Probe finds NASA suppressed climate data
A report released Monday by NASA's Inspector General found that political appointees in the space agency's public affairs office deliberately played down research on climate change.
A report released Monday by NASA's Inspector General found that political appointees in the space agency's public affairs office deliberately played down research on climate change.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
The 48-page report (PDF) concluded that, for two years, public affairs officers interfered with findings by National Aeronautics and Space Administration scientists, but that they were not acting under the direction of top NASA officials or the White House:
Our investigation found that during the fall of 2004 through early 2006, the NASA Headquarters Office of Public Affairs managed the topic of climate change in a manner that reduced, marginalized, or mischaracterized climate change science made available to the general public through those particular media over which the Office of Public Affairs had control (i.e., news releases and media access). We also concluded that the climate change editorial decisions were localized within the NASA Headquarters Office of Public Affairs; we found no credible evidence suggesting that senior NASA or Administration officials directed the NASA Headquarters Office of Public Affairs to minimize information relating to climate change.
The public affairs officials implicated in the report told investigators that they managed climate scientists' communications for technical, not political, reasons. But the report found "by a preponderance of the evidence that the claims of inappropriate political interference made by the climate change scientists and career Public Affairs Officers were more persuasive than the arguments of the senior Public Affairs officials that their actions were due to the volume and poor quality of the draft news releases."
The interference did not extend to actual research on climate change, the report notes, nor did it alter the dissemination of climate change findings to the scientific community. "In short," the report finds, "the defects we found are associated with the manner of operation of the NASA Headquarters Office of Public Affairs and are largely due to the actions of a few key senior employees of that office."
The report was requested by 14 senators after James Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the agency's leading climate scientist, told the New York Times and other news outlets that he had been muzzled by NASA's press officers. The report found that after the Goddard Institute drew media attention in December 2005 after it published findings that the year was on track to be the hottest year on record, NASA broke with previous policies to demand that all interview requests with NASA employees be cleared with the public affairs office.