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Global Warming News

by Rudy Baum, Editor-in-chief
February 13, 2006 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 84, Issue 7

Items from the global warming front:

2005 was the warmest year in recorded history, according to James E. Hansen and coworkers at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS). "The highest global surface temperature in more than a century of instrumental data was recorded in the 2005 calendar year in the GISS annual analysis," the scientists write on their website (

The scientists point out that 2005 was in close to a dead heat with 1998, the warmest previous year. However, "record warmth in 2005 is notable because global temperature has not received any boost from a tropical El Niño this year," the scientists write. "The prior record year, 1998, on the contrary, was lifted 0.2 oC above the trend line by the strongest El Niño of the past century."

Importantly, the scientists observe that "global warming is now 0.6 oC in the past three decades and 0.8 oC in the past century. It is no longer correct to say that 'most global warming occurred before 1940.' More specifically, there was slow global warming, with large fluctuations, over the century up to 1975 and subsequent rapid warming of almost 0.2 oC per decade."

The NASA scientists also maintain that the link between the record temperatures and human activities is clear. "Recent warming coincides with rapid growth of human-made greenhouse gases," they write. "Climate models show that the rate of warming is consistent with expectations. The observed rapid warming thus gives urgency to discussions about how to slow greenhouse gas emissions."

The Bush Administration would just as soon you not know that 2005 was the warmest year in recorded history or that its top climate scientist thinks humans are responsible. According to the Washington Post and New York Times, Administration officials pressured Hansen to remove the information on 2005 global temperatures from the NASA website. The Times reported that, in a series of interviews, Hansen claimed that the Administration was attempting to block him from speaking about the urgency of addressing greenhouse gas emissions. The newspaper also reported that numerous other NASA scientists maintained that the agency was working to suppress scientific information on global warming.

These reports led to the surreal spectacle of NASA Administrator Michael D. Griffin reaffirming the space agency's commitment to "openness." NASA's website now contains a "Statement on Scientific Openness" from Griffin. It reads, in part: "I want to make sure that NASA employees hear directly from me on how I view the issue of scientific openness and the role of public affairs within the agency.

"First, NASA has always been, is, and will continue to be committed to open scientific and technical inquiry and dialogue with the public. The basis for this principle is codified in the Space Act of 1958, which required NASA to 'provide the widest practicable and appropriate dissemination of information concerning its activities and the results thereof.'

"Second, the job of the Office of Public Affairs, at every level in NASA, is to convey the work done at NASA to our stakeholders in an intelligible way. It is not the job of public affairs officers to alter, filter, or adjust engineering or scientific material produced by NASA's technical staff."

I'm glad that's been cleared up.

Last week, a group of 86 evangelical Christian leaders formed the "Evangelical Climate Initiative" and issued a statement, "Climate Change: An Evangelical Call to Action." The statement offers four claims and urges "all to take the appropriate actions that follow from them."

◾ Human-induced climate change is real.
◾ The consequences of climate change will be significant, and will hit the poor the hardest.
◾ Christian moral convictions demand a response by evangelicals to the climate-change problem.
◾ The need to act now is urgent. Governments, businesses, churches, and individuals all have a role to play in addressing climate change, starting now.

Evangelical Christians are a powerful force in the U.S., and when many of their leaders decide that global warming is an urgent moral issue, I begin to have some hope that we may finally begin to make progress on this problem.

Thanks for reading.


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