American space programme's leading climate scientist has accused the
White House of trying to gag him after he called last month for urgent
cuts in the emissions of greenhouse gases linked to global warming,
writes Ned Temko
James Hansen, director of Nasa's Goddard
Institute for Space Studies, is reported in today's New York Times as
saying that officials at Nasa headquarters ordered staff to review his
forthcoming lectures, papers and media interviews. He said he intended
to ignore the restrictions.
Acosta, Nasa's deputy assistant administrator for public affairs,
denied that there had been any specific effort to silence Hansen.
'That's not the way we operate here at Nasa,' he was quoted as saying.
Acosta said Hansen was subject to the same restrictions as other Nasa
employees who might be seen as representing official agency policy. He
said scientists were free to discuss scientific findings, but that
policy statements could be made only by official spokesmen.
United States has refused to sign the Kyoto agreement on limiting
greenhouse gas emissions. Bush administration officials have instead
emphasised the need to develop and disseminate new, cleaner
technologies as a way of curbing emissions.
Hansen, 63, a
physicist who has been at Nasa for nearly 30 years, is in charge of
efforts to simulate the global climate on computers at the Goddard
Institute in Manhattan.
Since 1988, he has been issuing public
warnings about the long-term threat of emissions from burning coal, oil
and other fossil fuels.
He fell out of favour with the Bush
administration after a speech on the eve of the 2004 presidential
election in which he claimed government scientists were being muzzled
and announced he planned to vote for the Democratic party challenger,
Senator John Kerry.
Hansen was quoted in the New York Times as
saying that nothing in his career had equalled the pressure that has
been brought on him since December. 'He's not trying to create a war
over this,' said Larry Travis, Hansen's deputy, 'but [he] feels very
strongly that this is an obligation we have as federal scientists - to
inform the public.