This was originally posted as a comment on WattsUpWithThat.com at the link below, on December 22, 2009.
To Dr. James Hansen, NASA GISS,
I read your article The Temperature of Science, and note that you complain of numerous FOIA requests to reveal your correspondence, and requests for the base climate data and methodologies. You also complain that others have reviewed your published work and made things inconvenient for you when errors were found.
Sir, you need to understand a few things.
When anyone, in this case yourself, makes such extraordinary claims of imminent catastrophe that not only is severe in calamity, but world-wide in scope, that person must expect the highest level of scrutiny. Nothing less is permissible.
You have not merely predicted a large tropical cyclone, as devastating as those can be. Nor have you merely predicted a famine, or a drought, as equally devastating as those can be. You, sir, have predicted nothing less than immense and unfavorable changes to the entire world’s population, including hotter temperatures, melting polar ice caps, massive sea level rise with vast low-lying areas inundated, population transfers, acidified oceans, immense and intense storms, and many others. These predictions of yours are supposed to affect the entire globe, not just one area.
In addition, you have postulated an imminent threat in the form of CO2 and other greenhouse gases placed into the atmosphere by man’s activities, and given a very short time-frame for massive action to reduce those. Else, the doom you have predicted. The reduction of CO2 will radically change the economic course of many, perhaps all, nations.
Seldom, perhaps never, has anyone made such wide-ranging, all-encompassing, draconian predictions of the future of life on earth as have you. Not even the Black Death, in which one-third of the population of an entire continent died, can compare to your predictions.
Now, let me explain how the legal system in the United States views various levels of scrutiny for matters that come before the courts. There are three levels of scrutiny, from lowest to highest, with names of rational basis scrutiny, intermediate scrutiny, and strict scrutiny. For matters of ordinary concern, rational basis is used, as this is the lowest level. For matters that involve more important concerns, intermediate scrutiny is used, and this places a higher burden on the defendant (in this case the government) to defend its actions. Finally, where very grave and important matters are at issue, strict scrutiny is used. Strict scrutiny places a very high burden on the defendant to justify his actions. These may be verified in any number of websites on constitutional law and scrutiny.
Given the extremely high importance of your predictions, and the remedy you prescribe in curtailing fossil fuel consumption or other means to reduce CO2 emissions, it is only proper that the entire group of those who review your work should apply the highest level of scrutiny. We are not talking about whether or not the orange crop will fail in Florida next year, as important as that is to those affected by growing oranges. As I wrote above, you have predicted massive and world-wide calamity. Therefore, you should expect that every piece of the raw data you used must be made public, every FOIA request must be complied with in infinite detail, and quickly, and every step of the data manipulation must be made clear, transparent, and readily available to all.
This is the only reasonable, rational approach to examine extraordinary claims, such as you have made.
Roger E. Sowell, Esq.