Climate Expert Says NASA Tried to Silence Him

The only surprise would be if anyone were surprised by this NYT story.

The top climate scientist at NASA says the Bush administration has tried to stop him from speaking out since he gave a lecture last month calling for prompt reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases linked to global warming.

The scientist, James E. Hansen, longtime director of the agency’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said in an interview that officials at NASA headquarters had ordered the public affairs staff to review his coming lectures, papers, postings on the Goddard Web site and requests for interviews from journalists.

Dr. Hansen said he would ignore the restrictions. “They feel their job is to be this censor of information going out to the public,” he said.

Dean Acosta, deputy assistant administrator for public affairs at the space agency, said there was no effort to silence Dr. Hansen. “That’s not the way we operate here at NASA,” Mr. Acosta said. “We promote openness and we speak with the facts.”

He said the restrictions on Dr. Hansen applied to all National Aeronautics and Space Administration personnel. He added that government scientists were free to discuss scientific findings, but that policy statements should be left to policy makers and appointed spokesmen.

Mr. Acosta said other reasons for requiring press officers to review interview requests were to have an orderly flow of information out of a sprawling agency and to avoid surprises. “This is not about any individual or any issue like global warming,” he said. “It’s about coordination.”

Ho, ho. Like hell it is. The main co-ordination going on there is NASA’a top brass trying to keep on the right side of the White House.

The latest efforts to muzzle Hansen, according to the Times, came after a speech he gave on December 6, 2004, 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.

More… And while we’re on the subject of the Bushies’ views on climate change, an eagle-eyed reader sends a link to a report in today’s Guardian which opens:

A Nasa public affairs officer who worked on George Bush’s re-election campaign and was linked to a campaign to stifle discussion by space agency scientists on global warming, has resigned. George Deutsch, 24, was given a job in the Nasa press office last year after working on Mr Bush’s 2004 presidential campaign. He resigned after it emerged he had not been awarded the journalism degree he claimed on his CV, the New York Times reported.