Friday, June 01, 2007

NASA Administrator Isn't Sure Global Warming is a Problem

It's not exactly that NASA administrator Mike Griffin denies that it's a problem, you see -- it's that he denies that it's our problem.

According to Mike, "I have no doubt that a trend of global warming exists. I am not sure that it is fair to say that it is a problem we must wrestle with."

Regarding our potential ability to restore the planet's climate by curbing greenhouse emissions (which won't, by itself, be nearly enough), Griffin offers us this bit of delerium: "I think that's a rather arrogant position for people to take."

I'll have to remember that the next time I'm crossing a busy street. Who am I to want to get out of the way of that truck? How unspeakably arrogant of me.


Chris said...

Wow, with all the fundies Bush has hand-placed throughout the government, do you think Griffin might be one of those "There's no point in trying to fix the environment because God's going to set everything straight again after the rapture and the battle of Armageddon" types?

Unknown said...

I have to say I agree with Mr. Griffin. 10 or 20 years ago the evidence strongly pointed to anthropogenic emissions causing global warming, but the data was correlation, not scientific tests proving causation.

Many of the scientists who originally theorized that global warming was human-caused are revising their hypothesis with new data. See for example.

Mac said...


I thought the same thing. At the very least, Griffin seems to be a W apologist. Talk about NASA's "loss of vision."

Ed said...

Mac, you have taken Griffin's statement about "a rather arrogant position" completely out of context. And in the statement he made about "I am not sure that it is fair to say that it is a problem we must wrestle with" the "we" probably refers to NASA.

Anonymous said...

It matters not whether current global warming is man-made, natural, or both. It is most likely both. I would suggest the largest, most recent scientific studies do show man is a definite factor, at the very least, especially in the rapidity with which global warming is occurring, and not just by correlation, as Paul would suggest.

Regardless of viewpoint, belief, or origins, the planet is rapidly warming. This is a fact. Emission reduction, to avoid continuing atmospheric pollution via greenhouse gases is a good first step in at least dealing with and facing the problem. But would it solve the problem? No.

The matrix of origins and sources, and relative proportions of same, which people can debate all they want, is not the problem.

Increased warming is. The effects, not the causes. The ends, less the means, are the critical issue, especially if it means _our_ end as a technological species. Now, obviously, the sources and means, and their interactions, need to be better and more comprehensively defined and researched in order to begin prioritizing what is doable.

But, if there were not a single molecule more of atmospherically destructive gases emitted by humanity, and there were not a single human alive today, global warming would continue to increase for several hundred years more, based on what we've already done beforehand (over the last 150 years records have been accurately kept, concurrent with the industrial revolution), _and_ due to natural trends caused by terrestrial sources and cycles, such as vulcanism, solar weather, and other interdependent natural causes in combination with what humanity has done.

Does anyone really believe that with the rise of mass industrialization in China and India in particular, representing over a third of the earth's population, and general industrialization trends globally, that emissions that are caused by man will go down or even just plateau?

No. Given our dependence on various energy technologies that contribute to the problem, to what ever degree they are actually involved, it may already be too late.

Cutting emissions is not the central problem. Arguing about how much global warming is natural vs. artificial is pointless, although it would be nice to know with precision, as what we do to pollute the atmosphere artificially may be within our means to begin reducing.

No, the only possible solution is the creation and employment of technologies of _remediation_, not just reduction of emissions and further development of alternative energy sources, to _reverse_ the trend if at all possible. We sure could use a few thousand safe fusion reactors globally right now, but that's at least 20 to 30 years in the future, if then or ever.

The earth may need to be cooled, and the atmosphere filtered in some manner, as just one problem among dozens of other primary ecological issues, such as humanity's "carbon footprint", soil erosion, exponential population growth and related natural resources depletion, reduction of natural oxygen sources, oceanic pollution, synthetic compound breakdown and uptake into the food chain, etcetera, etc.

This amounts to not just weather manipulation, but modification, reduction, and active intervention in dealing with all sources of global warming and global _dimming_, a deeply intertwined and co-evolving trend.

Pollution, of all kinds, and the "carrying capacity" of the planet in general will also have to be effectively dealt with and managed with comprehensive international cooperation.

All these things may or may not be possible. If natural cycles and changes in the earth, sun, or space weather are a primary source, then it may not be possible to deal with such vast systems within the likely timeframe available. But something must be done. Or, we die off.

To paraphrase the old Bette Davis line, fasten your seatbelts, as we're in for a very bumpy ride. Hi ho.

Mac said...


Read the NPR transcript. The "we" he's talking about is humanity, not a specific institution. There's really no need to apologize on Griffin's behalf.

Ed said...

Mac, from the transcript:

"Nowhere in NASA's authorization, which of course governs what we do, is there anything at all telling us that we should take actions to affect climate change in either one way or another. We study global climate change, that is in our authorization, we think we do it rather well. I'm proud of that, but NASA is not an agency chartered to, quote, battle climate change."

Obviously he is talking about NASA, as he was throughout the interview. And I am not apologizing on Griffin's behalf - I happen to agree with him, this isn't NASA's job - I am calling you out for taking his words out of context, much as I would expect you to do the same if I took a quote out of context.

Mac said...


Of course he's talking about NASA in the part you cite -- he specifically talks about NASA's role. I had in mind this part:

Do you have any doubt that this is a problem that mankind has to wrestle with?

Note the questioner's use of "mankind." This isn't a question about the space agency; it's a more philosophically expansive question geared to Griffin himself.

And here's what he says:

I am not sure that it is fair to say that it is a problem we must wrestle with. To assume that it is a problem is to assume that the state of Earth's climate today is the optimal climate, the best climate that we could have or ever have had and that we need to take steps to make sure that it doesn't change. First of all, I don't think it's within the power of human beings to assure that the climate does not change, as millions of years of history have shown. And second of all, I guess I would ask which human beings — where and when — are to be accorded the privilege of deciding that this particular climate that we have right here today, right now is the best climate for all other human beings. I think that's a rather arrogant position for people to take.

He mentions "human beings" three times. He never mentions NASA.

BTW, I agree with Griffin's comment about the space agency's role in the sense that it's not NASA's job to fix global warming, but to serve as an impartial observer for the scientific community.