Big Picture News, Informed Analysis

Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise has been watching the climate world since 2009. What she sees isn't pretty.

NASA, Climate Change, and Children

ClimateQuotes.com has an excellent post from a few weeks back titled NASA Targets Children with ‘Climate Kids’ Website.

If you’re like me and are predisposed to admire NASA because of what it used to stand for, the Climate Kids site will make you want to weep. Sam at ClimateQuotes does a splendid job of explaining that NASA doesn’t even try to be neutral about climate change. (That would entail, for example, acknowledging the upside as well as the downside of warmer temperatures.)

Nor has NASA made any attempt to provide temporal context. When discussing possible sea level rise it is dishonest to neglect to mention that the scenarios being described would take centuries – if not millennia – to transpire. It is outrageous to suggest to any child alive today that they need to worry about a 16-23 foot (5-7 meter) rise in sea levels.

That this website amounts to an elaborate story – rather than a fact-based, scientifically-sound presentation – becomes most apparent when an alleged green role model, a “water-wise landscaper,” is quoted as though she were a climate change authority:

[Climate Kids]: We have had a drought in Southern California for several years. But that’s just temporary, right?

Michelle: Not in the long run. Earth’s climate is getting warmer, so drought will probably become much more common and severe! For many regions, global warming means less snowfall in the winter, so less water in lakes and reservoirs.

Further down on the page, Michelle admits:

I studied horticulture in college. Horticulture is the art and science of growing plants.

People who study the “art and science of growing plants” are not drought experts, climate change experts, or futurists. For NASA to suggest that kids should accept this woman’s opinion concerning what the future will be like is insane.

NASA used to be about the right stuff. It used to be about knowledge, human ingenuity, and about the triumph of sheer brainpower in the face of unfavourable odds. Now, rather than seeking to inspire kids, NASA tries to frighten them. Rather than encouraging intelligent, nuanced exploration NASA is instead creating “little eco-snobs” – as Sam phrases it.

The first time I read that particular line my brain substituted “eco-snots”. Which, it seems to me, also captures the idea. How else are we to interpret the graphic on the  NASA site that declares: “My reusable bag makes me better than you”?

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Incidentally, this isn’t the only example of NASA spending precious tax dollars on shoddy web resources. The now totally discredited claim that Himalayan glaciers might vanish by 2035 wasn’t merely parroted by NASA, it was ratcheted up a notch. (See my earlier blog post.)

Until mid-January 2010 (when the content was changed following the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s public retraction), a NASA website had shaved five years off the 2035 date, claiming this alleged catastrophe was likely to occur by 2030. Click the image below for a larger view of a screen capture from that time.

click image for a larger view

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This entry was posted on February 4, 2011 by in activist scientists, children and tagged , , .
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