GETTING THE WORD OUT ON CLIMATE CHANGE….The NASA Inspector General tells us that political appointees messed with public accounts of NASA’s scientific findings on global climate change.

From the fall of 2004 through 2006, the report said, NASA’s public affairs office “managed the topic of climate change in a manner that reduced, marginalized, or mischaracterized climate change science made available to the general public.” It noted elsewhere that “news releases in the areas of climate change suffered from inaccuracy, factual insufficiency, and scientific dilution.”

But they didn’t mess with the papers sent to scientific journals.

This was a pretty shrewd move. It’s the public that really counts, ultimately in the votes, but also in the letters to Congress and a myriad small ways, when you’re making policy.

The science of climate change gets complicated pretty quickly. More carbon dioxide equals more warming overall. But then there are lots of buts: might be warmer in some places, some years, cooler in others. Rainfall may increase or decrease. Glaciers and sea ice seem to be melting faster than anyone expected. All this is much, much harder to explain in a few words. The science depends on very complex simulation models that themselves contain lots of ifs, ands, and buts. So the models are compared with each other. All this can look very subjective, particularly if you’re opposed to the results and want to undermine them.

I’ve worked with models like those used in climate modeling. I don’t know an easy way to talk about them.

The important question, though, is the one that I’ve been wanting to ask of Kevin’s vast and distinguished audience: Do you think you understand climate change, global warming, well enough to make your voting and consumer decisions?