Last week, NPR asked NASA administrator Michael Griffin said that while he was “aware that global warming exists,” he wasn’t sure whether it “is a longterm concern or not.” Griffin said he is “not sure that it is fair to say that it is a problem we must wrestle with.”
Griffin subsequently clarified his remarks, stating that protecting the earth against global warming is not in the agency’s mission statement:
The agency is responsible for collecting data that is used by the science community and policy makers as part of an ongoing discussion regarding our planet’s evolving systems. It is NASA’s responsibility to collect, analyze and release information. It is not NASA’s mission to make policy regarding possible climate change mitigation strategies.”
But from 2002-2006, it was. Part of NASA’s mission was to “protect our home planet“:
To understand and protect our home planet; to explore the universe and search for life; to inspire the next generation of explorers … as only NASA can.
In Feb. 2006, the mission statement was “quietly altered” to remove the phrase “to understand and protect our home planet.” Even a year ago, NASA scientists predicted that because of the mission statement revision, there would “be far less incentive to pursue projects to improve understanding of terrestrial problems like climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions.” Top NASA climatologist James Hansen called the deletion “a shocking loss,” because he had “been using the phrase since December 2005 to justify speaking out about the dangers of global warming.”
In contrast to the previous mission statement, the 2006 revision “was made at NASA headquarters without consulting the agency’s 19,000 employees or informing them ahead of time.” Instead, it was submitted as part of the 2006 Earth Science Research and Analysis budget, which is a joint product of the White House’s Office of Management and Budget and the NASA Administrator, Michael Griffin.
Therefore, Griffin is right. Unfortunately, protecting the earth against climate change is not part of NASA’s mission anymore. But that’s because he changed the mission.