Thursday, May 31, 2007

The head of NASA doesn't think we need to deal with the problem of climate change

By Nancy Jane Moore

In an interview on NPR's Morning Edition, NASA Administrator Michael Griffin grudgingly acknowledged that global warming exists and that scientific evidence has "pretty well nailed down the conclusion that much of that is manmade."

But then -- and I have taken the quote directly from NPR's online transcript because I'm still finding it hard to believe I heard him right -- he said:
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. 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.

Now if we were talking about naturally occurring climate change, Griffin's point would be worth debating. If, for example, another ice age were imminent, due to the natural fluctuations of Earth's climate, should we try to prevent it, or should we figure out how to live with it? The argument that it's arrogant for us to change the natural climate to make it more comfortable for us is a rational one -- particularly if one assumes that we don't know everything we need to know about climate, which is probably true. I might not agree with it -- depending on the day I could take either side of such an argument -- but it's certainly worth talking about.

But we're not talking about natural shifts in the Earth's climate. We're talking about the dramatic and rapid changes brought on by human technological advances of the past 150 years. We're already changing the climate, just not on purpose. It is the height of arrogance to take the position that we don't have to consciously address how modern human life is affecting the planet.

Of course, I don't know what Griffin would say in response to the point that human-caused climate change is a different issue from naturally occurring change, because that idiot Steve Inskeep didn't bother to ask a follow up question challenging Griffin's "arrogance" comment. (Inskeep is a constant reminder of what a mistake NPR made in shoving Bob Edwards out to pasture. Edwards would have asked the right follow-up question. Inskeep never does.)

So I'm asking: Dr. Griffin, isn't it equally arrogant to ignore the effect of human beings on Earth's climate?

Of course, it's probably arrogant (or optimistic) of me to hope that Griffin will read our blog and answer in the comments section. But maybe some reporter will ask him the question the next time he's interviewed.

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