The Bush administration is trying to stifle scientific evidence of the dangers of global warming in an effort to keep the public uninformed, a NASA scientist said Tuesday night.
“In my more than three decades in government, I have never seen anything approaching the degree to which information flow from scientists to the public has been screened and controlled as it is now,” James Hansen told a University of Iowa audience.
Hansen is director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York and has twice briefed a task force headed by Vice President Dick Cheney on global warming. He was also one of the first government scientists tasked with briefing congressional committees on the dangers of global warming, testifying as far back as the 1980s.
'Recipe ... for disaster'
Hansen said the administration wants to hear only scientific results that “fit predetermined, inflexible positions.” Evidence that would raise concerns about the dangers of climate change is often dismissed as not being of sufficient interest to the public.
“This, I believe, is a recipe for environmental disaster.”
Hansen said the scientific community generally agrees that temperatures on Earth are rising because of the greenhouse effect — increased emissions of carbon dioxide and other materials into the atmosphere that trap heat. Most of that increase comes from burning fossil fuels.
These rising temperatures, scientists believe, could cause sea levels to rise and trigger severe environmental consequences, he said.
Hansen said such warnings are consistently suppressed, while studies that cast doubt on such interpretations receive favorable treatment from the administration.
He also said reports that outline potential dangers of global warming are edited to make the problem appear less serious. “This process is in direct opposition to the most fundamental precepts of science,” he said.
Bush wants more research
White House science adviser John H. Marburger III has denied charges that the administration refuses to accept the reality of climate change, noting that President Bush pointed out in a 2001 speech that greenhouse gases have increased substantially in the past 200 years.
The president has also said that while he believes warming is a serious problem, he doesn't feel the threat his imminent and has instead ordered more research. He has also sought voluntary steps by industry and pumped federal dollars into technology projects like capturing and sequestering carbon dioxide emissions.
Hansen said he was speaking as a private citizen, not as a government employee, and paid his own way for the Iowa appearance. He described himself as moderately conservative, but said he will vote for John Kerry in the presidential election.
“He certainly is not in denial of the existence of climate change problems,” Hansen said.