An Outbreak of Censorship: When talk of Warming Becomes Absolutely Chilling

Sat, 2006-02-11 11:34Ross Gelbspan
Ross Gelbspan's picture

An Outbreak of Censorship: When talk of Warming Becomes Absolutely Chilling

While big coal and big oil have spent millions on disinformation about climate change, the Bush Administration has upped the ante by turning industry-generated denial into a government policy of censorship.

The targets are some of the most respected climate scientists in the U.S.      

Jim Hansen, a NASA researcher who first told the U.S. in 1988 that “global warming is at hand,” complained recently he is being muzzled by officials in his own agency. His sin: suggesting that we need to act quickly to reduce carbon emissions.  As a result, NASA brass ordered the agency's public information staff to review any future statements, including interviews with journalists, by its scientists.

Ironically, that order to limit scientists' access to journalists was issued by a resume fraud, George Deutsch. Appointed by the Bush White House, Deutsch was forced to resign in disgrace recently when it was revealed he had claimed on his resume to have received a degree from a Texas university when, in fact, he never graduated from the school.

Nor is the censorship limited to NASA. According to reports, similar tactics are being employed by NOAA, (the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), to silence scientists who confirm the connection between global warming and hurricane intensity.

A number of scientific studies have linked warming surface waters to more intense hurricanes. That research became particularly pertinent in the wake of Katrina. Today, those scientists are no longer able to speak freely with reporters. 

Instead, NOAA now requires an agency “minder” to sit in on any such interviews.

NASA's Hansen said recently these new policies of NASA and NOAA “seem more like Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union than the United States.”

NOAA officials justified the need for “minders” in order to protect their own scientists. Responded Hansen: “If you buy that one, please see me… because there's a bridge down the street I'd like to sell you.”

Donald Kennedy, editor of Science, the prestigious journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, added: “There are a lot of scientists there who know [the Administration's position] is nonsense…but they are being discouraged from talking to the press about it.”

 His observation was seconded by one of the country's most renowned climate scientists, Dr. Jerry Mahlman who headed up the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory at Princeton University before assuming his current position at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.  

Mahlman cited a statement by the current head of NOAA, Conrad Lautenbacher, who declared last summer: “We have no direct link between the number of storms and intensity versus global temperature rise.” He repeated that assertion to a CBS News anchor, saying hurricane strength is not related to greenhouse warming.” 

Because of the Administration's relentless efforts to muzzle scientists, Mahlman asserted that many scientists have become too intimidated to go public with their findings. “I know a lot of people who would love to talk to you,” he told one reporter, “but they don't dare. They are worried about getting fired.”