“We are not trying to stifle discourse, but undisciplined commentary, lacking in precision, is wholly inappropriate when NASA’s name and reputation is attached,” said 41 former NASA officials in a letter to agency boss Charles Bolden.
At issue is NASA’s history of talking up the potential disaster from global warming. The same group recently accused the agency of using public statements and the NASA website to side with climate change alarmists. NASA’s chief scientist, Waleed Abdalati, responded that the agency wasn’t promoting global warming, just helping in the research.
But then he recently told a Senate hearing that the coastlines will be flooded, and lives potentially lost because climate change will likely raise sea levels by 0.2 meters to 2 meters, based on “commonly considered” warming scenarios.
Abdalati added: “The consequences of a 1 meter rise in sea level by the end of this century would be very significant in terms of human well-being and economics, and potentially global socio-political stability.”
The NASA critics choked when they heard those comments, accusing the agency in a new letter of making imprecise predictions based on bad science. And Abdalati was accused of hypocrisy.
“On April 11th, Dr. Waleed Abdalati responded, holding that: ‘As an agency, NASA does not draw conclusions and issue 'claims' about research findings.’ Eight days later, at a Senate hearing, Dr. Abdalati, did just that,” the critics wrote in the letter provided to Secrets
Then, rapping Abdalati’s 0.2 meter-2 meter sea surge, they added, “The range and imprecision of this conclusion is astounding! ‘Commonly considered?’ Is this science by poll? If hard data points to a provable rise, it should be stated with its probability. Can you imagine one of your predecessors, Dr. Thomas Paine, declaring, ‘Our Apollo 11 Lunar Lander’s target is the Sea of Tranquility, but we may make final descent within a range that includes Crater Clavius?’”
In response to questions from Secrets, NASA issued a second statement. First, they noted that Abdalati spoke on sea levels because that was the subject of the hearing he testified at. The agency’s letter also said again that NASA does not issue claims. The key passage:
"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."
Climate warming critics still aren’t pleased. Added climate change skeptic H. Leighton Steward, “If NASA would simply go back to collecting data from its satellites and only release statements that are grounded in scientific facts, its reputation would no longer be at risk. Speculation on the output of models that have consistently been proven wrong by Mother Nature is not becoming for a scientific agency such as NASA.”