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Ex-NASA Employees Accuse Agency of 'Extreme Position' On Climate Change 616

Posted by timothy
from the hi-dr-potocki! dept.
grumpyman writes "A coalition of 49 ex-NASA employees, including seven Apollo astronauts, have accused the U.S. space agency of sullying its reputation by taking the 'extreme position' of concluding that carbon dioxide is a major cause of climate change. Is the claim in this letter opinion or fact?"
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Ex-NASA Employees Accuse Agency of 'Extreme Position' On Climate Change

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  • If It Is Fact ... (Score:5, Informative)

    by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohnNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday April 12, 2012 @01:51PM (#39661137) Journal

    Is the claim in this letter opinion or fact?

    Well, from the letter itself [plantsneedco2.org]:

    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.

    Sincerely,

    (Attached signatures)

    CC: Mr. John Grunsfeld, Associate Administrator for Science
    CC: Ass Mr. Chris Scolese, Director, Goddard Space Flight Center

    Ref: Letter to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, dated 3-26-12, regarding a request for NASA to refrain from making unsubstantiated claims that human produced CO2 is having a catastrophic impact on climate change.

    /s/ Jack Barneburg, Jack - JSC, Space Shuttle Structures, Engineering Directorate, 34 years
    /s/ Larry Bell - JSC, Mgr. Crew Systems Div., Engineering Directorate, 32 years
    /s/ Dr. Donald Bogard - JSC, Principal Investigator, Science Directorate, 41 years
    /s/ Jerry C. Bostick - JSC, Principal Investigator, Science Directorate, 23 years
    /s/ Dr. Phillip K. Chapman - JSC, Scientist - astronaut, 5 years
    /s/ Michael F. Collins, JSC, Chief, Flight Design and Dynamics Division, MOD, 41 years
    /s/ Dr. Kenneth Cox - JSC, Chief Flight Dynamics Div., Engr. Directorate, 40 years
    /s/ Walter Cunningham - JSC, Astronaut, Apollo 7, 8 years
    /s/ Dr. Donald M. Curry - JSC, Mgr. Shuttle Leading Edge, Thermal Protection Sys., Engr. Dir., 44 years
    /s/ Leroy Day - Hdq. Deputy Director, Space Shuttle Program, 19 years
    /s/ Dr. Henry P. Decell, Jr. - JSC, Chief, Theory & Analysis Office, 5 years
    /s/Charles F. Deiterich - JSC, Mgr., Flight Operations Integration, MOD, 30 years
    /s/ Dr. Harold Doiron - JSC, Chairman, Shuttle Pogo Prevention Panel, 16 years
    /s/ Charles Duke - JSC, Astronaut, Apollo 16, 10 years
    /s/ Anita Gale
    /s/ Grace Germany - JSC, Program Analyst, 35 years
    /s/ Ed Gibson - JSC, Astronaut Skylab 4, 14 years
    /s/ Richard Gordon - JSC, Astronaut, Gemini Xi

  • The reason (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 12, 2012 @01:56PM (#39661231)

    "The 49-person letter was organized by Leighton Steward, chairman of Plants Need CO2, a non-profit with ties to the coal industry."
    And thats all I needed to know before I stopped reading.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 12, 2012 @02:00PM (#39661343)

    They would but 49 members of the engeniering branch, with no climate experience, quit and now work for a non-profit with ties in to the coal industry. Oh they also wote the letter in question for the article.

  • Re:If It Is Fact ... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 12, 2012 @02:03PM (#39661409)

    > As many identify themselves as engineers and scientists, perhaps they could achieve a greater effect by publishing on arxiv and submitting to a peer reviewed journal the details of their claims?

    This is a list of 900+ Peer-Reviewed Papers Supporting Skeptic Arguments Against ACC/AGW Alarm

    http://www.populartechnology.net/2009/10/peer-reviewed-papers-supporting.html

    Which is a nice number since Climategate showed us how climate researchers use pressure tactics to keep these papers out of journals ;)

    > look at the lengthy list of people who have probably done little if any climate modeling or climate research.

    Obviously they are not climatologist, because if you are a climatologists and catastrophic anthropogenic global warming is debunked you are out of a job ;)

  • by oh_my_080980980 (773867) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @02:13PM (#39661657)
    Or even scientists, "Most are not even scientists in the sense that they have pursued scientific research during their careers, in any discipline."

    Ah lobbyists, is there anything they won't say...
  • Not convincing (Score:5, Informative)

    by HarrySquatter (1698416) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @02:15PM (#39661701)

    So what? You could find numerous doctors and scientists with ties to the tobacco industry trying to tell us that cigarettes don't cause lung cancer and how second-hand smoke is safe just a couple decades ago. There is nothing novel about a group of people with financial ties to industries peddling fossil fuels to be spreading FUD over climate research.

  • Re:If It Is Fact ... (Score:5, Informative)

    by i kan reed (749298) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @02:16PM (#39661715) Homepage Journal

    There's one expert there, which is impressive, far more than most pointless climate petitions. Thomas Wysmuller appears to be responsible for at least 10 or 20 presentations on the subject of how climate change is "false", but oddly enough, not one real factual, data driven, peer reviewed paper published in any journal or anything.

    How odd, you'd think such an expert who had such strong opinions and spent so much time on the subject would have, some, you know, research they produced. Nope. I see several distinct "alternate" theories with his name attached, some of which somehow manage to contradict each other in general terms.

    It's like he's throwing his name behind every single thing that is opposed to anthropogenic climate change without actually being informed. How bizarre.

  • by Baloroth (2370816) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @02:19PM (#39661793)

    They would but 49 members of the engeniering branch, with no climate experience, quit and now work for a non-profit with ties in to the coal industry. Oh they also wote the letter in question for the article.

    False, unless you have a different source from TFA. The letter was organized by someone from that non-profit. There is no indication whatsoever that all or the majority of the individuals who signed it are otherwise affiliated with that organization (Plants Need C02). Also, only most of them had engineering backgrounds, not all (one of them at least was a meteorologist). Link [plantsneedco2.org] to fill text and signatories.

    Spreading falsehoods is not the way to invalidate climate change deniers.

  • Yeah, it's great that this is somehow your big issue now. But would it pain you all too much to get together and maybe concentrate on making the U.S. a country capable of putting a man into space again?

    Space is only half of NASA's mission.

    The other half is "outreach to the Muslim world" [informationweek.com]. Priorities, man, priorities.

  • by Raul654 (453029) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @02:26PM (#39661933) Homepage

    "There are way worse greenhouse gasses that don't even get filtered most of the time. Cause actually carbon dioxide isn't all that strong of a greenhouse gas."

    This is an example of a little knowledge being a dangerous thing. What you said it true, but basically irrelevant. Carbon dioxide might not be the worst greenhouse gas, but (A) we release orders of magnitude more of it than any other green house gas. You could eliminate every methane emitter on earth and not make a dent in global warming because well over 90% of it comes from the CO2 we release. (B) Carbon dioxide-caused warming lasts far longer than any other green house gas. If we stopped emitting CO2 tomorrow, the warming we have caused will not dissipate for nearly a millenia.

  • JSC can suck it (Score:5, Informative)

    by Overzeetop (214511) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @02:32PM (#39662055) Journal

    So you've got a bunch of space shuttle guys from Johnson Space Center, which does pretty much zero climate science, asking the administrator to censor the group at Goddard Space Flight Center, which is co-located with NOAA and is the center for earth sensing and earth science about an earth-science related topic? Really?

    And yes, I happen to be a former NASA/Goddard principal engineer with a whole wall of mission paraphernalia on my office wall. So, hey, JSC can suck it.

  • by WindBourne (631190) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @02:33PM (#39662097) Journal
    The amount of money going into earth science, let alone AGW, is trivial compared to to human launch and deep space missions. So, basically, you have a none issues.
  • by oh_my_080980980 (773867) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @02:34PM (#39662117)
    Actually we do. That has been the point of all that research published recently. What is somewhat debatable is how quickly the Earth will warm if we do nothing and what actions do we need to do NOW to reverse the trend.

    Fossil fuel people are all for keeping the status quo. The rest of would like to start changing things now.
  • Re:If It Is Fact ... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Rei (128717) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @02:43PM (#39662313) Homepage

    97-98% of active, publishing climatologists accept the consensus position. [uic.edu] And that's what matters.

    What sort of idiot would claim that you only need a background in STEM to be a climate expert? Climate science is an incredibly complex field, with certain subsets (such as dendrochronology) being about as nuanced as they come. You could understand, for example, the summaries of the papers with only a STEM background, but you're certainly in no position to critique the research itself.

  • by 1u3hr (530656) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @02:45PM (#39662337)
    Hey guys, STFU and build a rocket

    Moron. NASA isn't about making fireworks. its about putting things into space. Like WEATHER SATELLITES that give us the data that this is all about. And the analysing it, which is wha the denialits are trying to bury under a pile of irrelevant shit. And, from TFA:

    The 49-person letter was organized by Leighton Steward, chairman of Plants Need CO2, a non-profit with ties to the coal industry. ...âoeWhat these men and women are not is climate scientists,â wrote Houston-based science writer Eric Berger in a Wednesday blog post. âoeMost are not even scientists in the sense that they have pursued scientific research during their careers, in any discipline.â

    Funny how the submitter omitted that. Astronauts aren't climate scientists. They're being cited as celebrities, not scientists.

  • by solidraven (1633185) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @02:46PM (#39662379)
    You might want to take a look at methane. You might want to compare the percentage in the total effect versus the concentration. It contributes about 10% of the greenhouse effect while it has a concentration that's roughly 200 times lower than carbon dioxide. And carbon dioxide only accounts for roughly 30% of the greenhouse effect. So even a minor increase in the concentration of methane has a far larger effect than that of carbon dioxide. And there is almost no effort to stop the emissions of methane compared to those of carbon dioxide.
  • by Remus Shepherd (32833) <remus@panix.com> on Thursday April 12, 2012 @03:07PM (#39662807) Homepage

    But atmospheric methane has a lifetime of about 10 years, because it reacts with water vapor. It's a short-term problem, but it doesn't create the long-term trends that are making climate scientists nervous. In contrast, the lifetime of atmospheric carbon dioxide is almost 100 years.

    It's the long-term trends that will kill people, not the short-term blips. Methane is a short-term greenhouse gas. It is a large fraction of the problem, but the majority of the problem comes from carbon dioxide.

  • by Solandri (704621) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @03:27PM (#39663243)

    Carbon dioxide might not be the worst greenhouse gas, but (A) we release orders of magnitude more of it than any other green house gas. You could eliminate every methane emitter on earth and not make a dent in global warming because well over 90% of it comes from the CO2 we release.

    Actually, water vapor [wikipedia.org] is the most common and (cumulatively) most potent greenhouse gas and is given off in roughly the same quantity as CO2 by most combustion and cellular respiration. CO2 is a distant second, not 90%. The difference is that water vapor has a fairly dynamic and self-regulating cycle where excess quantities of it fall out of the sky as rain. CO2 kinda just sits there until plants can extract it from the air.

  • by mosb1000 (710161) <mosb1000@mac.com> on Thursday April 12, 2012 @04:30PM (#39664543)

    Here is my gripe with that: all of modern civilization is built on fossil fuels. Unless those power sources are replaced with something else, any effort you make to limit their use will have a direct impact on human populations around the world. So when people argue for dramatic cuts in CO2 emissions, they are in effect arguing that we should take steps that we know will cause suffering on a large scale because it may prevent uncertain suffering in the future. I say it may prevent it because we don't know if efforts to reduce emissions would happen quickly enough to have an effect, or if it's already too late. And I say that the future suffering is uncertain because we don't know exactly what the effects will be.

    I can't see pulling the trigger on a "solution" that will definitely devastate the world's economy, when other solutions will be available in the near future. Solar panels are now less than $1 / watt, and they will be even cheaper in the next few years. Wind power is already incredibly cheap. Moreover, I can't see why we are so insistent on a solution that probably won't actually solve the problems of increased flooding and water shortages decreased snowpack. We already know that large scale civil engineering projects will solve those problems, and that we should be investing I'm them already to address cycles of poverty and famine that already exist in poorer countries.

  • Re:If It Is Fact ... (Score:5, Informative)

    by jeff4747 (256583) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @04:54PM (#39664967)

    Exxon Mobil made $9.25 billion in profit in Q4 2011.

    Solyndra received a $535 million loan guarantee. Not cash, a guarantee that let them borrow at a lower interest rate that we now have to pay back.

    In one quarter, Exxon Mobil made 17 times more money than Solyndra's loan guarantee.

    In all of 2011, Exxon Mobil made $37.88 billion in profit. That's about 71 times Solyndra's loan guarantee.

    You are arguing that $535 million is more than $37,880 million.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 12, 2012 @06:08PM (#39666221)

    -Lets start with extending the bush tax cuts.

    In the middle of a major recession and facing stiff Republician opposition to ending the tax cuts, Obama COMPROMISED

    "There are things in here that I don't like," Obama said. But he said refusing to compromise would create a stalemate, which he called "a chilling prospect for the American people."

    -Extending the patriot act

    Only three provisions of the Patriot Act were extended, and then only for 4 more years. The rest of the Patriot Act is now expired.

    Again, a compromise with Republicans.

    prosecuting whistle blowers

    Are you referring to Bradley Manning? Who knowingly and intentionally violated oaths he swore (and signed) to protect classified information? What do you expect? A pat on the back and a candybar? US Military personnel are held to different standard than regular US citizens: the UCMJ.

    signing the NDAA

    Other than cost ($660 billion), what part do you object to? Indefinite detention? Did you know it specifically excludes US Citizens from being subject to that?

    Signing HR 347 - yes, it had a veto proof majority but he should have, on principle, forced them to vote it in to overcome his veto. Instead he just went along and signed it.

    Did you even read it? It makes NO NEW CRIMES and is entirely geared toward the Secret Service. Don't take my word though, the ACLU: "It's important to note — contrary to some reports — that H.R. 347 doesn't create any new crimes, or directly apply to the Occupy protests. The bill slightly rewrites a short trespass law, originally passed in 1971 and amended a couple of times since, that covers areas subject to heightened Secret Service security measures."

    the most recent housing relief - which has done nothing to fix the problem

    It's a small step. Fixing the problem. Ha. It will take years, perhaps tens of years to fix the housing problems.

    not prosecuting the banks for the current issues with housing - yes he has the power to do this. The DOJ is part of the executive branch

    Under what laws and with what proof. Your hunch? Your gut feeling that those evil bankers stole something? Prosecution is not based on such things. Find some evidence. Did they get away with robbery? Hell yes. Was it illegal under current laws? I'm not sure.

    Fast and Furious - why have no heads rolled for this?

    What part did you not agree with? The DOJ selling a few hundred weapons to mexican cartels in an attempt to monitor where the weapons went and help catch cartel members? Did it work? No. Was it worth a shot. Yes.

    Approving the assassination of US citizens without due process - maybe the dude deserved it but that's not how this country is supposed to work.

    This is a part where I agree with you. We should not assassinate US citizens. However, the cleric that was assassinated in yemen has not lived or visited the US in many years. How long can you stay outside a country and still claim citizenship?

    healthcare law that does nothing to address the cost of healthcare- just shifts the cost burden to other places. How about figuring out why its so expensive and doing something about that?

    Yeah, because the only progress we should every make is all or nothing. And this does address some of the cost issues by shifting the burden. Hospitals will no longer have to overcharge you and your insurance so that they can cover the costs of treating the uninsured.

    healthcare law that is touted as preventing people from being denied insurance for pre-existing conditions - but what

  • Re:If It Is Fact ... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Dr. Spork (142693) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @06:12PM (#39666277)

    You're also forgetting Exxon Mobil made $19 billion in profits in 2009 - that's profits, not revenue. But not only did it DODGE ALL TAXES, it actually received a $156 million rebate from the IRS, according to its SEC filings. (source [senate.gov])

    So please, if you want to rage about Solyndra and you don't first rage about this, it will be obvious to all that you're full of shit.

    Solyndra was a government investment that didn't pan out. Given the number of such investements that our government makes, it's kind of impressive that Solyndra is the only one to really go wrong. For example, the government made money on its loan guarantees to carmakes, while also keeping them from drowning and firing everyone.

  • by timeOday (582209) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @06:14PM (#39666323)
    Perhaps more to the point, the Obama administration immediately corrected Bolden and a NASA spokesman confirmed that Bolden had misspoke:

    "NASA's core mission remains one of space exploration, science and aeronautics," Michael Cabbage told SPACE.com. "Administrator Bolden regrets that a statement he made during a recent interview mischaracterized that core mission."

    Anybody who still recites this incident as anything more than a gaffe induced by peer pressure, which was immediately retracted, is just trolling.

  • by Moryath (553296) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @08:10PM (#39667647)

    I'm sorry you failed logic.

    Your position holds only if A and B are both provable conditions.

    The definition of a square and rectangle are sound.

    Your position does NOT hold when you are considering a point where A is a provable position and B is a course of action or other consequence following.

    "If X is a square, then X is a rectangle" requires the definition of a square to be "also a rectangle."

    In the case of "stating the contrapositive", Republicans are taking their desired policy position ("we should not do anything about climate change") and using it as PROOF of their claim that climate change is unrelated to human activity. The problem is that the A/Not-A relationship (e.g. Climate change is/is-not related to human activity) is provable and scientifically investigable and all available reputable science points to A: climate change is related to human activity. The Republicans' B is a mere policy position, which cannot be proven for it rests upon no fact and, in fact, the "fact" that they claim it is related to (that climate change is unrelated to human activity) is completely false according to all available reputable research.

    "Stating the contrapositive" sometimes and ONLY sometimes works in math when dealing in defined quantities; it fails miserably in discussing public policy, where it quickly descends into the logical fallacy of affirming the consequent [wikipedia.org] aka Converse Error.

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