Expert: Warming speech silenced


Published: Sunday, January 29, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 28, 2006 at 10:22 p.m.
NEW YORK - The top climate scientist at NASA says the Bush administration has tried to stop him from speaking out since he gave a lecture last month calling for prompt reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases linked to global warming.
The scientist, James E. Hansen, longtime director of the agency's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said in an interview that officials at NASA headquarters had ordered the public affairs staff to review his coming lectures, papers, postings on the Goddard Web site and requests for interviews from journalists.
Hansen said he would ignore the restrictions.
Dean Acosta, deputy assistant administrator for public affairs at the space agency, said the restrictions on Hansen applied to all National Aeronautics and Space Administration personnel whom the public could perceive as speaking for the agency. He added that government scientists were free to discuss scientific findings, but that policy statements should be left to policymakers and appointed spokespeople.
Hansen, 63, a physicist who joined the space agency in 1967, is a leading authority on Earth's climate system. He directs efforts to simulate the global climate on computers at the Goddard Institute in Morningside Heights in Manhattan.
In several recent interviews with The New York Times in recent days, Hansen said it would be irresponsible not to speak out, particularly because NASA's mission statement includes the phrase "to understand and protect our home planet."
The fresh efforts to quiet him, Hansen said, began in a series of calls after a lecture he gave on Dec. 6 at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. In the talk, he said that significant emission cuts could be achieved with existing technologies, particularly in the case of motor vehicles, and that without leadership by the United States, climate change would eventually leave Earth "a different planet." The administration's policy is to use voluntary measures to slow, but not reverse, the growth of emissions.
Among the restrictions, according to Hansen and an internal draft memorandum he provided to The Times, was that his supervisors could stand in for him in any news media interviews.
In an interview on Friday, Ralph J. Cicerone, an atmospheric chemist and the president of the National Academy of Sciences, the nation's leading independent scientific body, praised Hansen's scientific contributions and said he had always seemed to describe his public statements clearly as his personal views.

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