May 31, 2007
Contact:
Leah Yoon | 

NASA’S TOP CLIMATE CHANGE SCIENTIST JAMES HANSEN
REACTS TO NASA CHIEF’S REMARKS
ON GLOBAL WARMING: “I ALMOST FELL OFF MY CHAIR”
CALLS NASA ADMINISTRATOR MICHAEL GRIFFIN’S COMMENTS: “REMARKABLY
UNINFORMED”
AND SAYS RESEARCH SUPPORT FOR CLIMATE CHANGE HAS BEEN
“DRAMATICALLY DECREASED”
ON NPR NEWS DAY TO DAY
TODAY, THURSDAY, MAY 31, 2007

AUDIO AVAILABLE AT http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=10577221


May 31, 2007; Washington, DC – NASA’s top climate change scientist James Hansen tells NPR News that he “almost fell off my chair” upon hearing his boss’ comments on global warming earlier today on NPR News’ Morning Edition. In an interview with Madeleine Brand airing this afternoon on NPR News’ Day to Day, Dr. Hansen says he found the comments made by NASA Administrator Michael Griffin to be “remarkably uninformed” and offered additional insight on the significance of climate change saying, “Civilization developed with – it’s the current climate. And we have got an infrastructure along coastlines that assumes that our climate is going to stay roughly what it is now. But if we are going to simply allow human emissions to greatly change climate, I think that is extremely arrogant of our species. It will be devastating to many other species on the planet, not to mention many of our own species.”



A complete transcript of the interview is below. Audio of the interview will be available at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=10577221. All excerpts must be attributed to NPR News’ Day to Day. Television usage must include on-screen credit logo.

Excerpts from the interview:
On NASA funding support for climate change programs:
“Well, the signals that we have got really come from the research support, which has decreased dramatically in the last couple of years. There was a 30-percent cut last year in the research-and-analysis budget for earth science. And that is the money that funds climate research in NASA. That is decimating the program.”

On President Bush’s new proposal on climate change:
“Well, I think it’s very timely to get together and start to do something. Time is really running out. As we discussed in a paper that we just brought out – the press release came out yesterday – we are at a tipping point. If we don’t begin to make some changes in our emissions, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, we’re going to get some really large climate changes.”

On why NASA Administrator Griffin would downplay the significance of global warming:
“I have no idea. It’s an amazing coincidence that it’s at the same time as our paper just came out and the President’s statements, but I just found it very surprising.”

With 1.7 million listeners Day to Day, NPR’s fastest-growing new program, is a weekday, one-hour newsmagazine produced at NPR West studios in Culver City, Calif., in collaboration with Slate.com and hosted by Alex Chadwick and Madeleine Brand.

-NPR-


MADELEINE BRAND: We turn now to NASA’s top climate change scientist, Jim Hansen. Welcome to the program.

JAMES HANSEN: Glad to be here.

MS. BRAND: Well, we have just heard about President Bush’s new proposal on climate change, and what do you think about it?

DR. HANSEN: Well, I think it’s very timely to get together and start to do something. Time is really running out. As we discussed in a paper that we just brought out – the press release came out yesterday – we are at a tipping point. If we don’t begin to make some changes in our emissions, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, we’re going to get some really large climate changes.

MS. BRAND: Earlier today on NPR’s Morning Edition, your boss, NASA administrator Michael Griffin, said something about global climate change that raised a few eyebrows. Let’s listen.

MICHAEL GRIFFIN: I have no doubt that a trend of global warming exists. I am not sure that it is fair to say that it is a problem we must wrestle with. To assume that it is a problem is to assume that the state of the earth’s climate today is the optimal climate, the best climate that we could have or ever have had, and that we need to take steps to make sure that it doesn’t change.

MS. BRAND: And when you heard those comments, what did you think?

DR. HANSEN: I almost fell off my chair. It’s remarkably uninformed. Civilization developed with – it’s the current climate. And we have got an infrastructure along coastlines that assumes that our climate is going to stay roughly what it is now. But if we are going to simply allow human emissions to greatly change climate, I think that is extremely arrogant of our species. It will be devastating to many other species on the planet, not to mention many of our own species.

MS. BRAND: Well, NASA is involved in a lot of research on global climate change. And so what does it mean that the head of NASA is kind of doubting that it’s a problem?

DR. HANSEN: I still hope that his remarks are perhaps out of context. On the surface, they appear to be markedly uninformed about the status of our understanding, because, as our paper pointed out, if we continue on the path we’re on, we will be producing a different planet, which will have devastating implications for many people on the planet.

MS. BRAND: Has he read your paper?

DR. HANSEN: Apparently not.

MS. BRAND: Will you be asking him, in the light of his comments, to read it and to have a conversation with you about it?

DR. HANSEN: Well, I don’t normally bump into him at my level in NASA, but if I have the opportunity, I certainly would like to talk to him about it.

MS. BRAND: What kind of signals do you get from your bosses, from the people there at NASA in terms of your research? Are you directed in anyway as to where you should point your research?

DR. HANSEN: Well, the signals that we have got really come from the research support, which has decreased dramatically in the last couple of years. There was a 30-percent cut last year in the research-and-analysis budget for earth science. And that is the money that funds climate research in NASA.

MS. BRAND: A 30-percent cut. What does that translate into?

DR. HANSEN: Well, that is a huge cut. That is decimating the program.

MS. BRAND: Decimating the program. So are there key areas that you think are vital research that you just can’t afford to research right now?

DR. HANSEN: Well, the biggest problem is the measurements that need to be made. Now, those – the budget for satellites has not been cut as much, but it’s been cut to the point where we cannot afford as many satellite missions, and measurements are the foundation of understanding.

MS. BRAND: Why do you think Michael Griffin would make comments such as these, kind of sort of downplaying the significance of global warming?

DR. HANSEN: I have no idea. It’s an amazing coincidence that it’s at the same time as our paper just came out and the President’s statements, but I just found it very surprising.

MS. BRAND: Jim Hansen. Thank you for joining us.

DR. HANSEN: Sure. It’s good to be here. Thanks.

MS. BRAND: Jim Hansen is the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York. He is NASA’s top climate scientist.

(END)