White House Blames NASA Chief’s Global Warming Denial On His ‘Wry Sense Of Humor’

Yesterday, NPR asked NASA administrator Michael Griffin, “Are you concerned about global warming?” His answer: “I’m aware that global warming exists” but “[w]hether that is a longterm concern or not, I can’t say.” Griffin added that he is “not sure that it is fair to say that it is a problem we must wrestle with.”

Griffin’s remarks were stunning, coming just days after his own agency released a report warning of the “disastrous effects” of climate change. NASA quickly tried to avert some of the criticism of Griffin’s remarks by lamely blaming NPR for asking questions that were too tough:

NASA spokesman David Mould said the NPR interviewer was trying to push Griffin into saying something about global warming. NASA’s position is that it provides scientific data on the issue, but policymakers decide, he said.

The White House’s science adviser Jack Marburger also tried to dismiss Griffin’s ignorance, insisting the NASA administrator was joking:

“It’s pretty obvious that the NASA administrator was speaking about his own personal views and by no means representing or attempting to represent the administration’s views or broader policy,” Marburger said. “He’s got a very wry sense of humor and is very outspoken.

But scientists are not taking lightly the fact that Griffin, the head of NASA doesn’t understand the seriousness of global warming, with some calling on him to resign. Some reactions:

James Hansen, NASA’s top climate scientist: “It’s an incredibly arrogant and ignorant statement. It indicates a complete ignorance of understanding the implications of climate change.”

Michael Oppenheimer, Professor of Geosciences and International Affairs at Princeton University: “It’s astounding that the head of a major U.S. science agency could hold such attitudes — basically ignorance about the global warming problem. It’s so astonishing that I think he should resign.

Gavin Schmidt, NASA climate scientist: “Griffin’s comments seem surprisingly naive. We are not in a situation where we are shopping around for an ideal climate, but that we have adapted to the climate we have, and that therefore large changes to it are not likely to be beneficial.”

Berrien Moore, Director of the Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space at the University of New Hampshire: “I don’t understand it. I’m really stunned he would say something like that. I mean, I just really find it shocking.

On the same day that Griffin, a Bush appointee, made his remarks, the President claimed that his administration “takes this issue [global warming] seriously.”