Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Oil Executive Leads Attack on Climate Scientist Jim Hansen

Oil executive H. Leighton Steward is helping a group of former NASA employees push a letter attacking climate scientist James Hansen (sub. req.), head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies:
Leighton Steward, a retired oil industry official who is chairman of the nonprofit groups Plants Need CO2 and CO2 is Green, said the coalition formed a few weeks ago. He had given presentations to the NASA retirees last year meant to underscore that empirical data don't echo the dire predictions of climate modeling espoused by Hansen and others.

"We've been trying to tell people that there's a lot of great benefit in CO2 in the atmosphere," he explained to POLITICO. Steward emphasized that he did not organize the coalition of NASA retirees nor is he a spokesman for them.
First, the obvious: The "extra CO2 is good for plants" argument is completely nuts, unless you enjoy wildfires and think Virginia Beach would look better under 30 to 90 meters of seawater.

As for H. Leighton, I know why he likes to call himself "retired" - makes him seem like he's not the active part of Big Oil that he really is - but I'm not clear why Politico reporter Darren Goode repeats it here. Steward is a member of the board of directors of oil & gas company EOG Resources, where he's made millions of dollars.

H. Leighton is also trying to have it both ways on ownership of the letter. He told Goode he didn't organize it & isn't a spokesman, but hours later he emailed his PlantsNeedCO2.org list bragging about "our announcements" and media appearances:
Our announcements below include the actual letter and signatories. The letter speaks for itself.  We will update this with media interviews in which we are fortunate to participate.  
The list itself also deserves some scrutiny. I picked out just one name, the only listed "meteorologist," Thomas (Tom) Wysmuller, who's listed as "Johnson Space Center, Meteorologist, 5 years." But a quick Google search turns up Wysmuller's website, which says "at different times in his life, Tom has been" both "a Meteorologist" and "a NASA Intern." If Wysmuller was a NASA meteorologist for 5 years, why wouldn't his own website say so? Another Wysmuller bio that says had a "dual major in sociology and political science, and a concentration in meteorology at NYU" - how meteorology fits under sociology & poli sci, I'm not sure - and that he was an "an intern and jack-of-all-trades for NASA."

If the letter so significantly overstates the credentials of the one signer I looked into, how many other overstatements are there? They didn't exactly strike one climate scientist as experts:
Texas A&M atmospheric sciences professor Andrew Dessler told POLITICO that he did in fact meet with the 75 or so retirees at Goddard last October — along with University of Houston professor Barry Lefer and fellow Texas A&M professor John Nielsen-Gammon — and came away less than impressed. 
“These people are well meaning, but they don’t seem to realize that climate science takes years of full-time work to actually get to know,” he said. “They really don’t understand anything about the climate system. They understand less than the first-year grad students that come out of my classes.”
We're well past the point of needing fancy computer models to understand global warming - just look at the thousands of temperature records that fell in March. It's time for action.
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