If you watch the first six minutes of An Inconvenient Truth, you might be surprised how much attention Al Gore gives to photographs of the Earth taken from space. What do they have to do with physics of the climate change?
Well, you will see that Mr Al Gore is much more obsessed with this topic than you might have thought.
During a night in 1998, the vice president couldn't sleep. However, suddenly he had a dream and a brainchild was born. (I kid you not.) He called it Triana.
The new dramatic invention of the inventor of the Internet was to place a satellite so far that the whole Earth can be observed 24 hours a day. Isn't it fascinating? Why didn't you think about that? :-) Some scientists refined the details for him - for example that the satellite should be located in the L1 Lagrange point. The price? Well, the first modest estimate was USD 135 million.
If you think about it for a while, the scientific content of this project is next to nil. It is a typical idea of a crackpot who has no tools to determine whether a project is scientifically interesting or not. Already in 1999, during the Clinton-Gore administration, the project - nicknamed GoreSat or Gore's Screensaver - was more or less doomed. NASA Inspector General has also determined that the project is driven by politics, not science. It was found that the budget estimate was underestimated, too.
How did they ever justify to study that project at all? Did they just tell NASA that it has appeared in a dream of a prophet? Well, Al Gore wanted the fresh picture of the whole Earth (well, just one-half, but it's OK) to be constantly available as a source of inspiration: people could finally see through the Internet, his other invention, that the Earth is a little vulnerable child who has a fever. ;-) NASA added some survey tasks, including measurements of the albedo every fifteen minutes, that were not really needed and that are effectively performed by existing devices, for example by CERES.
Consider the financial situation of NASA. NASA is realizing a lot of projects - look at a February 2007 discussion of the proposed budget by Steinn - and it must make cuts even in projects that have a clear scientific value and that influence the cutting-edge research. They are meant to study the microwave background and cosmic inflation, gamma ray bursts, supernovae and the cosmological constant, verify general relativity, and plan ambitious missions in the future. Should it really pay hundreds of millions of dollars for meaningless dreams of an influential crackpot? I don't think so.
Nevertheless, he is really powerful so almost USD 100 million was already spent (or wasted, depending on your perspective) anyway. In January 2006, the project was postponed. This week, it seems, the project, currently called DSCOVR (Deep Space Climate Observatory), was postponed for many years.
You might imagine: the fogosphere is upset that the groundbreaking invention that could save the Earth is not gonna be realized soon. For example, a few days ago, DeSmogBlog has started an investigation who killed Triana. I think it's extremely bad that these extraordinarily ignorant and dumb activists - a category that includes Al Gore - who have no idea about professional science are already influencing scientific institutions such as NASA so dramatically.
And that's the memo.