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February 21, 2008

Censored Science

Posted: 02:49 PM ET

One of the stories in tonight's "Broken Government: Scorched Earth" special tells the tale of Gretchen Cook-Anderson, a NASA public affairs officer who says her job publicizing the agency's research into global warming put her on a collision course with political appointees at the top of NASA's communications office.

Initially excited about working the global warming beat, Gretchen said she soon found herself in the hot seat as her bosses pushed her harder and harder to soft-pedal or even squelch any news suggesting climate change has a human cause.

She says she was even ordered to telephone NASA's leading climate researcher, Dr. James Hansen, and tell him to stop talking to the media altogether except on agency vetted, approved and supervised occasions. And when she resisted, she found her career prospects swirling down the drain.

Gretchen's story is compelling. It seems to illustrates a disturbing trend where by government bureaucrats are seemingly manipulating scientific findings to serve a political agenda, rather than the truth.

Reporter Miles O'Brien and I want to give full credit to Mark Bowen, who first told Gretchen's story in his book "Censoring Science," and to Andrew Revkin, the New York Times correspondent who first reported the political machinations going on at the NASA Headquarters Public Affairs Office.

Revkin told us that after his story ran, it was like a cork popping out of fizzy bottle.

"I started getting all these e-mails from Yahoo accounts and NASA people across the country, from Goddard Space Flight Center down in near Washington and from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory - with actually worse stories, in some ways. There was a scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory who'd had a press release rewritten with a quotation inserted to divert it from being about climate to being about space exploration - that he had never approved, but it was in his words. That was pretty bad. And things like that were happening, and and as I dug in deeper this story kind of got some legs. "

Bowen has a PhD in physics from MIT, and comes at his his subject matter as a scientist and interested citizen - and he didn't hold back in expressing his outrage to us at what he sees as a political agenda at work:

"It is very clear a destructive policy toward global warming has been pursued by this administration since the beginning...and they bent facts, or reality, or whatever you want to call it, to fit what was really and ideological goal. And it seems as though it was a financial goal. So I don't think an administration has a right to do that, I think it was betraying democracy."

-Kate Tobin, Senior Producer, CNN Science & Technology

Watch “Broken Government: Scorched Earth” on Thursday, February 21, at 11 p.m. ET, immediately following the CNN Debate live in Austin, Texas.

Filed under: Scientists


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Stephen, Wilmington, NC   February 21st, 2008 7:19 pm ET

There's an agenda on both sides of this debate, who knows who to believe anymore.


Jeff Duncan   February 22nd, 2008 12:34 pm ET

About the ethanol part of the program... While it is true that corn based ethanol cannot cover our fuel needs and is not a long term solution. It has provided some short term benefits to air and water quality and production efficiencies are improving. There are many other scientists that report a positive net energy for corn-based ethanol. It's not great but, certainly not 30% negative like the Prof. from Cornell reports from his calculations. Maybe another opinion besides the lobbyist would have painted a more accurate picture of what is going on.


Ubik   February 22nd, 2008 1:42 pm ET

>>There’s an agenda on both sides of this debate, who knows who to believe anymore.

Agreed. Global Warming has become so politicized that Science has been left behind on the road. Nowadays I take any discussion on Global Warming – pro or con – with a grain of salt. Anytime someone publicly speaks about it I wonder what their political agenda is and what they hope to gain from it.


Pam Wilson   February 25th, 2008 9:44 am ET

I really appreciated how Miles O'Brien pulled all of this information together in such a clear manner. It was both educational and entertaining. I hope CNN will have more of his work as it is truely refreshing to watch.


Ken in Dallas   February 25th, 2008 4:55 pm ET

Let's be real about the relationship between science and politics here. If you look at professional, peer-reviewed scientific studies, there is no debate about whether or not climate change is real, nor about whether or not climate change is strongly affected by human activity. All the "con" side of that debate comes from con men with an agenda to profit from the status quo, such as the so-called American Enterprise Institute, aka Exxon-Mobil's propaganda facade.

The real issue here is the systematic corruption of public information through "popularized science" that, upon close examination, doesn't qualify as science at all.


Brian   February 28th, 2008 9:54 am ET

Another damn ice age. Well, it's coming, and yes, human are to blame for speeding up the cycle. People are apparently surprised that we can do nothing to stop it. Glaciers are going to wipe out everything. Who is to blame? The first person who ever lit a fire to make their food taste better, THAT'S who's to blame. And no, don't get all flustered thinking I'm one of those crazy vegaterians. The next ice age is just the planet's way to undo all of the damage WE have caused, to make this planet a better place for the next species that wants to evolve.


Ken in Dallas   February 29th, 2008 3:56 pm ET

"Another damn ice age. Well, it’s coming, and yes, human are to blame for speeding up the cycle. People are apparently surprised that we can do nothing to stop it."

If human activity created this problem, isn't it fair to accept, at least as a working assumption, that human activity might also abate it? There are considerably effective and well-known things we can do right now, and more things we can do that require just a little more work.

We can all go out and plant a few trees, for instance. Trees remove substantial amounts of CO2 from the air, yet we continue removing trees from the environment, I don't quite get why. After that, we might try to reverse the decimation of the tropical rain forest environments, which used to produce about 75% of the planetary oxygen... but wait, people are making chump change by turning the rain forest into pasture, aren't they?

The real difficulty is that we're living under a corporate oligarchy that's perfectly happy milking the "status quo" cash cow right up to the moment it dies. We can act more wisely, and live, or not.


Randall DeWitt   March 2nd, 2008 1:43 am ET

There is much more going on within this administration than people realize. Everything from forcing oil supplies off line to having direct links to reconstruction and military contracts, to denying global warming, to the current driving up of fuel prices. Which is simply the last bit of skimming off of easy profits that the supporters of this theving administration can pull off against the niave and disconnected American public, before turning the White House over to the next group of do gooders intended to turn things around by having to tighten the nations belts to try and offset the debt incured by this administration. Then once the next few administrations have returned our nation back to a state of stability the war party and their greed will generate the next excuse to rip our nation off once again. You can count on it. Wake up America, this cycle is being played by both sides of the fence against you!!! Invest in yourselves, not scams designed to use your monies against the stability of your own nation. Learn to live with your brother's and sisters, while doing with less. Happiness is in our collective security, not in ego stroking BS.
Peace!!!


Randall DeWitt   March 2nd, 2008 2:04 am ET

One thing that these people fighting for the office of President are not talking much about is the trouble that our planet is in, concerning global warming and what we need to do about it. The reason being, because no one wants to actually believe that it is actually as serious as it truly is. Yet on the National Geografhic special, surrounding our planet's rapidly melting glaciers, those of us that watched it, witnessed the fact that the worlds best scientists were themselves confused and perplexed to discover that the ice was actually melting at a rate in excess of ten times their collective predictions. I myself tried to enlighten my fellow scientists with information of a human factor that was being completely overlooked and ignored, which I myself discovered would produce an increase in the melting rate of ice by 12 times that of the CO2 contribution alone. Yet to this day, no one seems willing to listen to my findings. The major human contribution responsible for this effect is humanities collective thermal contribution that has been collecting within the upper reaches of the ocean's DOW, which in turn is increasingly being released up through the colder surface waters of the planets colder regions, thus reversing the natural downwards direction of conduction to an unnatural upwards direction, which greatly increases the rate at which ice melts without changing the temperature much at all near the surface, thus going undetectable. Very few deep water temperatures were ever taken to establish what was or wasn't normal throughout most of the worlds deep waters. Yet I've collected many independant readings from books and such that exposed the truly cold temperatures of the deep waters in several areas that are much warmer today. I've discovered unnatural thermal traces as deep as 1,200 meters in places where I don't believe it was ever that warm in millions of years past. Think about it people.


Greg Ballantyne   March 2nd, 2008 12:24 pm ET

Those who say (or believe) that there is an agenda on "both sides" of this "debate" are idiots and fools. There are no sides, and there is no debate. There is reality and delusion. Delusion has been running this country since the 2000 "election" debacle.


Jeremiah   March 5th, 2008 10:44 am ET

The point is, follow the money and you'll find the ones responsible. The government insinuates public perception and dilutes it by luring our concern to other, just as real, but less important issues. This country is a like an ant colony with no sense of direction or self-actualization.

Its survival at this point.


Mike Brodock   March 7th, 2008 4:12 pm ET

I don't think we are heading for another ice age and global warming is not a man made event either. Volcanos put out more pollution than mankind has in the last few centuries. The real culprit in global warming is the sun as it moves along the main sequence as taught in basic college astronomy classes. Things in nature are not static. Stars are either expanding or collapsing, hence our sun is expanding which means it is getting closer and getting hotter. I am not surprised that this isn't given as a reason though because if it was then people would probably react badly to impending doom that cannot be curtailed. Saying that humans are the cause gives some hope that we can change it, unfortunately the only thing we can really do is colonize space. Try getting 6 billion people in space ships and you see the futility in letting everyone know they won't have a seat. When I say colonize space, I don't mean another planet. The only thing planets would be good for is raw resources. We need self sufficient space faring vessels that can protect themselves against the elements like micro meteorites and radiation for a long long time.


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