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Friday, July 21, 2006

On Global Warming: Who's Censoring Now?

Next time you hear U.S. government physicist James Hansen claim the government is trying to censor him, consider this (paid subscription required) from Environment & Energy Daily (7/21/06):
A chronic illness only partly explains why James Hansen decided to skip the House Government Reform Committee's first hearing on global warming in seven years. The embattled NASA scientist also passed on yesterday's event because lawmakers are "still in denial" about the reasons for dramatic changes in the Earth's climate, he said last night in an e-mail.

In the message Hansen sent to reporters to explain his absence from yesterday's hearing, the director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies said he had a conflicting doctor appointment to deal with a cold that interacts with his asthma... But he also indicated he would have adjusted his schedule if the witness list did not also include skeptical points of view.

"I would get out of my sickbed to testify to Congress on global warming, if they were ready to deal responsibly with the matter," Hansen wrote. "But obviously they are still in denial, inviting contrarians to 'balance' the science of global warming."

Hansen apparently was objecting to the House panel's late addition of John Christy, a professor and director of the Earth System Science Center at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. In his testimony yesterday, Christy told lawmakers that scientists "cannot reliably project the trajectory of the climate" for large regions of the United States.

Christy also said it would be a "far more difficult task" to predict the effects should the United States adopt a mandatory greenhouse gas policy.

Hansen's e-mail said skeptical points of view cloud the climate debate rather than enlighten it. "The function of the contrarians is to obfuscate what is known, so as to keep the public confused and allow special interests to continue to reap short-term profits, to the detriment of the long-term economic well-being of the nation," he said.

Hansen said Congress should direct the National Academy of Sciences to update its 2001 report to President Bush on the state of the science surrounding global warming. "Until then, it is just a charade," he wrote...
Perhaps he meant it to be perceived differently, but Dr. Hansen's actions fit the description of a hissy fit. If Hansen disagrees with Dr. John Christy (whose testimony to the commitee can be found in pdf form here), why not participate in the hearing and explain why?

Science is supposed to be about considering all points of view and then rejecting those that cannot be proven valid, not about throwing hissy fits because alternative points of view are under consideration.

Had the House Government Reform Committee taken a page from Dr. Hansen's playbook and refused to invite Dr. Christy solely because of Christy's views, it would have been censorship.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 5:13 PM

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