January 28, 2006

Climate expert says NASA bids to muzzle him: report

NEW YORK (Reuters) - NASA's top climate scientist said the
Bush administration has tried to stop him from speaking out
since he gave a lecture in December calling for prompt
reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases, The New York Times
said on Saturday.

In an interview with the newspaper, James Hansen, director
of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said that
officials at the space agency's headquarters had ordered the
public affairs staff to review his lectures, papers, postings
on the Goddard Web site and requests for interviews from

"They feel their job is to be this censor of information
going out to the public," the Times quoted Hansen as saying,
adding that the scientist planned to ignore the new

A NASA spokesman denied any effort to silence Hansen, the
Times said. "That's not the way we operate here at NASA," said
Dean Acosta, deputy assistant administrator for public affairs.
"We promote openness and we speak with the facts."

Rather, the spokesman said the restrictions applied to any
and all NASA personnel who could be seen by the public as
speaking for the agency. Acosta added, however, that while
government scientists were free to discuss scientific findings,
policy statements should be left to policy makers and appointed
spokesmen, the Times said.

The story was posted on its Web site and will be published
in Sunday's editions.

Hansen, a physicist who joined the space agency in 1967, is
an authority on climate who directs efforts to simulate the
global climate on computers at Manhattan's Goddard Institute.


Since 1988 he has warned publicly about the long-term
threat from heat-trapping emissions, dominated by carbon
dioxide, that are a byproduct of burning coal, oil and other
fossil fuels, The Times said.

It said he fell out of favor with the White House in 2004
after a University of Iowa speech ahead of the presidential
election in which he complained that government climate
scientists were being muzzled, adding that he planned to vote
for Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry.

Hansen told the Times over the course of several interviews
that an effort began in early December to keep him from
publicly discussing what he says are clear-cut dangers from
further delay in curbing carbon dioxide.

Hansen said the recent efforts to quiet him began after a
lecture he gave on December 6 at the annual meeting of the
American Geophysical Union in San Francisco in which he said
that significant emission cuts could be achieved with existing
technologies, particularly in the case of motor vehicles.

Without leadership by the United States, he told The Times,
climate change would eventually leave the earth "a different

Hansen said that NASA headquarters officials repeatedly
phoned public affairs officers, who warned Hansen of "dire
consequences" if such statements continued. The officers
confirmed the warning to the Times.

The Bush administration's policy is to use voluntary
measures to slow, but not reverse, the growth of emissions, the
paper said.