Americans ‘under siege’ from climate disinformation – former Nasa chief scientist
The Americans are “in a state of siege” of misinformation designed to confuse the public about the threat of climate change, said the former chief scientist at NASA.
Speaking to The Guardian, Ellen Stofan, who left the US space agency in December, said a steady barrage of half-truths had left many Americans aware of the potentially disastrous consequences of continuous carbon emissions, though the science is unequivocal.
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“We are besieged by false information that was proposed by people with a profit,” he said, citing oil and coal companies as guilty. “Fake news is just as harmful as once people take a concept, it’s very difficult to dislodge.”
In the past six months, the United States scientific community has awakened this threat, according to Stofan, and responded by intensifying efforts to communicate with the public at the base and in the mainstream media.
“The hard part is this active disinformation campaign,” he said before his appearance at the Cheltenham Science Festival this week. “I’ve always wondered if these people honestly believe the meaning they propose when they say.” It could be volcanoes “or” climate always changes “… to obscure and confuse people, it annoys me frankly.
Stofan added that while “false news” are often characterized by a problem in the right media, there is an “erosion of people’s ability to control information” across the political spectrum. “We all have a responsibility,” he said. “There is an attitude of ‘I read on the internet, so it must be true.’
Stofan resigned his post at the top of NASA in December, before the election results in the United States. “It was not something to do with that, but I’m happy I’m not there now,” he said.
However, he welcomed the active engagement with NASA’s Mars program in the most recent budget and was relieved to reduce the Earth observation program for the agency, which contributes to climate and environmental monitoring Was relatively low at 167 million (the total Earth science budget is now $ 1,754bn).
Throughout his career, Stofan highlighted the role of planetary science in understanding the earth’s environment and said it provided some of the most unassailable evidence that atmospheric carbon dioxide leads to a warmer climate. She draws parallels between carbon on Earth and the greenhouse effect on the race on Venus, a planet that once had oceans but is now a toxic hell with surface temperatures around 500 ° C.
Earth is not destined for such an extreme scenario – even if all of the CO2 has burned out, the oceans do not boil completely – but Venus demonstrates the dramatic changes that can occur when the planet’s atmosphere equilibrium is too low.
“We are not going to Venus, but the consequences of putting more CO2 into the atmosphere are really terrible,” he said. “There are models that suggest that if we burn all our fossil fuels, the land becomes uninhabitable for humans.”
Scientists hope Venus leaves the secret of how life evolved on Earth
The quest to find the “habitable zones” beyond Earth has been a major motivation in Stofan’s scientific career and stated that the answer to the question of the existence of extraterrestrial life forms suddenly appears within his reach hand.
Missions to capture the feather water of Europe and Enceladus could provide early indications. Research requires that scientists be imaginative and open to the spirit of what extraterrestrial life might be: It could involve complex molecules, but be free of DNA, for example.
Uncertainty about what appears to be hypothetical extraterrestrial life as a means that any initial discovery could be ambiguous and a source of scientific conflict, according to Stofan. “It would be great if, when we thought life was easy and cast a drop of liquid, and that something swim through it, no one is going to disagree with that,” he said.