Political appointees delayed release of NASA climate and air pollution data in ’04

In the heat of a tight re-election campaign, top Bush political appointees in the NASA press office “exerted strong pressure during the 2004 presidential campaign to cut the flow of news releases on glaciers, climate, pollution and other earth sciences,” according to Andrew C. Revkin of the New York Times.

The more such information emerges, the more willing I am to accept author Chris Mooney’s brash assertion that there is a “Republican war on science.” If the Republican Party wants to convince me otherwise, then they need to declare that the President’s tactics do not reflect those of his party.

Revkin writes that the latest revelations are a result of NASA administrator Michael Griffin’s call for “scientific openness” in the space agency. Revkin cites several revelations, some passed along to Griffin and others to the Times by “press officers, who were granted anonymity because they said they were still concerned for their jobs despite Dr. Griffin’s call for openness.”

Particularly disturbing was a report that “(i)n a conference call with colleagues in October 2004, … Glenn Mahone, then the assistant administrator for public affairs, had told [the NASA headquarters information officer in charge of earth science news] that a planned news conference on fresh readings by a new NASA satellite, Aura, that measures ozone and air pollution, should not take place until after the election. ”

A rheorical question from your blogger: If the administration had been honest in its use of science to draft policy, what reason would they have for pressuring NASA not to publicize the data before the presidential election?

Read Revkin’s full report here.