Temperature departures from 1951-1980 average in February 2016. (NASA)

In many online forums involving climate change science, the discussions are frequently hijacked by  doubters making the same tired, debunked arguments. On Tuesday, NASA was having none of it.

When doubters began polluting a thread started by Bill Nye “The Science Guy” about his rejected attempt to place a bet about global warming, the Facebook account “NASA Climate Change” decided to pounce.

When one doubter claimed NASA had confirmed fossil fuels “were actually cooling the planet,” NASA Climate Change fired back: “Do not misrepresent NASA. Fossil fuels are not cooling the planet.”

(Facebook)
(Facebook)

NASA Climate Change also took on the doubter talking point that because global warming is happening on other planets, what’s happening on Earth isn’t anything special. “Other planets in the solar system are not warming,” it countered. “There is a small amount of evidence of seasonal changes in parts of the solar system, but there is no evidence of global warming anywhere — except on Earth.”

When it was accused of “fudging numbers” in producing global warming data, it retorted: “NASA does not ‘fudge’ numbers. All data requires statistical adjustments to remove bias.”  NASA Climate Change then directed commenters to multiple independent analyses of temperature data which show global warming while reminding readers: ” There is far too much focus on surface temperatures. They are but one measure of warming. All other measures . . . continue unabated.”

While I admire NASA’s courage in entering the fray here, it’s somewhat surprising that a federal agency would engage in such a way.

Attempting to confront this misinformation can become a full-time job — devolving into an endless and usually unproductive game of whack-a-mole.

Still, NASA’s name certainly carries with it some heft and some commenters in the discussion thread were duly impressed it cared enough to participate.

“Can we just applaud NASA Climate Change for a moment? Thank you for calling out the uninformed and conspiracy theorists. This is a great service,” remarked commenter Leo Diaz.

Consider me also among the impressed.  Irrespective of whether it was the best use of NASA’s time or whether it changed minds, the fact that a federal official expended the effort to protect the integrity of science in an online discussion is refreshing.