NASA Scientist in NYT: ‘I have Stage 4 pancreatic cancer’ but ‘climate change’ is still my top concern – Skeptical Scientist Responds

By: - Climate DepotJanuary 17, 2016 10:12 AM with 32 comments

Piers J. Sellers is the deputy director of Sciences and Exploration at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and acting director of its Earth Sciences Division. As an astronaut, he visited the International Space Station three times and walked in space six times. Sellers is also the ‘boss’ of NASA’s Gavin Schmidt.

Excerpts from Sellers from January 16, 2016 New York Times:

I’m a climate scientist who has just been told I have Stage 4 pancreatic cancer.This diagnosis puts me in an interesting position. I’ve spent much of my professional life thinking about the science of climate change, which is best viewed through a multidecadal lens. At some level I was sure that, even at my present age of 60, I would live to see the most critical part of the problem, and its possible solutions, play out in my lifetime. Now that my personal horizon has been steeply foreshortened, I was forced to decide how to spend my remaining time. Was continuing to think about climate change worth the bother?…

Last year may also be seen in hindsight as the year of the Death of Denial. Globally speaking, most policy makers now trust the scientific evidence and predictions, even as they grapple with ways to respond to the problem. And most Americans — 70 percent, according to a recent Monmouth University poll — believe that the climate is changing. So perhaps now we can move on to the really hard part of this whole business….

There is no convincing, demonstrated reason to believe that our evolving future will be worse than our present, assuming careful management of the challenges and risks….

While many have mocked this accord as being toothless and unenforceable, it is noteworthy that the policy makers settled on a number that is based on the best science available and is within the predictive capability of our computer models.It’s doubtful that we’ll hold the line at 2 degrees Celsius, but we need to give it our best shot. With scenarios that exceed that target, we are talking about enormous changes in global precipitation and temperature patterns, huge impacts on water and food security, and significant sea level rise. As the predicted temperature rises, model uncertainty grows, increasing the likelihood of unforeseen, disastrous events.All this as the world’s population is expected to crest at around 9.5 billion by 2050 from the current seven billion. Pope Francis and a think tank of retired military officers have drawn roughly the same conclusion from computer model predictions: The worst impacts will be felt by the world’s poorest, who are already under immense stress and have meager resources to help them adapt to the changes. They will see themselves as innocent victims of the developed world’s excesses. Looking back, the causes of the 1789 French Revolution are not a mystery to historians; looking forward, the pressure cooker for increased radicalism, of all flavors, and conflict could get hotter along with the global temperature….

And so, I’m going to work tomorrow.”

End excerpt of Sellers from NYT.



Former Harvard University Physicist Dr. Lubos Motl Responds to NASA’s Sellers: 

‘When religious beliefs trump one’s life – A heartbreaking opinion piece by a climate alarmist’ – “This opinion piece is perhaps the first essay by a climate alarmist that I have ever read and that I would label as “heartbreaking”. Adjectives like “cynical”, “self-serving”, and “hypocritical” come to us much more frequently.

Dr. Motl: “Wow. Just wow. This calmness and the continuing focus on irrelevant stupidities is something that I find hard to imagine. This man has to be a true believer in his religion.

Sellers’ text is so unbelievably detached from “what you would expect to be important.”

…In the New York Times opinion piece, his true belief in all these irrelevancies and fantasies – something he has wasted much of his professional career with – is manifesting itself in innocent ways. But such a fanatical belief must be very dangerous in other contexts, right? In Michael Crichton’s State of Fear, the climate ecoterrorists have organized “fake natural catastrophes” to increase the people’s fear of climate change. I can surely imagine that people of Sellers’ type and level of a belief could start to do such things.At any rate, I wish him to get as much pleasure from life as he can.

Would you speculate about the question whether some change of the largely ill-defined global mean temperature from an ill-defined base to an ill-defined moment will be 2.0 °C or 2.3 °C? This man does. The minimum error margin isn’t much lower than 1 °C, however, and even 40 °C of warming would be way safer than the disease he’s been diagnosed with. I think that most people would think how many months of life await them.

Sellers dedicated one long paragraph to “the year 2015 in the climate hysteria”. It’s been the “warmest year by far”. Well, not that the ranking is important but the satellites showed it as the 3rd warmest year, by far cooler than the warmest one, 1998. But maybe Sellers, an acting director at NASA, shares the belief with some other climate alarmists that satellites don’t exist or they can’t be useful to address such questions. At any rate, the year 2015 was not interesting in the climate science or the climate hysteria “cause”. It was just another year of excuses and misinterpretations. The year 2016 will also be just another year in which climate alarmism very slowly dies away, too – while certain people increasingly unrealistically work on escalating this hysteria instead.”


  • Veritas

    So you are saying, “even 40 °C of warming would be way safer than the disease he’s been diagnosed with”? A 104°F increase in the average temperature of the earth would be uninhabitable. Whatever planet you are from – please return as soon as possible. Combined with the effects of El Niño -2016 will be another record breaker which will take thousands of human lives – with a disproportionate amount from undeveloped countries and island nations. This isn’t a “religious” belief – is what has already started to happen. As you sit in your comfortable physics office – wake up and get out of your own Black Hole.

    • klem

      I love it when outspoken alarmists like yourself confidently predict that next year will be the warmest ever, it sounds more like you are hoping and praying for it.

      But when you insist that it isn’t a religious belief, you truly make my day. Lol!

      No, really.

      • Dano2

        Are you saying all them thar scientist is wrong, including the satellite scientist? What do your ideologically pure, free market scientist say on the matter?



    • M​a​r​k S​h​o​r​e

      It’s even worse. Motl wasn’t referring to a temperature of 40 °C (or 104 °F) but an *increase* of global mean temperature by 40 °C, something that would lead to the largest mass extinction event in geological history.

      In the immortal words of Bugs Bunny, “What a maroon.”

  • llore

    40deg C must be a typo? 4deg is more likely…

  • Duke Silver

    Mr Sellers job is assured if and only if the dreaded, albeit invented spectre of CAGW continues. The outcome of the cancer is no longer in question. My best to Mr Sellers and his family on the latter.

    • Dano2

      CAGW! Drink!



      • Duke Silver

        Why there’s no CAGW koolaid left…… Dano2 has drunk it all.

    • Helenrzeledon

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    • Yunrmedlock3

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  • Dano2

    Cheap clickbait headline that is not supported in the text.



    • Duke Silver

      You speak to CAGW in general.

      • Dano2

        You can’t deflect away from the point. Sorry.



        • Duke Silver

          You have no point. Not deflecting.

          • Dano2

            Let us know when you enroll in an English Comprehension class.



          • Duke Silver

            Let us know when you’re over 14.

          • Dano2

            No one is falling for your weak bluff. Saaaaaaaaayyyyyyy…you should come play poker with us! Whaddya say, buddy?!?!?



          • Duke Silver

            and nobody’s falling for you having a job or paying taxes…..

  • Strangerinastangeland

    Could fake eco-tragedies? Duh. Polar Bears and Hockey Sticks and Honey Bees come to mind. Good article.

  • Dorian

    To Piers J. Sellers;

    There have been many people throughout history who have dedicated their lives to the most useless and falsest of theories and causes. For over 2,000 years many people of note believed in the Geocentric Universe, so much so, the Lutheran Church believed in Geocentricism till quite recently. The Roman Catholic Church still believes in miracles, demons, heaven and hell. Medical practitioners all over the world still believe in the stress theory of ulcers. And why not? Scientists all over the world today still believe in Fleischmann and Pons’s Cold Fusion. Well Anthropogenic Global Warming is just another crap pot idea for people desperate for attention and money.

    Its your time to waste, Sellers. But in the years to come, when this idiotic theory of anthropogenic global warming is tossed in the bin where geocentricism and the stress theory of ulcers has ended, you will be remembered, if at all, as just another fool.

    Spend your last days doing some real good for those who need it. Forget about this AGW nonsense, it will work itself out, sure enough.

    To use your sickness in the same paragraph as your AGW beliefs, is a bit pitiful, actually its pathetic. There is absolutely no science to back up your beliefs and so out comes the sympathy card. That is sad.

    Sir, you have every right to live your life the way you see fit. But to really bring your ailment and use it to moralize your beliefs in AGW, smacks of shear desperateness and profitable futility. Its your time to waste, but please, leave your personal afflictions out of the discussion. Its for that very reason why we all got in this stupid AGW nonsense in the first place. Specifically, people using their personal affairs and beliefs to direct real scientific discourse.

    Enough of this succouring by you warmers, please! This is really getting pathetic.

    This is a harsh comment, but, Sellers, you opened the door. That door is now slammed straight back into your face, as it should be.

  • M​a​r​k S​h​o​r​e

    Does Lubos Motl have a friend in the world, or a single colleague who likes and respects him? He seems to have burned every bridge he’s ever crossed.

    • cardigan

      That may be in many cases true, but what does that have to do with whether he is right or wrong?

      • M​a​r​k S​h​o​r​e

        Motl’s opinions on technical matters have long ceased to matter in the slightest, and his track record of employment and interaction with peers suggests deep issues on his part. Here he’s taking cheap shots at the terminally-ill Sellers under the most transparent guise of sympathy.

    • Duke Silver

      It’s the scientists burden. Dispassionate reasoning is both necessary for the craft and undesirable by society at large. Our motto at Ga Tech was “let the data do the talking”.

      • M​a​r​k S​h​o​r​e

        Gee, how special. In many other institutions it’s “understand what you’re talking about”.

        • Duke Silver

          You’re the “society at large” about whom I was speaking. Rhetoric is your cup of tea more so than reasoning. He’s sick dammit, surely you’ll listen to him now……

          • Pattijboard1

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  • The Professor

    June 1, 2015 Abbott Legalizes Cannabis Oil for Epilepsy Patients

    The Texas Compassionate Use Act from state Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler, will legalize oils containing CBD, a non-euphoric component of marijuana known to treat epilepsy and other chronic medical conditions. The state will regulate and distribute the oils to patients whose symptoms have not responded to federally approved medication.

  • Time Walker


  • My Yoga Video

    I don’t know about the rest of you, but my ego tends to breed foolishness and it shows up in my sometimes whimsical measurements and assessments. My “know it all little mind” likes to try and measure climate change via air temps instead of via rational thoughts and the cryosphere (noisy satellite data is just whimsical madness just like the weather). If the planet is sick and we need to know how sick, we need to stop placing our thermometer in the nostril instead the ass. The nostril is a windy place full of evaporating moisture, air flow, and curvy channels. Whereas the ass is well connected to the core temperatures of all the vital parts. Cryospheric measurements are where sanity resides. The measurement of glacier loss and ice shelf loss and ice sheet loss has seen no pause when considered as a whole. Bad omen.

  • matt

    you are disusting

  • PattyM

    To suggest that this scientist, who cares about the planet we are leaving behind for his children and future generations, is somehow blindly following a “religion” is just offensive. Since when is the analysis of data and the use of the scientific method something to be ridiculed? I am further stunned that this comes from the mouth of a physicist. Who surely can understand the concept of a thermometer and collection of temperature data globally over time and being able to draw legitimate scientific conclusions from such data. Scientists can disagree about these conclusions, but most are stacking up on the side of recognizing climate change as real and possibly human-caused. But ad-hominem attacks have no place in this discussion.