I’m the kind of space nerd who can make a podcast about where to build a Moon base, write to National Geographic when one of their reporters makes up the astronomical part of her story and complain to a show‘s organizers when a picture of the Orion Nebula is hanged upside down. I’ve been a member of the Planetary Society since 1991, and of the British Interplanetary Society since 1985.
Little wonder though, as I’m more of a deep-space buff who doesn’t get excited about Earth-observing satellites, for example those measuring ice stuff, Dr Abdalati’s specialty.
So who’s the guy who replied to a letter asking NASA to stay away from “unbridled advocacy” on climate change, by stating “NASA sponsors research into many areas of cutting-edge scientific inquiry” (a response “not all that relevant” to the original request, as noted by Judith Curry)? And more importantly, what are or have been his views on climate change?
- Curiously, in a 2005 NASA GSFC (Goddard Space Flight Center) ppt document, Dr Abdalati appears below James Hansen in the hierarchy (page 4).
- In those days, Dr Abdalati didn’t deem it necessary to mention time frames when speaking of “In a worst-case scenario, enormous ice sheets in Greenland and West Antarctica could melt and raise sea levels by up to 1 meter, suggests Waleed Abdalati, …It’s estimated that more than a hundred million lives are potentially impacted by a one-meter increase in sea level“
- In the Autumn of 2007, Dr Abdalati got his stardom moment thanks to the disappearing summer Arctic sea ice cover. To AP he said “I don’t pay much attention to one year … but this year the change is so big, particularly in the Arctic sea ice, that you’ve got to stop and say, ‘What is going on here?’ You can’t look away from what’s happening here…This is going to be a watershed year“
- Around the Copenhagen 2009 COP-13 Conference, Dr Abdalati had no qualms in suggesting “there seems to be a sense that perhaps we are acting too late…People can quarrel about whether temperature has changed 1 degree or 1.5 degrees in the last so many years, but the presence or absence of ice is very tangible, as is the idea of oceans rising and inundating coastal areas“
- In May 2010 Dr Abdalati was a member of the NAS’ “America’s Climate Choices” “Panel on Advancing the Science of Climate Change“, that started its report by writing “A strong, credible body of scientific evidence shows that climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for a broad range of human and natural systems”. Note that the NAS Press Release was pretty explicit: STRONG EVIDENCE ON CLIMATE CHANGE UNDERSCORES NEED FOR ACTIONS TO REDUCE EMISSIONS AND BEGIN ADAPTING TO IMPACTS“.
- In June 2010 Dr Abdalati gave a presentation to K-12 science teachers, titled “The Critical Role of Satellites in Understanding Climate Change” (ppt). Slide 17 is the best evidence I have seen so far of Dr Abdalati not following the catastrophe party line.
- Curiosity from Discovery.com has Dr Abdalati’s undated answers to many relevant questions, including “What is causing global warming?” (no prize to guess)
In conclusion, seldom in the past or maybe never has Dr Abdalati (whose contribution to the founding of advocacy center CIRES isn’t immediately clear) been far from alarmist positions, even if he is not known as a major voice of doom and gloom. And that Slide 17 above might provide some hope (as long as the guy wakes up about GISS, that is).