I have noticed that most of the traffic coming to this blog is actually looking for my postings on the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR).
This remarkable mission was built by NASA for more than $100 million but then mothballed after the 2000 presidential election. Many in the scientific community are outraged that that this novel experiment was seemingly buried by the Bush Whitehouse, likely in an effort to limit emerging science around climate change.
Beyond being able to directly measure the energy budget of our warming planet for the first time ever, this spacecraft would also continuously return high resulotion images of our planet from a distance of 1 million miles.
In order to make it easier for people to review everything I have researched and written on the DSCOVR mission, I have set up a stand alone blog for these postings. It is available at: www.dscovr.blogspot.com. I hope you find it useful. It remains invisible to Google, so please link to it if you like.
Most importantly, if anyone close to the mission, or in the scientific community has information or documents they would like to share in confidence, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also mail a brown envelope to:
1207-207 West Hastings St.
Vancouver, BC V6B 1H7
Your planet thanks you.
I have noticed that most of the traffic coming to this blog is actually looking for my postings on the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR).
Posted by Mitch Anderson at 10:34 AM
Get over it Canada. The proposed coalition solution in Ottawa is not a political “crisis”, but a long-overdue evolution of Canadian democracy. It represents something that up until now has been almost completely foreign to Canadian politics: cooperation.
First of all, these amazing events are not an illegal power grab by a political fringe. It is an entirely legitimate and unprecedented level of cooperation among four of Canada’s five political parties that represent fully 62% of the popular vote in the last election.
Yet many seem startled that former bitter foes are somehow coming together in a new and unusual way. What’s the catch? Where is the hidden agenda?
Like all political parties, these players are motivated simply by the opportunity to govern. There is nothing wrong with that. The currency of commerce is money; the currency of politics is power. It is that powerful imperative that will hold these disparate parties together as they move forward to govern our nation.
Of course there will be tensions and disagreements between the three signatories to the coalition agreement. But all know very well that if they allow their short term partisan differences get the better of them, they will face another election and likely a Stephen Harper majority. That is motivation enough for hoary political pragmatists of all stripes to toe the line in cooperation with their former adversaries, whether they like it or not.
All this means that for the first time in living memory, Canadian politics has become interesting. Our parliamentary system was designed to test the legitimacy of governing parties by holding them to the daily scrutiny by the opposition. The Harper government has clearly failed that test in a way not yet experienced in the history of Canada.
The coalition government as proposed by Dion, Layton and Duceppe is entirely consistent with our constitution, and far more desirable than forcing Canadians to trudge to the polls in another divisive and unwanted election.
However, the main obstacle to co-operative governance in Canada is not legal or political, it is the widely held and entirely backwater belief that coalition governments are somehow radical or undesirable.
If fact, virtually every government in Europe now uses some form of coalition rule, which typically results in representative, accountable and stable governments as a matter of course. Switzerland has had the same coalition government arrangement since 1959. Germany, Sweden, The Netherlands are all routinely governed by coalitions.
Because different parties know that they have to work together or loose power, the public debate tends to be more respectful than the embarrassing spectacles for which Ottawa has become infamous. Coalitions also mean that governments are more accountable to the people between elections – not just on voting day.
Yet many Canadians (and of course all politicians) still yearn for the so-called “stability” of majority governments. To those puzzling souls, I can only suggest casting your mind back to the dark days of trough wallowing under the Mulroney Conservatives. Let’s also not forget the Versailles-like arrogance of the Chretien government and the abundant political rot that inevitably followed.
Such “majorities” are also a misnomer. Since 1921, Canada has had 15 “majority” governments of which only 4 garnered more than 50% of the popular vote. In all other cases over 50% of Canadians who bothered to vote, voted against whatever government enjoyed virtual dictatorial powers during their “majority” rule.
Those voices now howling against our budding parliamentary cooperation seem rooted in nothing more principled than pure political bigotry.
Harper rails against governing with “socialists” and “separatists” in a bid to save his political hide. Those die-hards on the left indignantly sniff at the idea of cooperating with their former foes the Liberals. I’m sure Gilles Duceppe is now fending off attacks from those in his ranks that would rather cling to rigid ideology than engage in hard work of seeking accommodation with other viewpoints.
The simple truth is that every member of the house has earned the mandate to represent the people of Canada, whether you agree with them or not. For far too long our political process has been hobbled by cartoonish simplifications of the Canadian political landscape, and imprisoned by outdated and self-serving partisan politics.
Canadians are sick of it and clearly voted with their backsides in the last election, producing the lowest voter turnout since confederation. It is time for this country to grow up.
Canada stands at a crossroads. We can continue with the divisive politics that everyone is so clearly weary of. Or we can try something new that is clearly within our parliamentary system and national character: cooperation and accommodation.
Courage, Canada. You can do it.
Posted by Mitch Anderson at 1:31 PM
An unnamed source within NASA intimately familiar with the mothballed Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) mission spoke to me on the condition of anonymity.
The story is incredible.
The big question has always been: who would want to kill a $100 million fully completed climate satellite that has sat in a box since the 2000 presidential election - even though dozens of leading scientists have demanded it be launched?
“Apparently Cheney was the hatchet man”, said the source. “Bush tried the keep his hands clean so he didn’t actually have direct involvement. It almost reminds me of the way Nixon used to operate…He assigned Cheney to be the hatchet man job on DSCOVR… That’s what we heard through the grapevine.”
Our source did not want their identity revealed due to the pervasive culture of fear that permeates NASA under the Bush Administration: “People are somewhat intimidated – but it will all unravel. People will talk. It will come out. These things always do.”
So why would the Bush Administration want DSCOVR dead?
Our source offered these thoughts:
“The reputation in early days was that Al Gore thought of it, so when Bush was elected the mission basically just disappeared. It never got launched. And that had never happened at NASA before…That’s what so weird about it. The people at NASA Headquarters, the ones who won’t return your phone calls and won’t talk about it - their position is that this is just a normal course of events. It’s really strange. They are obviously covering something up.”
Beyond Gore, there was also the issue that DSCOVR would further our understanding of climate change -something the Bush Administration was never keen on. According to our source:
“The Whitehouse...felt threatened by [DSCOVR]. They didn’t want to hear anything about the Earth changing because that meant climate change, and that means CO2 and then they would have to regulate CO2 and they just wanted to avoid anything to do with that… Cheney was the chief hatch man on climate change in general. That’s the rumor that went around.”
Of course there is little chance of finding hard evidence of Whitehouse interference in this mission. I have filed numerous freedom of information requests with NASA, NOAA and the Whitehouse but came up with almost nothing. The Whitehouse is not even subject to FOIA anymore. Virtually all internal documents related to the DSCOVR mission have been kept secret.
Our source is not surprised: “That’s going to be really hard to nail because Cheney is deleting all his emails.”
It turns out that the mission was always a weird one. The NASA leadership insisted from the start that this spacecraft fly into orbit aboard the space shuttle. Those close to the mission were incredulous.
“There was the stupidity of putting it one the shuttle. That was just absolutely silly. You don’t launch satellites to that high of an orbit on the shuttle. The normal NASA tradition is to launch a satellite like that on a rocket.”
Because DSCOVR had to go far beyond the low Earth orbit accessible by the shuttle, a large rocket motor would need to fly aboard the shuttle to boost DSCOVR to L1 one million miles distant. Not a good idea.
“A big rocket motor with its fuel tanks filled is basically a bomb. Using the shuttle as a carrier for what is basically a bomb is not smart. It was absolutely stupid from the get-go.”
So why the mission forced onto the shuttle?
“There’s no good reason. NASA will give you reasons but there’s actually no good reason. It was a very strange decision. It was a decision that the science team tried to fight but were never able to even get to first base on it”, said our source.
They were told by NASA brass ‘we’re going to launch it on the shuttle and that’s that and don’t talk to us about it and stop complaining’”.
Our source also provides a chilling insider account of how the spacecraft was on track to be launched by another agency as late as last year, but was abruptly cancelled.
“It seemed that everything was on track to give the satellite to NOAA and they would be refurbish and launch it and then - boom. It just disappeared off the radar screen and no one would talk about it. It was very weird. It gave me the creeps actually. I’ve never seen that happen at NASA, before where things would disappear and no one would talk about them. It was like the way people would disappear in a dictatorship regime.”
Our source made no bones about the importance of this novel experiment to provide continuous monitoring of the daytime and nighttime profiles of our planet.
While DSCOVR’s destination L1 is one million miles towards the sun, there is another gravitational parking spot called L2 beyond Earth away from the Sun. If a similar spacecraft were also placed there, scientists would have a continuous view of the both the daytime and nighttime profiles of our warming planet.
“Those two points would have been revolutionary for doing remote sensing of the Earth. All our satellites are in Sun-synchronous orbit meaning that they pass over the same time every day. So you have way of getting information about the so-called diurnal cycle. DCSOVR and other satellite at L2 would mean the whole Earth would be covered.”
Having DSCOVR at L1 and similar spacecraft at L2 would allow scientists to resolve glaring gaps in our understanding of the Earth’s energy budget and our understanding of global warming.
“Low Earth orbit satellites are not able to close the Earth’s outgoing radiation budget. It’s pretty far off - it’s quite an embarrassment… They can’t close the Earth’s radiation budget better than six watts per square meter. We have every reason to believe to that the Earth is out of balance by only one watt for square meter, which accounts the global warming. It was so embarrassing they kept it quiet for a while”
DSCOVR would not only solve that important problem but also provide a completely new perspective for NASA to carry out their important mandate of monitoring our changing planet.
“It would been significant because it would meant that NASA was finally getting out of low Earth orbit, where they’re stuck. NASA doesn’t have any high Earth orbit satellites, not geostationary, not L1, not L2. It’s very weird. “
You would think that resolving the Earth’s energy budget at this point in history would be a priority for NASA, especially given they have a perfectly good $100 million instrument sitting in a box that would help them do that. But I digress…
NASA leadership have also frequently relied on the so-called Decadal Survey as a rationale for killing DSCOVR. This was an effort to prioritize potential NASA missions for the next ten years. DSCOVR was not prominently featured in this assessment but our source is not surprised.
“All the people involved in the Decadal Survey knew what NASA’s attitude toward DCSOVR was. They weren’t going to take on a political hot potato, why should they? It wasn’t that they thought it was a bad idea, it’s that they were politically sensitive… So they ignored it. So for NASA now to use their ignoring it as an argument against it is really hypocritical frankly.”
For some reason DSCOVR was also included in this assessment even though it was already built at a cost $100 million, something our source feels is incredible.
“It’s putting DSCOVR in the same hopper as un-built missions. And that’s kind of silly… It didn’t really need to be ranked by the decadal survey. Suppose every mission that NASA built was then subjected of to a panel of scientists to decide whether to launch it or not? That would be kind of silly wouldn’t it? The whole thing is just sheer hypocrisy.
What about the peculiar notion of the Air Force launching DSCOVR without the earth observing instruments as a way to save money? Our source it at a loss why NASA would ever consider doing that.
“That’s just bizarre… The instruments would have to be refurbished but NASA gave some ridiculously outsized estimate of what it would cost to do that. It was like ten times too high in order to kill the idea of having Earth viewing instruments. There have been a lot of shenanigans around this mission. It’s embarrassing for me personally because I used to have huge respect for NASA and I’ve lost some. I’ve seen people do stuff that I would never thought I would see people do.”
Our contact was cautiously hopeful that things at NASA may change in the future.
“The Whitehouse created a climate of fear within government and that was intentional. But the administration is changing… Once Bush is truly out, things will start to unravel. Eventually the whole crowd at NASA headquarters will change and then there might be a new a spirit of openness. Or they might want to just bury the past and move on…”
And what about DSCOVR?
“It’s sad for NASA that they are stuck trying the trash DSCOVR when it’s actually a great idea…They hate it so much at this point and they are so determined to put it in a box and keep it there forever…They’re just trying the figure out how to bury it.”
I will of course continue digging on DSCOVR to make sure that doesn’t happen. The cone of silence around this fascinating story is starting to crumble but the clock is ticking bring the truth out before the spacecraft is destroyed.
If anyone has knowledge of the mission they would like to share in confidence, please contact me here. Your planet thanks you.
Posted by Mitch Anderson at 12:42 PM
It doesn't work for everyone, but it seems about half of the names on the list are entwined in some way with the giant network of groups like the Heartland Institute that receive funding from ExxonMobil and their ilk to downplay the dangers of climate change.
Now why would the oil industry do that?
A far better question is “why wouldn’t they”? The fossil fuel industry is worth between $8 and $9 trillion – about six times bigger than the next biggest global industrial sector, which happens to be cars. With that kind of money at stake, you can bet there will be some serious push-back around meaningful regulation of carbon dioxide.
When tobacco was threatened by pesky regulation aimed at curbing its dangerous product, they went and hired some phony scientists to conduct one of the most successful and heinous PR campaigns in history.
A now infamous internal memo leaked from tobacco giant Brown and Williamson stated coldly:
“Doubt is our product, since it is the best means of competing with the 'body of fact' [linking smoking with disease] that exists in the mind of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy...if we are successful in establishing a controversy at the public level, there is an opportunity to put across the real facts about smoking and health.”
Back to Big Oil. They simply borrowed the PR campaign pioneered so successfully by Big Tobacco and went and hired some phony scientists of their own to churn up climate change misinformation in the mainstream media.
The difference between oil and tobacco is size. The tobacco industry is worth a mere $300 billion annually. That is less than less than 4% the size of the behemoth that is the fossil fuel industry.
Big Oil has some big money to spread around in order to massage public opinion to their benefit, and they are of course not shy about doing whatever it takes to get their way.
Which brings us back to the Heartland Institute. Desmog blog readers might recall that it was also the Heartland Institute who bragged that they had a list of 500 scientists whose work contradicted that human-caused climate change was real.
We took the trouble of contacting many of these scientists who were surprised and appalled their research and reputations were being misrepresented by the likes of the climate deniers at Heartland. For my own enjoyment, I offer some of the more colorful quotes from the offended scientists:
I am horrified to find my name on such a list. I have spent the last 20 years arguing the opposite." - Dr. David Sugden. Professor of Geography, University of Edinburgh
“I have NO doubts ..the recent changes in global climate ARE man-induced. I insist that you immediately remove my name from this list since I did not give you permission to put it there."- Dr. Gregory Cutter, Professor, Department of Ocean, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Old Dominion University
“I don't believe any of my work can be used to support any of the statements listed in the article."- Dr. Robert Whittaker, Professor of Biogeography, University of Oxford
“Please remove my name. What you have done is totally unethical!!"- Dr. Svante Bjorck, Geo Biosphere Science Centre, Lund University
“I'm outraged that they've included me as an "author" of this report. I do not share the views expressed in the summary."- Dr. John Clague, Shrum Research Professor, Department of Earth Sciences, Simon Fraser University
“They have taken our ice core research in Wyoming and twisted it to meet their own agenda. This is not science."- Dr. Paul F. Schuster, Hydrologist, US Geological Survey
“Please remove my name IMMEDIATELY from the following article and from the list which misrepresents my research."- Dr. Mary Alice Coffroth, Department of Geology, State University of New York at BuffaloSo when the Heartland folks again trot out another list of “climate experts” to back up Big Oil’s position on global warming, take it with a very large grain of salt.
Posted by Mitch Anderson at 5:20 PM