Denialists don the authority of NASA. Fail.

Former spaceflight issues upset with NASA’s climate stance

Four dozen former NASA astronauts, engineers and scientists have written a letter to the space agency decrying its advocacy of “catastrophic” climate change.

“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,” states the letter, addressed to administrator Charles Bolden.

“We request that NASA refrain from including unproven and unsupported remarks in its future releases and websites on this subject.”

Among the signatories are seven Apollo astronauts, including Harrison “Jack” Schmitt and Walt Cunningham, and two former directors of Johnson Space Center.

Few of them are active research scientists or hold degrees in atmospheric sciences or fields related to climate change.


Tip: @guardianscience on Twitter

What hubris! Why should you listen to them? You shouldn’t. Here’s why:

Attacks on climate science by former NASA staff shouldn’t be taken seriously

A letter from former administrators, astronauts, and engineers at NASA expressing climate change scepticism does not deserve parity with the agency’s peer-reviewed climate scientists

Based on the job titles listed in the letter signatures, by my count they include 23 administrators, 8 astronauts, 7 engineers, 5 technicians, and 4 scientists/mathematicians of one sort or another (none of those sorts having the slightest relation to climate science). Amongst the signatories and their 1,000 years of combined professional experience, that appears to include a grand total of zero hours of climate research experience, and zero peer-reviewed climate science papers.

This is a ploy orchestrated by denialists. It belongs in the trash bin.

And here is a Response from NASA Chief Scientist Waleed Abdalati to Letter on NASA Climate Studies

“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.”

  9 comments for “Denialists don the authority of NASA. Fail.

  1. Jim
    April 12, 2012 at 10:22 PM

    Peer reviewed means rubber stamped by someone who thinks just like you. What does that prove?

    • April 12, 2012 at 10:29 PM

      That’s completely wrong. Peer review is people being critical of the facts, methods and conclusions presented. It’s a horrible thing to go through. Scientists PICK at each other incessantly. If you think it’s a rubber stamp, you’ve never been through it and you should not comment.

      BTW, I’ve been a peer reviewer. I’m evil when anonymous.

    • Chew
      April 13, 2012 at 12:17 AM

      About 10% of peer-reviewed papers survive the process. The rest are outright rejected or sent back for repairs.

  2. Verklagekasper
    April 13, 2012 at 7:47 AM

    It took quantum physics decades to be globally accepted. And when it was finally accepted, it wasn’t because of peer reviews or because of magazines, authorities, or politicians claiming it to be true. It was because its implications were proven in experiments, again and again.

    Why are we supposed to accept lesser standards as soon as global warming comes into play?

    This is not even about an ordinary theory discussed by scientists, but there’s political pressure and tons of money involved, and worldwide fame in press to be made with claims of how we’re all doomed. Not that I think that those seeking fame by claiming the exact opposite were better. But I dare to assume some bias in a UN climate council that happens to consist of 30% Greenpeace and WWF activists.

    The letter in question appears to be a response to the latest claims of NASA scientist James Hansen, who said that climate change was a “great moral issue” similar to the movement to end slavery. Both had enormous consequences and were behind the “injustice of one generation to others.”
    “Hansen argued that the lack of action on reversing climate change is handing future generations a world spiraling out of control with vast damage to ecosystems, flooded coastal regions and extreme weather.”

    That’s what it is about. That’s why we are supposed to skip decades of further investigation and debate: It’s because of the fear that we’re all doomed if we don’t instantly accept the hypothesis of catastrophic man-made climate change as true and do something about it quickly.

    I can sympathize with that. However, it is intellectually dishonest to act as if that was a skeptical position, let alone *the* skeptical position. What happened to the demand for falsifiable claims? Where’s the mistrust in institutions that have “bias” written all over them? What happened to the view that appealing to authority is a poor argument? What happened to fair debate, for that matter? Do you believe you’re going to convince anybody by bashing and ridiculing those who don’t share your views and falsely labeling them as “denialists”? I see this being done all over the place, in skeptical blogs, in skeptical forums, even in the Skeptical Inquirer. I guess it’s because people try hard to make skepticism a movement, and you cannot have a movement without a political agenda. Alas, those things don’t mix well, hence we see now the principles of skepticism thrown overboard in the name of skepicism.

    • twh
      April 13, 2012 at 11:14 AM

      Agreed. Global warming could turn out to be the biggest black eye on science EVER. After all this hype, what do you think is going to happen if it gets disproven? Or if the climate models generate failed prediction after failed preduction?

      The phrase “scientists say” is going to be a huge joke, and people will dismiss evolution and other theories right along with this one. If this theory fails in the long run, it may be a creationists wet dream.

      • Verklagekasper
        April 13, 2012 at 12:18 PM

        I don’t think that global warming will get disproven. There is data suggesting that there is global warming, and that it is man-made. However, skeptic blogs and alarmistic scientists take it much further.

        Alarmists argue that there was overwhelming consent about the subject among scientists. Assuming that consent matters a lot when trying to figure out if a theory is true (actually it doesn’t), what exactly does the majority of scientists actually agree on?

        1. That there is no global warming?
        2. That there is global warming?
        3. That there is global warming, and that the main reason for it are emissions of greenhouse gases?
        4. Like 3., plus it will be catastrophic?
        5. Like 4., plus we have to hurry about it, rushing into a low-carbon future?

        It is my impression that the majority of scientists would subscribe to some view in the middle.

        Is the risk of adjusting slowly to a low-carbon future higher than the risk of rushing into it? If you formulate the problem this way, I doubt you’re going to find overwhelming consent for either side.

        It is not a matter of absolute truth and who is right and who is wrong, it is a matter of risk management. At that, it’s nothing that can be simply solved by applying critical thinking or whatever principles. Definitely, it’s nothing that one could act all-knowing about and that allowed one to bash James Randi as a “denialist”, as some “skeptical” bloggers did.

        • April 13, 2012 at 12:46 PM

          Thanks for that clarification. It’s perverse to deny evidence of warming. It’s coming from many independent areas.

          But, as a scientist and public policy person, I dislike the topic intensely due to the politics and personal values involved. We see the fallout of this as it’s been played out in Congressional hearings, positions taken by politicians, manipulation by corporations and general public confusion about the science. Now, this story was another example of the confusion.

          I don’t have an informed opinion on what to do about it but I would support proposed changes mostly on the basis that they make an impact on health REGARDLESS if they help with global warming. Sure, they cost money but air pollution costs lives and damages the environment anyway. There is collateral benefit to many efforts to slow global warming. But, $$$ and change cause freakouts.

      • April 13, 2012 at 12:47 PM

        I don’t like “scientists say”. But I can’t think of another shortcut. I often use “the scientific consensus is” which suggests collaboration and some rigor.

  3. April 26, 2012 at 7:01 PM

    Speaking of peer qualifications in a peer reviewed document. Does anybody have the qualifications of all those on the IPCC or the peers commenting on IPCC reports?

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