James Hansen of NASA arrested in protest outside White House
    By Hank Campbell | August 29th 2011 04:17 PM | 23 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    James Hansen, head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, was arrested outside the White House as he joined protesters in urging President Barack Obama to reject TransCanada Corp. (TRP)’s $7 billion pipeline.

    It's all fine to protest but we have to find out if he took yet another leave of absence to engage in advocacy work.   If climate scientists want to be regarded as trusted guides for complex science issues, they need to stop being kooky shills.  Hansen goes to all of these things because he leverages the NASA brand - he isn't a climate scientist by degree, he is an astrophysicist.

    Environmentalists oppose the Keystone pipeline project because they would apparently rather continue giving money to misogynist, human rights-violating dictatorships than add 120,000 jobs in North America and have fewer greenhouse gas emissions by lowering transport needs significantly.

    A State Department report last week said that the pipeline across six U.S. states to carry oil from Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf Coast has low environmental risks provided TransCanada complies with U.S. law and follows recommended safeguards. A final decision will be made by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton this year, based on whether the project is in the U.S. national interest.

    More: NASA’s Hansen Arrested Outside White House at Pipeline Protest - Mark Drajem, Bloomberg


    How about putting your opinions on an editorial page where they belong, and just report facts in your news stories.

    This is an editorial page.  Even the New York Times has one of those.  It's your taxpayer money, too, do you not agree political protests are bad form for a scientist who is supposed to be regarded as a neutral source of data?  
    As the head of the Goddard Institute, Hansen deals with data and reports by engineers and scientists from many different fields. It is his job to gather information from many different sources and to come to a conclusion based on the best scientific data available.

    "Neutrality" is fine when you are examining facts. If after assembling those facts, you come to a conclusion that's based on a careful analysis, would you regard it as a sign of "bias" to put forth that line of reasoning and conclusion?

    I'm a lot more willing to trust Hansen on this issue than the armies of lobbyists, and elected officials whose domains the pipeline will run through. Between him and them who is more likely to be "neutral"?

    So your contention is all of NASA is qualified to get paid to go to the White House and protest policy decisions they don't like?  

    Sorry, there are numerous government employees who are not afforded that luxury, especially if they are protesting something you happen not to like.
    Putting words in my mouth that I DID NOT SAY just so you can then belittle them, is a pretty lame tactic. (Especially for a big time blogger like yourself.)

    I did NOT say anything about what may or may not be permissible for "all of NASA". I only addressed the actions of one person. Mr Hansen.

    People at Hansen's level are not clocking in/out on a Mon-Fri, 8-5, 40 hour/week schedule. Senior management is frequently putting in a lot of evenings and weekends. On that basis, he deserves more than a little latitude on how he uses his time.

    If you have some evidence that he has been derelict in his duties, I would urge you to bring it forward. Otherwise . . .

    NASA has refused to disclose how much time off he gets from his duties to conduct this sort of thing.  As you can imagine, protesting at the White House is not the job of any government employee.  I'm not sure why you think he is exempt from the federal law every other government employee must obey.   Are we instead believing he gets months of vacation each year or that he is on unpaid leave to get arrested?

    He is also supposed to have been paid $1.2 million beyond his government salary in the last four years but FOIA requests on that have been denied.  So, you are right, there is no evidence because the lawyers for the government have an unlimited pool of money to use to block anyone from getting information about him.
    Same lame approach. Attribute a statement to me that I did NOT make so you can belittle it.

    Where did I say that "...he is exempt from the federal law every other government employee must obey."? And for that matter, you seem to be asserting that he was breaking a federal law. If that is the case and you do believe that he was in violation of a federal law, please be specific. Precisely what law was he breaking?

    You seem to excel at innuendo, but keep coming up short when requested to provide facts to back up your assertions.

    Your only response is to make more unfounded accusations. Or at least accusations that you are unable to back up with anything more than an opinion.

    Well, I am not an employee of the US government getting paid to engage in protests, nor am I some anonymous person commenting on the Internet, so there are no assertions.  If you believe that every government employee should be allowed to engage in partisan politics during work hours, then I can see why you regard concerns as 'innuendo'.

    If you instead believe that scientists who want to be accepted as impartial guides for science should use their official positions for one-sided and anti-science political motives, well, there isn't much anyone can do to show you why that erodes the public's trust.   You may, of course, continue to believe only the scientists whose motives match your progressive world view.
    What evidence is that he was "paid to go to the White house and protest policy decisions?"

    And what's wrong with expressing an opinion on a policy decision?

    Finally, Hansen is not an astrophysicist (usually meaning physics of objects outside the solar system), he is a planetary physicist. Planetary physics has always dealt with the physics and thermodynamics of atmospheres and the technology involved in experimental measurement. It's of course from the Mars and Venus observations as well as Earth observations starting in the 1950's and 1960's (*) which lead to the current understanding of the key role of infrared emissivities of greenhouse gases and determining climate. In sum, a planetary physicist from NASA can rightfully be in the center of the scientific background, training and research.

    (*) yes, among scientists it's been in play for that long, well before any "kooky environmentalist" latched on to it---baby seals are much cuter).

    Gerhard Adam
    "Neutrality" is fine when you are examining facts.
    What ?!?  It's all there is.  Anything else is activism and does nothing for science except compromise credibility.  There are scientists right now that would love to outlaw meat.  There are scientists that would love to want legislation against "third hand smoke".  I don't want ANY of those scientists involved in public policy in any capacity except as private citizens, if they choose.

    Just as the military can't be trusted to make public policy decisions regarding military actions, neither should scientists be trusted to make public policy decisions regarding scientific matters.  Each has the potential for tyranny under the guise of doing it "for your own good" and "because they know better".
    Mundus vult decipi
    I was surprised when I read this short article about Hanson. Like the first comment by anonymous, I also believed that these entries in Science links were supposed to be more factual and less editorial. I was therefore surprised and dismayed by the entire second paragraph of the piece.
    I also think it is curious that Mr. Campbell implies that Mr. Hanson is a climate scientist and is acting like a kooky shill then goes on to state that Mr. Hnason is an astrophysicist and not a climate scientist. It appears therefore to discredit all climate scientists as kooky shills.
    Mr. Cambell is correct to say that it is our tax money that is being spent to support science but he goes on imply that because a scientist accepts the money he gives up his right to advocate for what he believes and he must remain neutral on, I suppose, any and all issues. I strongly disagree with that concept. A good scientist should not be neutral when the data aren't.
    With regard to Mr. Cambell's comment about being reliant on misogynist human rights violating dictatorships(for our oil supplies) he is 100% correct. That is not a good thing. One could argue that we are also reliant on another misogynist human rights violator for our manufactured products. In both the above two ccases it is the multinationals who are the bad guys they will deal with whoever inorder to increase their profits and according to what I am reading, they are in no hurry to reinvest those profits in manufacturing jobs for our people.
    All that siad if the environmental impact of the pipeline is negligible then I would be for it with the proviso that our laws will be enforced. Unfortunately with conservatives like we currently have in charge of the government and the media we have no guarantee that those laws will be respected, do we?

    Hansen gets invited to the events he does because he works for NASA, not because he acquired expertise that thousands of actual climate scientists do not have.  
    The pipeline has been among the more rigorously analyzed endeavors in recent memory.   Contending the State Dept. is somehow a conservative pawn and therefore the studies are right wing conspiracies designed to profit big oil is silly.
    The pipeline itself may have been rigorously analyzed, but the effects of producing oil from the tar sands are quite another matter. Significant amounts of groundwater are needed for the processing and disposing of the contaminated water is problematical at best. Just because THAT problem is in Canada, doesn't mean we should ignore it.

    Oh he's ONLY an astrophysicist. Totally ignorable than, I'm sure he has no idea how to practically and objectively analyze climate data since he ONLY studies astrophysics.

    If a biologist were a global warming denier, would you not say he is out of his element?  I am not sure why a degree in atmospheric science is no longer needed if it's someone you happen to like.
    Me, if I could decide, I'd vote for the pipeline.

    The aforementioned notwithstanding, I, too, urge that Science links not direct to unscientific bloggage such as Mr. Campbell's, comments above. This one article filled with ad hominem attacks against climate scientists and environmentalists generally is enough to convince me that Mr. Campbell cannot argue rationally. I don't expect diatribe and innuendo in a Science link article. Please cease.

    By the way, if Mr. Campbell really wanted to frustrate Mr. Hanson's efforts, why did he publicize this arrest? Isn't he profiting, that is, increasing his readership, from that which he condemns, that is, publicity for the protests?

    On the other hand, I don't recall encountering Mr. Campbell's writing before. so perhaps, dear Science link editors, I should thank you for alerting me to this relatively short example of why I should avoid Mr. Campbell's future comments on any subject.

    Typo alerts: Extra comma after "comments" in first sentence second paragraph. Period after "before" in first sentence final paragraph should be a comma.

    Grammar errors are no problem.

    I think scientists, who are supposed to be trusted guides for the public regarding complex science issues, should be discouraged from engaging in partisan protests, especially in fields that are outside their area of expertise.  

    What Hansen is doing is basically telling all of the scientists who performed the environmental impact study they are incompetent - but then he expects the public to accept his work on the atmosphere.  When the public learns to distrust scientists because they are advocates, that is very hard to undo.
    Dr. Hansen has been awarded some of the highest honors by his peers and is of the highest integrity. For over 20 years has warned the public at large of the danger we are creating by burning these fossil fuels. Because of the large profits being made in the fossil fuel industry and the money funneled into politics by them, no action has been taken.
    I urge readers to obtain a copy of his book, "Storms of My Grandchildren" and then judge this article.

    Prof Hansen is primarily a planetary climatologist. His academic qualifications and his subsequent work allow him to express an expert opinion on the subject of the pipeline.

    He is not an expert in this area, though.  He is instead contending that the experts are (a) stupid or (b) on the take, the exact mentality he resents when skeptics use that about his research.

    If he were chaining himself to an abortion clinic on the taxpayer's money, I would have the same criticism.
    You state he's not an "expert" in this area? His whole professional life has been devoted to "climate science"! I suppose if one intent is to smear, better make it as good as it can be.

    The protest was not about climate science - I suppose he acquired expertise in that, though it wasn't his field or his PhD.   The protest is about a pipeline, which was studied by actual experts and declared safe.    If you want biologists protesting his climate science talks, then I suppose it makes sense to say anyone with government funding should be allowed to protest other fields at taxpayer expense.   It feels wrong, though.