Friday, June 01, 2007

NASA Chief Questions Global Warming

I heard Steve Inskeep interview Michael Griffin, the director of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) today on Morning Edition. The overall context for the interview was confrontational in that Wednesday morning's program had featured a strident critique of current NASA programs by Gregg Easterbrook of Wired magazine. It was obvious that Griffin is very much in favor of all of the current NASA programs, particularly what Easterbrook refers to as "Motel 6 on the moon." Griffin also appears to be managing NASA from the top down, which may be conceived as a response to the serious problems a few years back such the shuttle Columbia incident.

Although I was somewhat surprised by Griffin's remarks about global warming, they came toward the end of an interview which had other troubling aspects that are not being discussed in the press or on blogs yet. Griffin clearly does not think much of any of the research that NASA and other space agencies do to study the Earth from space. Rather, he is focusing all the agency's funds and talent on exploration. That seems pretty arrogant to me and not in keeping with the stewardship of our planet which is trumpeted so often by Christian believers. His remarks when questioned about what NASA is doing about climate change were as follows:

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.

It is a bold and radical position to aspire to keep from changing the Earth's climate much more than what is already occurring. However, it was also a bold and radical choice that we made to go to the moon in the 1960's. Someone managing an agency the size of NASA with its position at the leading edge of science and technology should be bold, radical, and perhaps even arrogant. Showing my own biases here, I believe it to be less arrogant to direct that science and technology toward comprehensive knowledge and management of our own planet and its resources than it is to commit ourselves to putting people on Mars to look for water and other resources. Unfortunately, those resources may very well be needed by the point we can accomplish that if we follow the lead of Griffin and his ilk.

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At 9:34 AM , Blogger decrepitoldfool said...

Maybe I should try to better understand what NASA is for. As a child I grew up thinking it was for increasing scientific knowledge about our atmosphere and universe. Took me a long time to get over that illusion.

For what we're going to spend to send a man to Mars so he can say; "Well, here I am", we could send out an armada of robotic probes and explore the heck out of our solar system, with huge economic spinoffs in robotics Earthside.

At 7:38 PM , Blogger Don Thieme said...

It sounds as though you understand NASA's official mission better than the current director does. He thinks that he knows better than the rest of us what we need.

At 10:38 AM , Blogger Sean said...

I run a site on global warming ( It is designed to try to give both sides of the issue, I think I do a fairly good job of it since has referenced me several times.

I think we need to look more closely at Mr. Griffin's words. If GW is caused by nefarious human activity than we should do something about it. But if GW is caused by the natural changes of global climate, then we need to live with it and adapt. There is a high likelihood that the latter is true and many climate scientists think humans are not the root cause. In fact, in a recent study of scientists only 39% felt that carbon dioxide reductions were a priority (

We simply do not know enough about our climate to take dramatic action on this issue.

At 7:06 PM , Blogger Don Thieme said...

Your comment is interesting. My point in this posting, however, was that there was a great deal more that Griffin said in his interview. I found much of that at least as objectionable as his discussion of global warming. That was sort of a toss off toward the end of the interview.

At 9:59 PM , Anonymous captain flummox said...

I can't believe we've come to the point where we can't agree on what a good climate is.


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