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Bridging climate science, citizens, and policy

Climate Scientists Regain Access to CIA Imagery

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Among the hundreds of anti-science actions the Bush “administration” took in the last decade was one to prevent climate scientists from accessing declassified data from the CIA and other federal intelligence sources.  There was no threat to our national security by the data sharing agreement.  There was, however, a threat to the Cons’ War on Science.  If U.S. climate scientists were denied access to data, especially satellite data, it would be much harder for them to gain the understanding of phenomena such as ice dynamics at the poles.  It has been well documented that the poles are experiencing more effects from climate change thus far than any other part of the globe.  Unfortunately, the poles are also the hardest for scientists to access.  There are no permanent surface stations on the Arctic ice, for instance.  Antarctica is very poorly sampled.  These facts lead to the situation where globally averaged temperatures over the past 30 years are likely too low because of the sub-sampling of regions which have experienced the most warming.

The Obama administration is demonstrating that it is more tuned into what science can offer society: the CIA is again sharing data with climate scientists.

The data not only helps out climate scientists, but their work in turn helps out the CIA and other agencies charged with protecting our national security.  As I’ve written before, only fools and ideologues believe that desertification of arable land, rapidly rising sea levels, ocean acidification and mass migration of climate refugees aren’t threats to nations across the globe.  By trying to bury the problem, the Bushies added additional threats to our country.  Cons such as Sens. Inhofe and Barrasso (from two of CO’s neighboring states) fear conspiracy theories more than the real events of our day.

The program resurrects a scientific group that from 1992 to 2001 advised the federal government on environmental surveillance. Known as Medea, for Measurements of Earth Data for Environmental Analysis, the group sought to discover if intelligence archives and assets could shed light on issues of environmental stewardship.

In a positive sign that scientists aren’t beholden to a rigid ideology, the resurrection of the program includes a review of past efforts in order to determine which ones should be expanded and what additional needs exist today that need filling.

Scientists and policy makers have a lot to do to make up for the time lost during the dark years under the Bushites.  This is another step in the correct direction.

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3 thoughts on “Climate Scientists Regain Access to CIA Imagery

  1. “The data not only helps out climate scientists, but their work in turn helps out the CIA and other agencies charged with protecting our national security. ”

    I haven’t heard this argument before. How do climatologists help protect national security?

  2. Climatologists, with additional data, can provide policy makers with more accurate forecasts of temperature, precipitation and sea level trends (plus many more). Given that information, policy makers can anticipate where droughts might impact nations, for example.

    The nations’ geopolitical stability have direct effects on our security. Many of the conflicts of sub-Saharan Africa in the past two decades have been precipitated, in part, by shifting climate patterns. Legitimate governments have been toppled in favor of extremists who exploit the situation to spread their influence.

    A country that isn’t experiencing famine, drought and submerged coastal towns is much likelier to be able to resist efforts to destabilize it. Knowing which countries face climatic threats has been identified by the CIA as important to its mission.

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