Tags: global | warming

NASA Chief: Global Warming Treated Like a Religion

Monday, 17 Mar 2008 08:03 AM

By Phil Brennan

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The theory of human-caused global warming is being treated as religious dogma, NASA's administrator said.

In an interview with SciGuy blogger Eric Berger, NASA Administrator Michael Griffin who last May questioned whether addressing the alleged global warming problem required all that much urgency, warned that dissent from the global warming theory is almost treated as heresy.

When asked by Berger if he was surprised by the widespread, heated response to his comments, Griffen said he was.

"I thought I was talking about technical topic, which I find actually very interesting from a technical point of view," he told Berger."I didn't realize it had approached the status where you can't express any sort of a contrary opinion or a comment without it being treated almost as a religious issue. So that's one mistake.

"The second one was, of course, that it actually doesn't have anything to do with what we do at NASA. By making comments along those lines all I really did is embroil my agency in a controversy in fight that we don't have a dog."

Asked if he had talked to NASA's top climate scientist James Hansen, an outspoken global warming advocate, Griffen said he hadn't, adding that "Jim has never seen fit to contact me. Jim's done some great work. I have no criticism of it. You could make an argument that a critical mass of climate modeling, of raising climate modeling to become a centerpiece of the earth Science program, is due to Jim's efforts over the last 30 years. Without that you don't know how to interpret the data which we bring back," Berger explained.

"What we know is that the earth's temperature has increased by 0.8 degrees Centigrade, plus or minus, in 100 years. And we have pretty good confidence that a good fraction of that is anthropogenic [human caused]." He warned however that "exactly how much, and exactly what human activities are doing that, much less certainty. And that's with 100 years of work. So you have to construct theoretical models, and run them on a computer, and anchor those models with data. And the data has got to cover a long period of time with a broad spectrum of observations because they're all interrelated.

"So the models have to be complex, the data has to be both comprehensive in type, and it has to be extensive in time in order to get any real information out of it."

When Berger commented that critics of the models would say they don't meet a number of the criteria you just laid out, and asked if he thinks that's right, Griffin agreed he thinks it is, "but where do they expect you to start?"

"I mean, ever heard of walk before you run? You're not going to go from no models to perfect models in one step. It's not going to happen," he said.

Berger asked if he is comfortable with policy being made based on models that are walking before they're running — based more on guess work than real evidence. Griffin replied that a "In the real world, policy-makers have to make decisions about what levels of pollution are allowable, which things are more or least harmful, how to go about controlling it, and how much money is it worth to control it.

"I was in downtown Beijing a year ago, and their air quality is an example of what happens when you don't make any decision. You can do that and let nature take its course. So when you do that, intellectually what you're saying is that letting nature take its course is better than anything I could do to be different.

"I tend to think it's better to use the information that you have, from incomplete models and incomplete information, to make with care the best decisions you can. If you're going to wait for perfect accuracy on the research, you'll wait a long time. To deliberately do nothing seems foolish to me. That's a personal opinion."

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