NASA chief says it’s not for us to decide what the Earth’s climate should be…

Yep, we have global warming. Yep, it’s largely due to human activity. That’s what the boss of NASA says. For a long time the current administration refuted that the earth was warming up. Then they had to admit it was, but maintained there was no evidence that it was due to human activity. Now they’ve had to accept that. The next step in the Washington stonewalling of any attempt to even contemplate doing something about it: Hey, climates change. It would be arrogant of us to decide what the climate should be.

OK, maybe. But doesn’t that make anything man does to alter his environment for greater comfort or productivity arrogant? By that definition, arrogance is one of the primary characteristics of mankind, one of the things that makes us who we are. Why shouldn’t we decide what the best climate would be? Hell, if warmer is better for for most of humanity, I’m all for global warming. Let’s heat this place up! The problem is that making the climate hotter is more likely to be negative, and has the potential to cause suffering on a scale never before witnessed in history. Not since the black death, anyway. That’s a pretty big potential downside.

No, it’s not arrogant to consider potential disasters in the coming decades, it’s just that the people getting rich off current policies risk having the cash gusher they’re sitting on slow down a bit. Energy policy is, as far as I can tell (I’m no expert), a critical element in mitigating global warming. We will not have a well-considered energy policy while oil men are in charge. We would also not have a well-considered energy policy if windmill people were in charge, but that’s not what we’re facing right now.

If Cape Canaveral is abandoned to the waves, I hope NASA puts up a plaque with this guy’s picture on it.

6 thoughts on “NASA chief says it’s not for us to decide what the Earth’s climate should be…

  1. As regards many of the offices in the executive branch, perhaps this blog should invent a new cliche, a new saw, a neo-adage. Something like “you’re only as good as your political appointees,” or “NASA’s mission has been Brownified” (see, ‘you’re doin a heckuva a job Brownie!’).

    I suppose in some sense, this NASA administrator is on famililar ground – when do scientists stop being researchers and start becoming advocates. Should Oppenheimer have just shut up and worked on the Hyrdogen bomb?

  2. Jessie,
    Do yourself a favor and read “American Prometheus,” last year’s Pulitzer Prize winning biography of Oppenheimer if your interested in the question of scientists, prestige, and policy making in Oppenheimer’s time and since.

    I went to a author’s luncheon to hear one of the co-authors speak, and he made the case that Oppenheimer’s McCarthy-era public destruction has kept scientists out of policy making and politics ever since, and that was in fact an aim of the politicians and generals at the time. (I think Feynman’s chairing of the Challenger disaster report partially refutes this, but it is an inconvenient truth that there are more politicians playing scientist these days than vice versa.)

  3. For science and policy, required reading in all schools should be A Canticle for Leibowitz. You will not find a better call to those who hold knowledge to provide guidance on its use. In this story there is hand-waving and abdication of responsibility by those who understand the power of what they have wrought, and there is destruction. The author also presents the Catholic view of life in a way that made complete sense to me. He turns “right to life” into “moral obligation to fulfill life”, and the author does a damn fine job putting us in the middle of the debate. At the end of the story, as mankind makes another go at self-extinction, something new is born, something past our understanding. I hope she does better than we ever managed.

    If I had enough copies, I’d loan them all to you guys. Alas, I have no copies at all. You will have to find this book on your own.

  4. Somebody out there does NOT want the truth to be known. I have tried several times to post comments here, but when I do, all that happens is that “Done” appears at the bottom of the window, with nothing else happening.

    So I decided to try to save the post I made, by copying it to a word processor. But when I clicked “Save” in the word processor, the program closed, with nothing saved.

    I have now rebooted my computer. Maybe, just maybe, I can post a comment. But I’m not sure that I dare try to say what I wanted to say.

  5. OK, now I’m going to be daring and hope I don’t get censored this time around. I wish to observe that schools just can’t spare the so-called luxury of teaching critical thinking, such as would happen with A Canticle for Liebowitz, because they’re so busy teaching to the tests mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act.

    The problem is that, by 2010, all students in all schools must be above average. Any school whose students are not all above average will be penalized by funding cuts and will be subject to takeover by state authorities.

    Aside from the goal of having all students above average being statistically impossible, the goals reward schools for holding high-achieving students back, because that means the low-achieving students aren’t so far behind. I’ve heard the act called the “No Child Gets Ahead Act” — and based on how it’s being implemented in Gerald’s school, I’d say that’s an accurate assessment.

    I would suggest that in addition to A Canticle for Liebowitz, the short story “Harrison Bergeron” be required reading for anyone looking at today’s education.

  6. Actually I read American Prometheus. I think I mentioned it here.

    That book is certainly a warning to scientists about speaking out, but I think there are some who do actively. In the same arena as NASA and global warming is James Hansen of NASA’s Goddard Center at Columbia University. He made headline news last year when it appeared that NASA administrators above him were trying to censor his outspokeness on GW. In my own neck of the woods, both my boss and her husband have testified before congress, and the husband had all his work and data quasi-supoened by a republican congressman GW doubter who wanted to give all the data to his favorite scientist at Exxon to re-hash. It is a gray area, because, yes as the congressman averred, the work is paid for by public money and therefore belongs to the american public, but also it is enormous work to stop everything and try to make a package out of your life’s work to give to someone else. It was also purposefully chilling of free speech.

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