"I have some familiarity with these restrictions on government employees, as they were a major reason I resigned from NASA over four years ago. But back then, the shoe was on the other foot. NASA knew I was not supportive of the popular gloom-and-doom theory of global warming, and before any congressional testimony of mine on the subject, I was 'reminded' that I could speak on the science, but not on policy matters. Well, it turns out that expert witnesses on this contentious subject are almost always asked by a senator or congressman, 'What would you do about policy if you were me?' When the question came, I dutifully dodged it.Dr. Spencer's commentary speaks to the interplay between science and politics. What I would like for you to consider is that science alone cannot make public policy choices. Value judgments are required. I have been very explicit about the value judgments used by economics to choose between alternative public policies. Consider also, that in our system of political economy, there is a group of people who get to make public policy choices, and they are the people elected to Congress and to be President.
I am not sure, but disobeying my superiors would probably have been grounds for dismissal, if they wanted to press the point. In Jim Hansen's case, even if this was theoretically possible, I suspect the political fallout would be enormous, as he as done more than any scientist in the world to impress upon the public's consciousness the potential dangers of global warming.
Hansen is a smart, productive public servant that is on a crusade for what he believes in. I understand why he believes as he does -- but I still disagree with his conclusions, both scientific and policy wise.
For example, Hansen has been able to devise a scientific scenario whereby all warming in recent decades can be attributed to mankind. I believe, however, he has ignored possible natural mechanisms, for instance a change in cloudiness during the same period of time."
Note that Dr. Spencer refers to the policy issues involved with global warming as being contentious. There is an old adage in politics that goes something like this: In politics rhetoric is reality. Consider what happens when science becomes part of the politics of a public policy issue. Rhetoric can become reality, and then it seems pretty hard to sort out the rhetoric from an objective evaluation of "just the facts." How can you judge what "science knows" about something like global warming when knowledge seems to be presented through the prism of politics?