An eye-opening account of government efforts to silence the nation’s leading climate scientist.
Hansen, long-time director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and adjunct professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University, made headlines in early 2006 when he refused to buckle under government pressure to soft-pedal warnings on the dangerous reality of global warming. In this understated but important book, author and physicist Bowen (Thin Ice: Unlocking the Secrets of Climate in the World’s Highest Mountains, 2005) demonstrates how science news makes its way into the media from deep within the labyrinthine space agency. Since the agency’s founding in 1958, reporters have had direct access to NASA scientists. That changed in recent years, writes Bowen, when high-level NASA political appointees began trying to control scientists’ conversations with the media, especially about climate science and global warming. Drawing on interviews, e-mails and documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, Bowen tells a chilling story of deliberate efforts by senior NASA managers, acting in concert with the Bush White House, to play up uncertainties and minimize dangers regarding global warming. Never made in writing, directives were generally issued orally, and in closed-door meetings, to NASA public-affairs officers, who were asked to act against their own principles and obtain approval from appointees before scientists could speak to the media. Hansen spoke out on 60 Minutes, noting government efforts to restrict his statements on 2005 as the warmest year on record. Bowen details the manipulations; shows how conservative NASA press officer George Deutsch was scapegoated as a rogue trying to control Hansen (while higher-ups declared an open-door media policy); and reveals how the White House “orchestrated” censorship on climate science at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and elsewhere. Amid the attack on credible, unbiased science, writes Bowen, Hansen despairs that no real progress is being made on global warming.
A must-read not just for environmentalists but for all politically conscientious readers.