STEWARD: Weighty words from space pioneers

NASA heroes advise climate-change alarmists to stick to science

By H. Leighton Steward

Friday, May 4, 2012

  • Illustration by John Camejo for The Washington TimesEnlarge Photo

    Illustration by John Camejo for The Washington Times

Astronauts have had a unique perspective of Earth, home to us all. Having viewed it as a whole from above, they realize the finite nature of our planet and have had to weigh what humans may be doing to it through industrialization. The upshot is they’ve become supersensitive to published information relative to man’s potential influence on the planet but concerned over the direction NASA has taken on climate-change science.

Earlier this month, a group of 49 former NASA astronauts and the scientists who put them in space and on the moon raised a red flag over NASA’s questionable embrace of climate-change alarmism. In a joint letter to NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden, those American heroes admonished the agency for advocating a high degree of certainty that man-made CO2 is a major cause of climate change while neglecting empirical evidence that calls the theory into question.

The group, which includes Apollo astronauts Walt Cunningham and Harrison Schmitt, lays out the astronauts’ concern that “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.” They fear NASA’s unproven and unsupported advocacy risks the exemplary reputation of NASA and the reputation of science.

NASA was quick to deny it publicly advocates for any particular scientific theory the same week that NASA climate-change guru James E. Hansen publicly advocated for a worldwide carbon tax while claiming climate change was the moral equivalent to slavery and that the science is crystal-clear. Unfortunately no longer able to put man in space, NASA does produce plenty of irony to go with its climate alarmism.

The alarmist camp belittles the signatories of the letter with ad hominem attacks, insinuating that they cannot possibly understand climate science. So who are these former NASA folks whom climate alarmists are so quick to dismiss arrogantly? Collectively, their design, launch and guidance teams sent our brave astronauts into space and onto the moon, a science and engineering achievement of epic and everlasting proportions in the history of man.

Individually, they are physicists, geochemists, mathematicians, atmospheric physicists, engineers, geologists and meteorologists. None of them has taken a dime from big oil or anyone else to sign the letter and none of those who will continue to study climate change as an interdisciplinary team will receive any payment in the future.

As hard scientists, many of them with doctorates, they are eminently qualified to evaluate the data, scientific processes and assumptions used in the computer models employed by climate alarmists to show runaway global warming caused by human activity. They may be old and gray, but their minds are sharp. In the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, they answered the nation’s calls with monumental achievements. They see another opportunity to make a positive impact, and they recognize what’s at stake for our environment, economy, nation and world.

Their letter to NASA is not the end of this effort, but the beginning. This newly assembled team understands how poor policy decisions can arise based upon flawed computer models that don’t come with warning labels detailing their inadequacies. They also know that the peer-review process in climate science has become insular and corrupted. This team will undertake a transparent and data-driven review of the prevailing climate research and invite advocates and detractors of man-made climate-change theories to present their findings in a balanced and open setting.

In another stroke of irony, NASA claimed these former NASA folks were attempting to silence debate on climate change. Yet silence of any dissenting opinion is the status quo. When famed environmentalist James Lovelock recently admitted the mistake he and others, such as Al Gore, had made in championing climate alarmism, he noted that a university or government scientist might fear an admission of a mistake would lead to the loss of funding.

Let’s hope these heroes already have made it a little safer for scientists to openly question climate dogma without fear of reprisals. The old motto at NASA during the Apollo days was, “In God we trust. All others bring data!” Such an approach is refreshing and sorely needed in climate science.

H. Leighton Steward is a geologist and retired energy-industry executive. He is chairman of Plants Need CO2.


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