Relentless Pursuit of Wisdom and Liberty

The weblog companion of, dedicated to pondering, "If Patrick Henry could see us now..."

Friday, June 01, 2007

NASA chief's common-sense approach to climate change

NASA Chief Administrator Michael Griffin laid out a very common-sense approach to global warming in an NPR interview yesterday:
"I have no doubt that global — that a trend of global warming exists," Griffin told National Public Radio's Morning Edition in an interview aired early Thursday. "I am not sure that it is fair to say that it is a problem we must wrestle with."

Ok, fine so far. Everyone's entitled to their opinion and interpretation of the evidence available, and he certainly has more access to that evidence than Joe Blogger does. But his next couple of comments are spot-on:

"To assume that it is a problem is to assume that the state of Earth's climate today is the optimal climate, the best climate that we could have or ever have had, and that we need to take steps to make sure that it doesn't change," Griffin said.
"First of all, I don't think it's within the power of human beings to assure that the climate does not change, as millions of years of history have shown," he continued. "And second of all, I guess I would ask which human beings — where and when — are to be accorded the privilege of deciding that this particular climate that we have right here today, right now is the best climate for all other human beings. I think that's a rather arrogant position for people to take."

This is the missing voice of reason in the whole global warming debate (and it is still a debate - one side just saying it's over doesn't make it over): the voice asking, "What the heck can we do about it, given the history of the world and our minor place in that tapestry?" Whether it's really happening or not is one piece of the question; if it is happening, what the root causes are is yet another piece of the question; and if it can be shown both a) that human activity significantly causes or contributes to it and b) that the reduction of certain human activity can reduce it, then by all means let's come up with some ways that might help, if they're put into practice. The other major question at the end of all that is how much do we want government to force people to act a certain way? That's a question for a much larger audience than just me or my readers, but by no means is it a settled question.

One more quote from Administrator Griffin:

"Nowhere in NASA's authorization, which of course governs what we do, is there anything at all telling us that we should take actions to affect climate change in either one way or another," Griffin told NPR. "We study global climate change — that is in our authorization. We think we do it rather well. I'm proud of that, but NASA is not an agency chartered to, quote, battle climate change."

Bravo to a federal government employee who actually takes the laws that authorize his agency's work seriously and doesn't try to unilaterally circumvent them when he feels like it!