Dr. James Hansen, a leading expert on climate change, alleged in Sunday's New York Times that political appointees tried to stop him from speaking out on global warming issues. Unfortunately, the media has generally failed to make the connection between Dr. Hansen's experience and the greater pattern of the censorship of scientists and manipulation and distortion of science throughout the federal government.
Today, please write a letter to the editor (LTE) of the newspaper of your choice. As the Times article has been picked up by many media outlets, this is an excellent time for scientists to connect the dots between this example and the greater problem of the suppression of science.
In addition to informing the public about this issue, a well-crafted LTE will also be read by the staff of the region's congressional offices. You can find a partial listing of papers that have picked up this story below.
Dr. Hansen is the director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and holds appointments at Columbia University. Sunday's New York Times provided a disturbing account of politically motivated efforts at NASA to restrict Dr. Hansen's public comments.
According to the Times, administration officials have ordered NASA's public affairs staff to "review his coming lectures, papers, postings on the Goddard Web site and requests for interviews from journalists." The new restrictions on Dr. Hansen's public communications come after he gave a lecture last month at the American Geophysical Union meeting highlighting the need for prompt reductions in heat-trapping emissions.
The attempt to silence Dr. Hansen is only the latest in a persistent effort to undermine the public's understanding that human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases are making a discernible contribution to global warming. Furthermore, Dr. Hansen's account is consistent with previous attempts to restrict public access to government scientists and to distort scientific findings to fit a political agenda.
Send a letter to the editor of your regional or local paper. Then please let us know that you have done so by emailing us at email@example.com.
DEADLINE: Your letter will be most effective if submitted before Friday, February 3.
MAIN MESSAGE: The American people deserve unfettered access to the advice of scientific experts. The administration's effort to silence scientists on global warming and other critical topics that directly impact our health, safety, and environment is irresponsible and needs to stop.
* Political interference in science negatively impacts our nation's ability to respond to significant scientific challenges like climate change and bird flu.
* We all know that policy decisions are based on many factors, not just science. But when the science itself is knowingly censored, the public and policymakers will be unable to make fully informed decisions about matters that impact our health, safety, and environment.
* The United States spends billions of dollars on research at NASA each year. American taxpayers deserve nothing less than the truth from the government agencies we fund.
* Government scientists must be allowed to serve their agency's mission, not the prerogatives of any elected or appointed official.
* On issues from air pollution to endangered species, we have seen an unprecedented amount of manipulation, suppression, and distortion of government science.
* This type of political interference in science is unacceptable and must stop if the United States expects to retain its world leadership in science.
* More than 8,000 scientists--including leading medical experts, former federal agency directors, university chairs and presidents, and almost fifty Nobel laureates--have called for the Bush Administration to restore scientific integrity to policy making
Making Your Letter Effective
Information on how and to whom to submit a LTE is usually found right on the letters page in your paper. Many papers now accept letters via email. If you can't find the information you need, simply call the paper and ask how to go about submitting a letter in response to a recently published article.
To increase the chances that your letter will be published, do the following:
* stay focused on one or two main points you'd like to make;
* avoid jargon and write in an active tense;
* be clear and concise - keep your letter under 200 words;
* include, if possible, a local angle that adds something new to the story that appeared in your paper;
* be sure to include your name, address, and daytime phone number; the paper will contact you before printing your letter; and
* submit the letter on the same day the story appears, if possible.
NOTE: An effective letter-to-the-editor needs to be personally crafted by the signer. Although we include a suggested main message, please be sure to draft the letter in your own words. In particular, your letter will be most effective--and more likely to be published--if it reflects your personal experience.
TIMING: Your letter to the editor should reach your paper as soon as possible after publication of the story to increase the chances of it being published.
Please send us a BLIND COPY of your letter if you submit a LTE, and then let us know if your letter is published. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or fax to 202.223.6162.
This hits somewhat at home to me. My wife works at the instituted headed by Jim Hansen. Let me be clear. He is NOT a firebrand. From 2000-2004 his stand was to try and work with Bush's administration and to trust Bush's 2000 pledge that he would seek to cut carbon dioxide emissions. It was only in 2004 that Jim Hansen started to speak out against the Bush anti-science policies. And they have been trying to silence him.
This kind of censorship is unacceptable in America. Please speak out!
KEYWORDS: global warming, science, censorship, Jim Hansen
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