Climategate: James Hansen Finds Complying with FOIA To Be Too Much of a Burden
The longtime Al Gore adviser, with his taxpayer-funded salary, finds the public's right to know how their money is spent to be unacceptable.
March 24, 2010 - 12:00 am
A “tipping point” appears to be at hand for James Hansen, the longtime Al Gore adviser and godfather of the modern global warming movement.
Hansen now seems so disgusted with the conditions of his employment — on the taxpayer dime — that he no longer sees the conditions as acceptable.
As PJM readers know, NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) got caught sexing up the post-2000 U.S. temperatures. I asked NASA for emails and other documents regarding their discussions about this. After more than two years, NASA coughed up some emails under the Freedom of Information Act, revealing internal discussions (and one particularly revealing external conversation) about losing data and other credibility issues. They also revealed discussion about NASA’s data being less reliable than — and indeed reliant upon — the non-existent Climategate temperature history from Britain’s Climate Research Unit (CRU).
These existed among other revelations (affirmations?), such as absurdly chummy relationships with establishment media and the ducking of questions from the less friendly reporters. (Additionally, there were some other discoveries which we will explore here at PJM and PJTV in coming weeks.)
Now, our FOIAs and those of others are apparently overwhelming Dr. Hansen’s media appearance and screed-writing time. He has taken to NASA’s website for yet another display of angst over his being one of the few honest visionaries fending off the dark forces working to subvert global salvation. Though this time, he doesn’t condemn those such as myself for crimes against humanity, a pleasant surprise.
Somehow we have to do a better job of communicating. The tricks being used by people supporting denial and business-as-usual are recognizably dirty, yet effective. We are continually burdened by sweeping FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests, which reduce our ability to do science and write it up (perhaps this is their main objective), a waste of tax-payer money. Our analyses are freely available on the GISS web site as is the computer program used to carry out the analysis and the data sets that go into the program.
The material that we supplied to some recent FOIA requests was promptly posted on a website, and within minutes after that posting someone found that one of the e-mails included information about how to access Makiko Sato’s password-protected research directory on the GISS website (we had not noticed this due to the volume of material). Within 90 minutes, and before anyone else who saw this password information thought it worth reporting to GISS staff, most if not all of the material in Makiko’s directory was purloined by someone using automated “web harvesting” software and re-posted elsewhere on the web. The primary material consisted of numerous drafts of webpage graphics and article figures made in recent years.
It seems that a primary objective of the FOIA requestors and the “harvesters” is discussions that they can snip and quote out of context. On the long run, these distortions of the truth will not work and the public will realize that they have been bamboozled. Unfortunately, the delay in public understanding of the situation, in combination with the way the climate system works (inertia, tipping points) could be very detrimental for our children and grandchildren. The public will need to put more pressure on policymakers, enough to overcome the pressure from special financial interests, if the actions needed to stabilize climate are to be achieved.
As the FOIA emails show, Hansen, et al spend a significant amount of time spinning the press and massaging posts for the RealClimate website (which was established to defend the indefensible “Hockey Stick” and to attack author Michael Crichton), in addition to dealing with FOIA requests.
Only one of these activities is a required condition of Hansen’s employment. (PJM will be publishing some upcoming additional examples of GISS wasting taxpayer time and money.)
I’m curious what Hansen refers to with his statements regarding how to access Makiko Sato’s password-protected research directory.
Hansen says his team, followed by NASA’s FOIA team, inadvertently let some information slip that they didn’t want to be public. (And naturally, he does not blame his people for the error). I believe Hansen here — it probably wasn’t a conscious act to turn over the admission that NASA’s data set no longer exists for any legal or policy purpose.
However, given Hansen’s history and his use of the speculative “most if not all,” is this just another attempt by Hansen to equate those who disagree with or annoy him with the criminal and unethical?
How exactly was the described material accessed? Is Hansen’s claim regarding the event true, or a fabrication? He does have a history of moonbattery, including his insistence that presidents named George Bush have muzzled him — even as he gave countless interviews, and numerous FOIA emails pay homage to him as a media king.
Further, recall the spin, post-Climategate, was that the scientists caught subverting transparency statutes — among other transgressions — merely had to learn to “communicate better.” This spin continues here, as does the persistent claim that their messages are “out of context.” This was demonstrably untrue in the case of the “Climategate” emails — posted in their entirety within their relevant email thread — as it is with the GISS emails which we posted in full.
Analyses are available at GISS’s website, but admissions about the unreliability of those analyses were only available through FOIA, which seems to be what has Hansen’s attention.
My advice to Hansen: if this condition of your lucrative public employment is, in hindsight and amid all of the revelations, now no longer acceptable to you, you are the person best positioned to do something about that.