Saturday, January 28, 2006

At war with science

Surface Temperatures for 2005
One major front in the war on science is the war on expertise, the systematic efforts to intimidate scientists, especially government experts, and to water down the reports they issue. In that vein comes the revelation that NASA's James Hansen, a leading climate expert, says NASA tried to silence him:
He said he was particularly incensed that the directives had come through telephone conversations and not through formal channels, leaving no significant trails of documents.

Dr. Hansen's supervisor, Franco Einaudi, said there had been no official "order or pressure to say shut Jim up." But Dr. Einaudi added, "That doesn't mean I like this kind of pressure being applied."

The fresh efforts to quiet him, Dr. Hansen said, began in a series of calls after a lecture he gave on Dec. 6 at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. In the talk, he said that significant emission cuts could be achieved with existing technologies, particularly in the case of motor vehicles, and that without leadership by the United States, climate change would eventually leave the earth "a different planet."

The administration's policy is to use voluntary measures to slow, but not reverse, the growth of emissions.

After that speech and the release of data by Dr. Hansen on Dec. 15 showing that 2005 was probably the warmest year in at least a century, officials at the headquarters of the space agency repeatedly phoned public affairs officers, who relayed the warning to Dr. Hansen that there would be "dire consequences" if such statements continued, those officers and Dr. Hansen said in interviews.
The image is a NASA graphic showing surface temperature deviations from normal in 2005. Almost every part of the earth was substantially warmer than historic trends, not surprising, given that 2005 was the warmest year on record.

Climate change is probably past being preventable in any meaningful sense, but it is controllable. Actions we take now will have profound effects down the line.

On a side note, I'm even worried about some of the spots that are cooler than average. The little spot by Peru is called the Humboldt Upwelling, where cold water rises from the ocean floor to the surface. More cold water rising there means more cold water is going into the ocean, and that particular water comes from melting ice in Antarctica. More melting water rising in Peru would cool the waters there, but also means that there's less ice left in the Antarctic.

It's the equivalent of standing in front of an open freezer, you get a little cooler, but your ice cream gets a lot mushier.

Disclaimer: I'm not a climate scientist, let alone an oceanographer. I haven't analyzed that current, nor the local climate in that area. I'm not asserting that this is what's happening in Peru. Consult a professional before acting on this information.