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Author Topic:   Astronauts ask NASA to alter climate stance
SpaceAholic
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posted 04-11-2012 02:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceAholic   Click Here to Email SpaceAholic     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Science and Public Policy Institute release
Former NASA scientists, astronauts admonish agency on climate change position

49 former NASA scientists and astronauts sent a letter to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden last week admonishing the agency for it's role in 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 seven Apollo astronauts and two former directors of NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, are dismayed over the failure of NASA, and specifically the Goddard Institute For Space Studies (GISS), to make an objective assessment of all available scientific data on climate change. They charge that NASA is relying too heavily on complex climate models that have proven scientifically inadequate in predicting climate only one or two decades in advance.

H. Leighton Steward, chairman of the non-profit Plants Need CO2, noted that many of the former NASA scientists harbored doubts about the significance of the C02-climate change theory and have concerns over NASA's advocacy on the issue. While making presentations in late 2011 to many of the signatories of the letter, Steward realized that the NASA scientists should make their concerns known to NASA and the GISS.

"These American heroes - the astronauts that took to space and the scientists and engineers that put them there - are simply stating their concern over NASA's extreme advocacy for an unproven theory," said Leighton Steward. "There's a concern that if it turns out that CO2 is not a major cause of climate change, NASA will have put the reputation of NASA, NASA's current and former employees, and even the very reputation of science itself at risk of public ridicule and distrust."

The full text of the letter sent to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden:
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.

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.

  • Jack Barneburg, Jack - JSC, Space Shuttle Structures, Engineering Directorate, 34 years
  • Larry Bell - JSC, Mgr. Crew Systems Div., Engineering Directorate, 32 years
  • Dr. Donald Bogard - JSC, Principal Investigator, Science Directorate, 41 years
  • Jerry C. Bostick - JSC, Principal Investigator, Science Directorate, 23 years
  • Dr. Phillip K. Chapman - JSC, Scientist - astronaut, 5 years
  • Michael F. Collins, JSC, Chief, Flight Design and Dynamics Division, MOD, 41 years
  • Dr. Kenneth Cox - JSC, Chief Flight Dynamics Div., Engr. Directorate, 40 years
  • Walter Cunningham - JSC, Astronaut, Apollo 7, 8 years
  • Dr. Donald M. Curry - JSC, Mgr. Shuttle Leading Edge, Thermal Protection Sys., Engr. Dir., 44 years
  • Leroy Day - Hdq. Deputy Director, Space Shuttle Program, 19 years
  • Dr. Henry P. Decell, Jr. - JSC, Chief, Theory & Analysis Office, 5 years
  • Charles F. Deiterich - JSC, Mgr., Flight Operations Integration, MOD, 30 years
  • Dr. Harold Doiron - JSC, Chairman, Shuttle Pogo Prevention Panel, 16 years
  • Charles Duke - JSC, Astronaut, Apollo 16, 10 years
  • Anita Gale
  • Grace Germany - JSC, Program Analyst, 35 years
  • Ed Gibson - JSC, Astronaut Skylab 4, 14 years
  • Richard Gordon - JSC, Astronaut, Gemini Xi, Apollo 12, 9 years
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  • Thomas M. Grubbs - JSC, Chief, Aircraft Maintenance and Engineering Branch, 31 years
  • Thomas J. Harmon
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  • Dr. Joseph Kerwin - JSC, Astronaut, Skylab 2, Director of Space and Life Sciences, 22 years
  • Jack Knight - JSC, Chief, Advanced Operations and Development Division, MOD, 40 years
  • Dr. Christopher C. Kraft - JSC, Apollo Flight Director and Director of Johnson Space Center, 24 years
  • Paul C. Kramer - JSC, Ass.t for Planning Aeroscience and Flight Mechanics Div., Egr. Dir., 34 years
  • Alex (Skip) Larsen
  • Dr. Lubert Leger - JSC, Ass't. Chief Materials Division, Engr. Directorate, 30 years
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  • Donald K. McCutchen - JSC, Project Engineer - Space Shuttle and ISS Program Offices, 33 years
  • Thomas L. (Tom) Moser - Hdq. Dep. Assoc. Admin. & Director, Space Station Program, 28 years
  • Dr. George Mueller - Hdq., Assoc. Adm., Office of Space Flight, 6 years
  • Tom Ohesorge
  • James Peacock - JSC, Apollo and Shuttle Program Office, 21 years
  • Richard McFarland - JSC, Mgr. Motion Simulators, 28 years
  • Joseph E. Rogers - JSC, Chief, Structures and Dynamics Branch, Engr. Directorate,40 years
  • Bernard J. Rosenbaum - JSC, Chief Engineer, Propulsion and Power Division, Engr. Dir., 48 years
  • Dr. Harrison (Jack) Schmitt - JSC, Astronaut Apollo 17, 10 years
  • Gerard C. Shows - JSC, Asst. Manager, Quality Assurance, 30 years
  • Kenneth Suit - JSC, Ass't Mgr., Systems Integration, Space Shuttle, 37 years
  • Robert F. Thompson - JSC, Program Manager, Space Shuttle, 44 years
  • Frank Van Renesselaer - Hdq., Mgr. Shuttle Solid Rocket Boosters, 15 years
  • Dr. James Visentine - JSC Materials Branch, Engineering Directorate, 30 years
  • Manfred (Dutch) von Ehrenfried - JSC, Flight Controller; Mercury, Gemini & Apollo, MOD, 10 years
  • George Weisskopf - JSC, Avionics Systems Division, Engineering Dir., 40 years
  • Al Worden - JSC, Astronaut, Apollo 15, 9 years
  • Thomas (Tom) Wysmuller - JSC, Meteorologist, 5 years

spaced out
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posted 04-11-2012 02:36 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaced out   Click Here to Email spaced out     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I guess this isn't really the forum to discuss global warming science because somehow in the U.S. this issue has become political.

Incidentally, as much as I respect the Apollo astronauts, from the autobiographies I've read I know for a fact that nearly all of them have opinions and firmly-held beliefs of all kinds (scientific, pseudo-scientific, political and religious) that I completely disagree with.

That doesn't lessen my respect for them and their achievements one bit, but it does mean that seeing an Apollo astronaut's signature on a group letter doesn't make me think I'm any more or less likely to agree with its content just because they signed it.

cspg
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posted 04-11-2012 02:54 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for cspg   Click Here to Email cspg     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
They should have re-read what they wrote. What they are "requesting" (on whose behalf?) seems just as extreme as NASA's position they're condemning. Not even worth paying attention.

arjuna
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posted 04-11-2012 04:21 PM           Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I second Chris' position.

I will say that I find Jack Schmitt's vocal disagreement with the scientific consensus on climate change to be odd in that he also strongly supports going back to the moon to harvest Helium-3 for second generation fusion research. If one thinks anthropogenic CC is an untrue proposition, then the need to prioritize fusion research is much less acute - and thus one of the reasons to return to the moon (which indeed is the title of his own book) is seriously undermined.

SpaceAholic
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posted 04-11-2012 04:37 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceAholic   Click Here to Email SpaceAholic     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There are many qualified, very well respected advocates in both camps - that doesn't signal consensus to me. The signatories care a great deal about the institution they have or currently represent (NASA) and don't want to see political posturing and inconclusive science undermine its integrity.

Murph
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posted 04-11-2012 04:50 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Murph   Click Here to Email Murph     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I see no "politics" in the the statement made by this impressive group of respected and accomplished explorers and scientists; certainly no more than in NASA's climate change assertions. To attempt to diminish their statements as "politics" is far more political than their letter.

Mike Dixon
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posted 04-11-2012 05:16 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Mike Dixon   Click Here to Email Mike Dixon     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Strongly second that...

Jay Chladek
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posted 04-11-2012 06:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I see no politics in it either. NASA is typically in the business of data collection and offering the findings for what they are. They can hypothesize and theorize certain things based on the data they have collected from both Earth and observations on other planetary bodies. But I agree that they shouldn't be jumping to conclusions one way or the other. Report the data, but don't spin doctor it. NASA is also only but one agency involved in this data collection as you've got other agencies like NOAA who are involved in it as well (and NOAA might be better set up to make such determinations given the fields of study they are involved in since Earth's weather and oceans are what they study as part of their mandate).

Jim Behling
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posted 04-11-2012 07:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jim Behling   Click Here to Email Jim Behling     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Most are JSC or Apollo related. Not one worked on the science side of NASA.

It is a political statement and their credentials are meaningless on this subject.
What they did in the past does not qualify their opinions any more than any other engineer or test pilot.

MCroft04
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posted 04-11-2012 07:06 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for MCroft04   Click Here to Email MCroft04     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by arjuna:
...thus one of the reasons to return to the moon (which indeed is the title of his own book) is seriously undermined.
With all due respect, I think your logic is flawed. The need to mine Helium-3 from the moon is because one day fossil fuels on earth will run out. It may be 50, 100 or more years but they will eventually run out. And the cost of fossil fuels will continue to escalate as they become more and more scarce.

We need to have a back-up plan, and He3 is an alternative (well, when the fusion aspect is fully resolved).

By the way, Jack also advocates other interim energy sources, such as wind, solar, etc to help bridge the gap.

MCroft04
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posted 04-11-2012 07:20 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for MCroft04   Click Here to Email MCroft04     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by spaced out:
That doesn't lessen my respect for them and their achievements one bit, but it does mean that seeing an Apollo astronaut's signature on a group letter doesn't make me think I'm any more or less likely to agree with its content just because they signed it.
If you read the list of names of those who support this position, you'll note that there are more than just astronauts supporting the letter. You are correct, this is not the place to debate anthropogenic global warming, but let's recognize the background and expertise of all of those supporting the position.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 04-11-2012 07:32 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Jim Behling:
What they did in the past does not qualify their opinions any more than any other engineer or test pilot.
While I personally wouldn't go that far, I would say their choice to sign the letter is far more political then had the "hundreds of well-known climate scientists and tens of thousands of other scientists" they cite had signed instead.

Aligning with an advocacy group (the Science and Public Policy Institute), putting out a press release and writing an open letter are all political actions as well.

quote:
Originally posted by SpaceAholic:
The signatories care a great deal about the institution they have or currently represent (NASA)...
The way by which they (or the advocacy group) chose to release this letter demonstrates some lack of care for NASA's public image. They had the choice to voice their concerns privately, letting their identities carry the necessary weight, but chose to go public.

There is nothing wrong with being political. I am not sure it is serving their cause for others to suggest this is not political.

Murph
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posted 04-11-2012 07:59 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Murph   Click Here to Email Murph     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Interesting comments so far. Politics aside, I find the motives of many scientists suspect, as their funding is dependent on their views and positions on advancing a theory, be they for or against any position.

I could not see how these NASA insiders could be motivated by anything other than concerns that NASA's conclusions are being motivated by the same concern — funding.

A scattered idea of a mission at this time, and severe budget cuts leaves NASA searching for relevancy and funding — unfortunate for a once proud organization. No bucks, no Buck Rogers.

arjuna
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posted 04-11-2012 09:21 PM           Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by MCroft04:
With all due respect, I think your logic is flawed. The need to mine Helium-3 from the moon is because one day fossil fuels on earth will run out. It may be 50, 100 or more years but they will eventually run out. And the cost of fossil fuels will continue to escalate as they become more and more scarce.
You're entitled to your opinion on CC and I'm not here to debate the issue (or peak oil for that matter). But - also with respect - my response is no, the logic is sound. If there is a global CC problem that requires rapid transition to non-carbon sources of energy, that is a compelling rationale for greater investment in fusion research - including 2G aneutronic fusion. (And by the way, boron-11 may be better than helium-3; no one knows yet because we haven't done enough research.)

The point is this: if there's no CC-driven need to transition to green energy, there may still be other reasons to move to non-carbon sources, but there is undoubtedly less urgency to do so. And thus it would be pretty hard to argue that the case for Helium-3 isn't diminished.

All that said, it's going to be significantly harder to harvest (and return to Earth) He3 on commercial scales than some like to think. And finally, for what it's worth, I think Robert's analysis of the politics of this is spot on.

moorouge
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posted 04-12-2012 02:23 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Surely, all the letter to NASA asks is for the agency to make certain is that its name is not used to support one side of the argument. This is because all too often one reads statements in the media that, "NASA says...". This, those who signed the letter are saying, is not correct.

All NASA has done is to supply the data. They simply are asking that this is made clear and that any conclusions drawn from data supplied are those of the organisation processing that data and not those of the space agency.

gliderpilotuk
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posted 04-12-2012 06:49 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for gliderpilotuk   Click Here to Email gliderpilotuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
H. Leighton Steward, chairman of the non-profit Plants Need CO2, noted that many of the former NASA scientists harbored doubts about the significance of the C02-climate change theory and have concerns over NASA's advocacy on the issue. While making presentations in late 2011 to many of the signatories of the letter, Steward realized that the NASA scientists should make their concerns known to NASA and the GISS.
Politics writ large.

Plants Need CO2 has a mission "to educate the public on the positive effects of additional atmospheric CO2." It allegedly has connections with the fossil fuel extraction industry.

Let's not be convinced that H. Leighton Steward persuaded the astronauts and scientists to do this purely in order to protect NASA's image.

SpaceAholic
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posted 04-12-2012 07:13 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceAholic   Click Here to Email SpaceAholic     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Fail to see how Steward's motivations transfer to the signers - they each had their own reasons for adding their individual names which may or may not have been congruent with Steward's.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 04-12-2012 07:23 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NASA's Chief Scientist Waleed Abdalati has issued a response to the letter:
NASA sponsors research into many areas of cutting-edge scientific inquiry, including the relationship between carbon dioxide and climate. As an agency, NASA does not draw conclusions and issue 'claims' about research findings. We support open scientific inquiry and discussion.

Our Earth science programs provide many unique space-based observations and research capabilities to the scientific community to inform investigations into climate change, and many NASA scientists are actively involved in these investigations, bringing their expertise to bear on the interpretation of this information. We encourage our scientists to subject these results and interpretations to scrutiny by the scientific community through the peer-review process. After these studies have met the appropriate standards of scientific peer-review, we strongly encourage scientists to communicate these results to the public.

If the authors of this letter disagree with specific scientific conclusions made public by NASA scientists, we encourage them to join the debate in the scientific literature or public forums rather than restrict any discourse.

Delta7
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posted 04-12-2012 08:41 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Delta7   Click Here to Email Delta7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I think the point here is that the signatories object to NASA officially supporting the hypothesis that global warming is man-caused, when the debate is still on-going. The implication is that it is driven by politics rather than sound conclusive science. Unfortunately this issue has become so politicized that I fear science will never trump the politics. Both sides are entrenched in their positions, and the issue here is that NASA has apparently taken a side when neither is conclusively supported by science at this point.

spaced out
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posted 04-12-2012 09:15 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaced out   Click Here to Email spaced out     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Whatever your opinion on idea of the influence of human activity on climate change it's clear that this letter has been driven by those with a direct financial interest in rejecting this theory.

The letter was instigated by Steward, as he himself states:

While making presentations in late 2011 to many of the signatories of the letter, Steward realized that the NASA scientists should make their concerns known to NASA and the GISS.
Steward is a director at EOR Resources (formerly Enron Oil & Gas) and the other two directors of "Plants Need CO2" are also big oil men. There are no prizes for guessing where the funding for this not-for-profit organization comes from, or whose interests they have at heart, but I'm sure that with the vast financial resources and lobbying expertise available to them "Plants Need CO2" can put together a slick and convincing presentation.

I can't help wondering if in the early days of the hole-in-the-ozone-layer debate a similar NPO ("Plants Need UV light" maybe?) was put together by the major players in the CFC industry.

moorouge
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posted 04-12-2012 10:50 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by spaced out:
Steward is a director at EOR Resources (formerly Enron Oil & Gas) and the other two directors of "Plants Need CO2" are also big oil men. There are no prizes for guessing where the funding for this not-for-profit organization comes from, or whose interests they have at heart ....

Just to balance this, one has to remember that the Chairman of the IPCC, Dr. Pachauri, has a research institute in Delhi which is heavily involved in various renewable energy projects, thus calling into doubt both his and the IPCC's views on climate change.

gliderpilotuk
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posted 04-12-2012 12:18 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for gliderpilotuk   Click Here to Email gliderpilotuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Balance?

This thread is about NASA and the motivation behind an individual with pre-determined views agitating astronauts and scientist-employees of a government agency to publicly critique that agency.

Regardless of your stance on global warming/climate change, the big question is "what's behind this?".

issman1
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posted 04-12-2012 12:50 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for issman1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Instead of blowing hot air about hot air, how about these esteemed figures pitching for the B612 Foundation?

It would bring to the US political arena the very real threat posed by near earth objects, and offer a bona fide destination beyond earth orbit for the next generation of NASA astronauts and scientists.

Glint
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posted 04-12-2012 01:02 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Glint   Click Here to Email Glint     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by gliderpilotuk:
Politics writ large.

You must be thinking rather of NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies's Dr. James E. Hansen who, in a letter addressed to "Michelle and Barack" Obama bull horned the following dispassionate and neutral NASA "facts":

  • "An urgent (iv) geophysical fact has become clear. Burning all the fossil fuels will destroy the planet we know."
  • "What is clear is that continuing fossil fuel emissions will put Earth on an inexorable course toward an icefree state, a course punctuated by increasingly extreme disasters with hundreds of millions of climate refugees."
  • "A large fraction of species on Earth face certain extinction, if we burn most fossil fuels without capturing and storing the carbon dioxide."
  • "The physics of the matter, together with empirical data, also define the need for a carbon tax."
  • "The public will support the tax if it is returned to them, equal shares on a per capita basis (half shares for children up to a maximum of two child-shares per family), deposited monthly in bank accounts."
What an embarrassment. Talk about your hot air. Carbon tax? No wonder so many NASA associates are speaking up against this type of political grand standing.

Murph
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posted 04-12-2012 02:36 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Murph   Click Here to Email Murph     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NASA — once the world leader in space exploration, is now advising on raising taxes? Promoting their own tax plan, as well?

Simply outrageous. Political grandstanding indeed! As Glint said, no wonder the NASA associates are speaking up. They must be ashamed of what NASA has become.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 04-12-2012 02:47 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NASA isn't advising or proposing anything. This letter isn't from NASA, it's from James and Anniek Hansen.

The Hansens are no more speaking for NASA in their letter than is Walt Cunningham or Jack Schmitt in theirs. They are private citizens voicing an opinion based on their professional experience.

Murph
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posted 04-12-2012 05:29 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Murph   Click Here to Email Murph     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I beg to differ. If this letter wasn't from "James Hansen, the renowned NASA climate scientist" as the article states, his recommendations would have been merely ignored. It's not from James Hansen, deli manager, after all, He uses his position and the prestige of NASA to advance his radical agenda. For most people, outside of our little hobby, he might as well be speaking for NASA.

Recommending taxes is not NASA's job, that belongs to Congress.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 04-12-2012 05:36 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
No where in his letter does he mention NASA. No where does he use his title.

NASA civil servants are still citizens. They, like all other citizens of the United States, have the right to write the President of the United States, voicing their ideas and concerns.

They are not speaking on behalf of their employer, regardless if they are a scientist, engineer or astronaut.

Otherwise, you should be admonishing Walt Cunningham, Jack Schmitt and Charlie Duke for using their title as "astronaut" to sign their letter. To the public at large, they don't know or care that the three are retired. To the public at large, they still represent NASA.

You may not like the opinion Hansen and his wife offered, but it is their right to voice it, just as much as it is Cunningham's, Schmitt's and Duke's right to express their opinion in their letter.

Murph
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posted 04-12-2012 05:55 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Murph   Click Here to Email Murph     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I stand behind my previous statement. He stood on NASA earned credentials.

Are you implying that any letters sent by any private citizens, concerning CC, would be treated equally, as far as having their voices heard, and ideas publicized? I find that difficult believe.

If my third grade teacher sent a similar letter proposing tax increases, it would have been rightfully ignored. His, because of who he worked for, is published. Would we even be debating this if he were a mailman?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 04-12-2012 06:18 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
By your reasoning, Walt Cunningham, Charlie Duke and Jack Schmitt had no right to send their letter. After all, it was their title as astronauts that drew their letter attention. The articles use "astronauts" in their headlines, not "retired citizens."

You can't have it both ways. You can't support astronauts using their title to gain exposure because you agree with their opinion but oppose anyone else with a title doing the same with a dissenting view.

moorouge
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posted 04-13-2012 04:06 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
No where in his letter does he mention NASA. No where does he use his title.

This is neither here nor there. The fact is that once the contents of his letter came into the public domain they were reported by the media with Hansen referred to as a NASA scientist. To the general public this carries the implication that the views expressed, at the very least, are endorsed by NASA.

This, obviously, is not the case as Hansen has been reprimanded by his superiors.

Glint
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posted 04-13-2012 09:16 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Glint   Click Here to Email Glint     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
By your reasoning, Walt Cunningham, Charlie Duke and Jack Schmitt had no right to send their letter. After all, it was their title as astronauts that drew their letter attention. The articles use "astronauts" in their headlines, not "retired citizens."

These astronauts are private citizens and no longer working as NASA employees. James Hansen, on the other hand, still has an employer-employee relationship with NASA today.

Many employers in the technical field require employees to obtain appoval prior to publishing or presenting any material or information directly related the work done by them or the "company" at large. By airing his views, Hansen gives the impression that his employer, NASA, approves the message.

It is that impression therefore that Cunningham and company are trying to amend. I think they recognize that NASA's image is being undermined in such a way that leaves it vulnerable to criticism that may discredit it scientifically and weaken it politically.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 04-13-2012 09:24 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
So you're saying that if Hansen's letter had expressed the opposite point of view, that climate change was not a concern, that Cunningham and the others would have still sent their letter as regardless the position, it was inappropriate for any civil servant to share their opinion?

So if any NASA or federal employee speaks out against climate change policies that they too should be silenced?

Glint
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posted 04-13-2012 10:13 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Glint   Click Here to Email Glint     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
So you're saying that if Hansen's letter had expressed the opposite point of view, that climate change was not a concern, that Cunningham and the others would have still sent their letter as regardless the position, it was inappropriate for any civil servant to share their opinion?

But Hansen's publicly aired views are not simply stated an "opinion." He projects them as settled science using phrases like "fact has become clear." An opinon would include words like, "in my opinion it is clear that..."

On the other hand, if he did state the opposite view, present it as "fact" while voicing policy and tax recommendations, then I'm certain that too would be subject to public opposition from some quarter, if not from Cunningham (for whom I do not speak).

quote:
So if any NASA or federal employee speaks out against climate change policies that they too should be silenced?

That's a pretty broad brush. Depends on the federal employee's role of course. A federally employed cafeteria food server could probalby speak out without receiving a letter from Cunningham and Schmitt.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 04-13-2012 10:18 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
So now you are saying it is okay for only certain civil servants to express their opinion but only if they specifically state that it is their opinion. Correct?

So please define the qualifications that will deprive certain Americans their right to free speech. Is it their professional title? Their salary level? Their political affiliation?

And please clarify, had Hansen's letter clearly stated that it was his opinion that climate change was not a concern, would it have merited a letter in protest from Cunningham and the others?

I think it's disingenuous to suggest that the letter that began this thread was solely or primarily motivated by the concern that a civil servant was misinterpreted as speaking for NASA as a whole. The letter makes it clear that the foremost issue is a view on climate change that is counter to their own.

Indeed the letters makes no mention at all of Hansen or his letter. To the contrary, it specifically cites "future releases and websites," neither of which apply to Hansen.

The letter's authors are not hiding their position; those who support their message shouldn't be trying to make the astronauts' letter something it is not.

Glint
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posted 04-13-2012 10:46 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Glint   Click Here to Email Glint     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
So now you are saying it is okay for only certain civil servants to express their opinion but only if they specifically state that it is their opinion. Correct?

No. The cafeteria worker could state it as either fact or opinion, but would carry little weight because they, unlike Hansen, are not a professional NASA climatologist.

quote:
So please define the qualifications that will deprive certain Americans their right to free speech. Is it their professional title? Their salary level? Their political affiliation?

The brush gets broader. Seems you're now turning it into a First Amendment issue.

The answer would need to be on a case by case basis. Title, salary, and politics may not be relevant. One thing that could be relevent is any govornment or agency policies under which the employee is expected to adhere to under the terms of employment. I am not aware of any specific NASA policies against public disclosure, but many employers have them.

As far as free speech goes, Cunningham and Schmitt are not, as far as I am aware, subject to any NASA policy restricting what they can say. They are truly exercising their own free speech rights.

quote:
And please clarify, had Hansen's letter clearly stated that it was his opinion that climate change was not a concern, would it have merited a letter in protest from Cunningham and the others?

Good question. Maybe he should try it and see.

moorouge
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posted 04-13-2012 11:19 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The point is NOT what Hansen wrote. The point is how the media reports it once it comes into the public domain. They usually add the tag that Hansen is a NASA scientist and because of this it is incorrectly assumed that his views are endorsed by NASA. This is what Cunningham et al were complaining about.

The lesson is that one has to be very, very careful how an opinion is expressed when having a high public profile.

Robert Pearlman
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From: Houston, TX
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posted 04-13-2012 12:54 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by moorouge:
The point is how the media reports it once it comes into the public domain.
NASA has no control over how the media reports what it does. Even if Hansen had included a bold disclaimer at the top of his letter stating that the views expressed within were his own and not those of his employer, it could not stop a news agency citing his title.

If the former NASA employees who wrote the letter are concerned that the media is misreporting the space agency's stance, then they should be taking that up with the media, not NASA.

moorouge
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posted 04-13-2012 05:24 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Robert - read the last sentence in my post.

What Cunningham et al are saying is that employees who have views that are at odds with the ethics of the organisation should not make them whilst they are employed by that organisation, the more so when they are leading lights in a particular pressure group.

I'll repeat that Hansen has been reminded of this by his superiors, maybe as a result of the 'astronaut' letter.

arjuna
unregistered
posted 04-13-2012 08:16 PM           Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Any scientist who is a public servant has not only the right, but indeed the duty, to report facts as s/he understands them. To suggest otherwise is to knowingly or unknowingly advocate the suppression of science. The 400-something year old scientific method and the system of peer review have an outstanding track record of sorting true claims from false ones.

Remember Galileo, gentlemen.

And beyond that, I respectfully suggest that this thread has become singularly unproductive in doing anything other than generating heat rather than light. Pun intended if you choose to see it that way.


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