will do anything to change NASA GISS' official position on the looming dangers of climate change.

Update: I posted this item at 5:40 pm and 15 minutes later received an email from NASA GISS researcher Gavin Schmidt. I asked him if he'd like me to post his email as update and he sent me the version below:

Neither GISS, nor NASA in general, ever take 'positions' on scientific matters. This is well explained by the Chief Scientist, Waleed Abdalati,

http://spaceref.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=36679

and is basically a restatement of the ex-Adminstrator's comments many years ago:

http://www.nasa.gov/about/highlights/griffin_science.html

What the letter writers are advocating for is for the NASA bureaucracy to limit other scientists' freedom of speech, and that is something that I am surprised that you would support.

Oddly, I don't think that reporting a newsworthy letter by the 49 signatories suggests that I support limiting anyone's freedom of speech.

On the other hand, I do happen to know of a current case in which a federal researcher whose freedom of speech is being limited (in the sense his superiors threaten to fire him) if he doesn't stop publishing work skeptical of various environmental shibboleths. Unfortunately, I am not a liberty to identify this researcher.

In any case, if readers are interested in the private "official position" of NASA GISS chief researcher, James Hansen, they may want to consider reading (as I did) his book, Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth about the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • ||

    We, the undersigned excommunicated...

    Fixed.

  • ||

    Clearly, they are heretics and deserve The Tree of Woe.

    CRUCIFY THEM!

  • jcalton||

    Gonna be hard to fire former employees.

  • ||

    Guess its a good thing he said excommunicated and not fired then.

  • ||

    Thanks for the backup.

  • TheZeitgeist||

    Isn't climate and earth etc. a Dept. of Interior thing? What's NOAA for with all their satellites?

    Outside of some satellites pointed elsewhere than Earth, what the heck is NASA doing at this point that NOAA doesn't which could be construed as worth any shit whatsoever?

  • Paul.||

    Aren't all federal agencies sort of becoming "free roaming agencies which do good"?

  • Gilbert Martin||

    Uh huh.

    Kind of like the Centers for Disease control putting out positions advocating gun control laws as a "public health" solution.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    NASA's Science Directorate has an Earth Sciences section. They would be the ones doing said research.

    Incidentally, that NASA satellite that reentered a few months ago was for climate study, if I remember corecctly.

  • Paul.||

    Incidentally, that NASA satellite that reentered a few months ago was for climate study, if I remember corecctly.

    Did it sense any warming during reentry?

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    As a matter of fact, yes!

  • ||

    The science is settled.

  • juris imprudent||

    Dept. of Interior thing

    You fool! NOAA is part of the Dept of Commerce - which proves that Global WarmingClimate Change is all part of...

    Interstate Commerce!!!

    BWHAHAHAhahahahahahaha

  • plu1959||

    Yes, but were they Republicans?

  • Mr Whipple||

    No, but they received grant money from the Kochs, I'm sure.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    This is ironic, considering the subject of the post. But I doubt it cares.

  • juris imprudent||

    A desperate attempt to create a meme.

  • rho||

    especially when considering thousands of years of empirical data

    That's kind of the problem. We don't have thousands of years of empirical data. We have thousands of years of historical, highly localized data; hundreds of years of empirical, localized data; and tens of years of less localized data.

    The thousands of years is backed out of proxies to line up with what we know, or think we know. This is data, but "empirical" gives it more weight than it should.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    All of which is why we should be skeptical of climate change claims.

  • rho||

    Skeptical is fine.

    Associating tree-rings and ice cores with temperatures is a good thing. Making that study into public policy is probably bad, but it seems that one serves the other.

    Pick your poison.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    Tree rings, ice cores, and the like are very useful sources of data, but should not be considered conclusive proof that at X time it was Y degrees Celsius. The only way to be *sure* that the temperature was what you think it was is to use a thermometer. Good luck sending one of those to the Ice Age.

    "Making that study into public policy is probably bad, but it seems that one serves the other."

    With the first clause, I agree entirely. I don't believe that science inherently serves public policy, but I think it is used as fodder for that currently.

  • alittlesense||

    We need a crash program to develop a time machine.....for the children!

  • The Derider||

    Present your argument in a peer-reviewed scientific journal and let the scientific process work.

    Writing letters to the editor isn't how science works, and it shouldn't be.

  • Brett L||

    Open letters to heads of public agencies requesting that they change their policies are traditional as church on Sunday. What they are asking for is: "that NASA and the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) refrain from including unproven remarks in public releases and websites."

    Not exactly the manipulation of science by outcry.

  • Paul.||

    Yeah, I don't have any problem with anyone complaining that a science agency is parroting quotes from grist.org on climate change.

  • Ben Kalafut||

    Because the accusation at the center of it is false, it is the manipulation of science by outcry. "Quit telling this story or we will lie to trash this agency's reputation."

  • ||

    Where'd you get that quote?

  • Bernieyeball||

    He made it up.

  • Bernieyeball||

    He fabricated it.

  • Bernieyeball||

    It is something he concocted.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    The editor is, by intention, picking works in favor of a certain conclusion, and marginalizing other conclusions, then writing the editor (or in this case, the publisher) to ask for more balanced results, then it is.

    Government scientific inquiry is a subtle contradiction, so I argue that only private groups should be going climate research. I would not be opposed to allowing individuals to deduct from their taxable income donations for scientific and technological research.

  • tarran||

    The scientific process is working. CAGW never had huge scientific support. That's why the small cadre of "scientists" that supported CAGW went to great lengths and made a great deal of noise about 'consensus'

    The big dichotomy is between the science and the institution's summary of the science, where institutions are behaving as if the evidence is pointing towards CAGW.

    And, it is in that area that letters to the editor are completely appropriate.

    Last but not least, science does not require getting published in peer review.

    Anybody can perform experiments or develop theories and publish papers about them.

    Peer review is an attempt to have a first pass to winnow out the obvious bull-shit.

    The process of science is the attempts to falsify theories by reproducible observations or experiments. Peer reviewed stuff is discredited and thrown away all the time - which is how the system is supposed to work.

    And, it's a not uncomon thing for good research to not make it through peer review, because some wrong but powerful person was blocking it.

    My dad's research into some aspects of superconducting materials took the death of one guy to start seeing the light of day, for example, and my understanding is that it's now being used in some industrial applications.

  • Bob Armstrong||

    "Peer review" is a relic of the paper age when preparing and publishing technical papers was quite expensive with markets measured in the thousands .

    Now the costs are near zero , and the exposure , global .

    Review happens right here among us Peers of the BlogSphere , and it's here that the bubble of arrogance of a self canonized bureaucracy gets burst . They act as if "climate science" was some discipline inscrutable to all but the initiate rather than just another branch of applied physics .

    And these 49 distinguished engineers , geologists , astronauts and scientists are damn well qualified to evaluate the ( lack of ) evidence for the absurdity that too much of the molecule upon which life evolved and is constructed will kill that life .

    The broadcast age is over and with it the excuse for a centralized elite to use force to compel the populace to comply with their greater wisdom and charity . This century is peer to peer .

  • Sevo||

    The Derider|4.11.12 @ 6:20PM|#
    "Writing letters to the editor isn't how science works, and it shouldn't be."

    You should really learn to read before you continue to make an ass of yourself.
    They are arguing that what is presented as 'fact' has not been proven. They are not trying to 'disprove' anything.
    Doofus.

  • ||

    Present your argument in a peer-reviewed scientific journal and let the scientific process work.

    They have done that....and People like Gavin as shown in the climategate emails stacked review board against those papers and attacked journals where they actaullyu got published then removed reference to them in the IPCC reports.

    Oh yeah and do not forget they hide the decline in their own research:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8BQpciw8suk

  • Ben Kalafut||

    Where's the smoking gun?

    Where's the manuscript that should have been accepted but was bounced from the major journals? Denialists have been making this claim for years, but the paper or papers in question have never surfaced. Not in the Arxiv, not in "easy" journals like PLOS One, and not on the web.

    Please do not tell conspiracy-theory fairy-tales such as this.

  • Sam Grove||

    Where's the smoking gun?

    That's a good question to put to the CAGW alarmists.

  • jcalton||

    Agree with TheDerider.

    Also, if you aren't a climate scientist (or something along those lines) --as none of these people are-- why do I care if you're signing a letter about climate change?

    If they were pointing out flawed data or methodology, then fine, anybody (more or less) can do that. So do that.

  • scareduck||

    ^^^ THIS ^^^

    Much as I detest the smug arrogance of the James Hansens and Michael Manns of the world, the reality is that the qualifications of the "undersigned" is a significant issue. Is the topic subject within their areas of expertise, or are they just blowing politically-minded smoke?

  • ||

    Science is NOT consensus.

  • Bernieyeball||

    Are 49 Former NASA Astronauts, Scientists and Engineers Climate Change Deniers?

    Loosing their religion? Please Jeesus I hope so!
    "...publicly declaring their disbelief in the catastrophic forecasts,.."

    That is to say they have critically examined
    the available evidence and and find no reason to expect the sky to fall any time soon.

  • Suki||

    Ron, you forgot to disclose that you once bought a tank of gasoline and that makes you a Big Oil man.

  • Mr Whipple||

    What the letter writers are advocating for is for the NASA bureaucracy to limit other scientists' freedom of speech, and that is something that I am surprised that you would support.

    ...refrain from including unproven remarks in public releases and websites.

    That is not an infringement on freedom of speech. Nobody has a right to publish on NASA's or GISS's website/press releases.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    OT: I love how I'm getting ads for the Jeep Liberty. Talk about bad advertising software.

    Anyone else sick of Michelle Obama's face?

  • Wendy's Drive Thru||

    We are.

  • ||

    5 minutes later received an email from NASA GISS researcher Gavin Schmidt.

    Gavin Schmidt is such an ass.

    He trolls Climate Audit and steals other people's work and claims it is his own.

    http://climateaudit.org/2009/0.....-revealed/

    Fuck him.

  • tarran||

    The really cute thing about Gavin is he's paid by taxpayers while shilling for clients of the Fenton Communications PR empire.

  • Knutsack||

    "Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth about the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity."

    This time it's REALLY our last chance. We REALLY mean it this time.

  • Ben Kalafut||

    Funny how Bailey always fails to comment on the merits of the denialists' position. Still a denialist at heart, I guess.

    The claim that model results are incompatible with observational reality is false--the core claim of the argument made by these engineers and administrators--is false. See the graph at http://www.realclimate.org/ind.....mparisons/ .

    It's so patently false that we can say that they are simply lying about the state of the science, lying about the work of others. Given that they are attempting to use their job titles and experience (however irrelevant) to dazzle the public into thinking they ought to be trusted, this (like most other denialist publicity stunts) is professional misconduct. They are embarrassments to their agency and to the extent that any of them are scientists they are embarrassments to the profession.

  • Ben Kalafut||

    To keep it to the letter and not the release, the claim that natural forcings have not been thoroughly studied is equally false. See references in the IPCC 4AR Working Group 1 report, or http://www.skepticalscience.co.....ediate.htm and http://www.skepticalscience.co.....vanced.htm and references therein.

  • Sam Grove||

    claim that natural forcings have not been thoroughly studied is equally false

    How is it possible to be certain that all possible natural forcings have been thoroughly studied?

    Tell us how they nailed down cloud cover variations.

  • cartoonasaurus||

    The "Team" tried to nail them down with a Mann-made hammer (hockey-stick shape), but the darn thing ricocheted off the vast and murky complexities of a chaotic system they don't understand and can't control... The resulting injuries to the scientific credibility of CAGW were of course completely ignored, standard scientific method of the "Team", but time has a way of eroding even the thickest pile of BS: I await the day people wake up and discover mankind can never control the weather of the world...

  • Brandon||

    Look at the top of this thread. The shrill "Heretics" accusations have already been covered. We get it, you're a true believer, and I'm sure Daddy Barack is very proud of your dedication. Now kindly fuck off, slaver.

  • Ben Kalafut||

    You really presume anyone who doesn't mince words about the denialists is a leftist? Go kill yourself. Down the river, not across the road, is the way to do it.

  • Sevo||

    Ben Kalafut|4.11.12 @ 9:34PM|#
    "You really presume anyone who doesn't mince words about the denialists is a leftist?"

    Naah. We presume brain-dead lefties are, well brain-dead lefties.

  • Brandon||

    Boy, you really have absolutely nothing, do you? Do you think you're doing something brave, spouting rote nonsense on a libertarian blog? "Doesn't mince words?" Seriously? I guess spouting lefty talking points word for word isn't "Mincing," but it does kinda lend credence to the assumption that you are a leftist. So does the veil of civility being casually tossed away at the first hint of disagreement. And when you start with ad hominems, it's pretty impressive to wriggle under that exceedingly low bar in only one more comment. So, again, fuck off, slaver.

  • Chupacabra||

    "Given that they are attempting to use their job titles and experience (however irrelevant) to dazzle the public into thinking they ought to be trusted, this (like most other denialist publicity stunts) is professional misconduct."

    Dear Pot,

    You're black.

    Warm regards,
    Kettle

  • Ben Kalafut||

    because the mainstream is also making false statements about the work of other scientists?

  • Coeus||

    The claim that model results are incompatible with observational reality is false

    Really? The co2 levels predicted on the models were lower than actual. When you use the "a" line, which is lower than what actually occured, the temperatures are well outside of the 95% confidence interval. It's only when you use the "c" line (the one which predicted we'd cease increasing CO2 emissions in 2000) that the models even get close, and it's still almost outside of the 95% confidence interval.

    So by saying the models are compatible with reality, do you mean that they're compatible if you change the only variable that the CAGW crew claim is the reason for the warming? Then what the fuck are they measuring?

  • DrakeLeona||

    my best friend's mom got paid $19757 the prior month. she is making an income on the internet and moved in a $466300 condo. All she did was get fortunate and put to work the directions exposed on this web site (Click on menu Home more information) http://goo.gl/8cvp9

  • ||

    Unfortunately, the exposed directions involved sucking the cocks of most of the 11th and 12th grade boys in exchange for lunch money. The $19757 barely covered bail.

  • ChuckHigley||

    Climate models have failed every prediction they have ever made, except, of course, for results that derive from fabricated data.

    So, criticizing someone for promoting lies and propaganda while working for the government is censorship. How stupid do they think we are?

  • دردشه عراقية||

    Thanks

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