NASA Administrator Questions Need to Fight Global Warming

By Marc Kaufman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 1, 2007

NASA Administrator Michael Griffin says that although global warming is changing Earth's climate, he's not convinced that is "a problem we must wrestle with."

The NASA chief -- whose agency has come under fire in Congress for cutting several programs designed to monitor climate change -- also says it's "rather arrogant" for people to take the position that today's climate is the optimal one.

"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," he said during a National Public Radio interview aired yesterday morning.

Griffin's comments come just months after the preeminent international organization on climate change issued a series of reports concluding that global warming will have serious consequences for life on Earth, and he quickly came under sharp attack from leading climate researchers and legislators.

In addition, President Bush yesterday called for the 15 nations that emit the most greenhouse gases to agree on a way to address global warming, days before he attends a summit of industrial powers where climate change will be a focus.

James Hansen, NASA's top official on climate change, said of Griffin's stance: "It was a shocking statement because of the level of ignorance it indicated with regard to the current situation. He seemed unaware that 170 nations agreed that climate change is a serious problem with enormous repercussions, and that many people will suffer if it is not addressed."

Hansen said Griffin's comments help explain why NASA's earth science budget has been severely cut.

In Congress, House Science and Technology Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.) said, "Setting aside NASA Administrator Griffin's personal views on the significance of global warming, I remain concerned that NASA is not doing as much as needs to be done on climate-change data collection and research."

"Based on NASA's own five-year budget plan, the agency will be unable to start any of the new Earth observations initiatives recommended by the National Academies for the foreseeable future," he said. "That's not going to get us where we need to be in our understanding of climate change."

White House science adviser John H. Marburger distanced the administration from Griffin, saying that "nobody should think that he was speaking for anyone but himself."

After criticism had begun to mount, Griffin put out this statement: "It is NASA's responsibility to collect, analyze and release information. It is not NASA's mission to make policy regarding possible climate change mitigation strategies."

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