Chairman Gordon Responds to NASA Administrator Griffin


NASA Chief Questions Urgency of Global Warming
NPR Morning Edition – May 31, 2007

It has been mentioned that NASA is not spending as much money as it could to study climate change — global warming — from space. Are you concerned about global warming?

I’m aware that global warming exists. I understand that the bulk of scientific evidence accumulated supports the claim that we’ve had about a one degree centigrade rise in temperature over the last century to within an accuracy of 20 percent. I’m also aware of recent findings that appear to have nailed down — pretty well nailed down the conclusion that much of that is manmade. Whether that is a longterm concern or not, I can’t say.

Do you have any doubt that this is a problem that mankind has to wrestle with?

I have no doubt that … a trend of global warming exists. I am not sure that it is fair to say that it is a problem we must wrestle with. To assume that it is a problem is to assume that the state of Earth’s climate today is the optimal climate, the best climate that we could have or ever have had and that we need to take steps to make sure that it doesn’t change. First of all, I don’t think it’s within the power of human beings to assure that the climate does not change, as millions of years of history have shown. And second of all, I guess I would ask which human beings — where and when — are to be accorded the privilege of deciding that this particular climate that we have right here today, right now is the best climate for all other human beings. I think that’s a rather arrogant position for people to take.

Is that thinking that informs you as you put together the budget? That something is happening, that it’s worth studying, but you’re not sure that you want to be battling it as an army might battle an enemy?

Nowhere in NASA’s authorization, which of course governs what we do, is there anything at all telling us that we should take actions to affect climate change in either one way or another. We study global climate change, that is in our authorization, we think we do it rather well. I’m proud of that, but NASA is not an agency chartered to, quote, battle climate change.

Science Commitee Chairman Bart Gordon responds:

“Setting aside NASA Administrator Griffin's personal views on the significance of global warming, I remain concerned that NASA is not doing as much as needs to be done on climate change data collection and research. Based on NASA's own five-year budget plan, the agency will be unable to start any of the new Earth observations initiatives recommended by the National Academies for the foreseeable future. That's not going to get us where we need to be in our understanding of climate change. NASA needs to do more.”

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