Bizarre, craptastic theory from the Guardian, Penn State, and NASA: "ET will kill us because global warming will tip them off that we are a bad species"

UPDATE: co-author admits it is a “horrible mistake”, see below – Anthony

From the you’ve got to be effing kidding me department.

First, I apologize to my readers for the headline. Read on and I think you’ll see it is justified. The headline is paraphrased from the article and the paper to give you the flavor. I have reproduced the passage used by the Guardian and provided a link to the full paper below.

First, the Guardian story: (h/t to reader “a jones”)

Now the paper, peer reviewed and published in Acta Astronautica titled:

Would Contact with Extraterrestrials Benefit or Harm Humanity? A Scenario Analysis

Seth D. Baum,1 Jacob D. Haqq-Misra,2 & Shawn D. Domagal-Goldman3

1. Department of Geography, Pennsylvania State University.

2. Department of Meteorology, Pennsylvania State University

3. NASA Planetary Science Division

Acta Astronautica, 2011, 68(11-12): 2114-2129

Here’s the relevant passage:

A preemptive strike [from extraterrestrials] would be particularly likely in the early phases of our expansion because a civilization may become increasingly difficult to destroy as it continues to expand. Humanity may just now be entering the period in which its rapid civilizational expansion could be detected by an ETI because our expansion is changing the composition of Earth’s atmosphere (e.g. via greenhouse gas emissions), which therefore changes the spectral signature of Earth. While it is difficult to estimate the likelihood of this scenario, it should at a minimum give us pause as we evaluate our expansive tendencies.

Words fail me. Truly this is science fiction, and not the good kind. I have a feature called “Climate Craziness of the Week”, this may be the all time winner.

Read the entire paper here (PDF)


UPDATE: Former Economist sci/tech reporter Oliver Morton chips in with this in comments, it seems a “horrible mistake” was made by the co-author. Still no word on how this passes peer review.

So here’s the thing. This isn’t a “NASA report.” It’s not work funded by NASA, nor is it work supported by NASA in other ways. It was just a fun paper written by a few friends, one of whom happens to have a NASA affiliation.

But I do admit to making a horrible mistake. It was an honest one, and a naive one… but it was a mistake nonetheless. I should not have listed my affiliation as “NASA Headquarters.” I did so because that is my current academic affiliation. But when I did so I did not realize the full implications that has. I’m deeply sorry for that, but it was a mistake born our of carelessness and inexperience and nothing more. I will do what I can to rectify this, including distributing this post to the Guardian, Drudge, and NASA Watch. Please help me spread this post to the other places you may see the article inaccurately attributed to NASA.


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David Schofield

Great one for numberwatch!!

Daniel M

Wow, I think this merits an end of year award for Climate Craziness of the Week. Heck, I think this one might be the first induction for a Hall of Fame (Shame). Consider it, Anthony.

mike williams

CO2 increase =increased threat from ET.
This is as about a rigorous as a lot of CAGW stuff..
I wonder if there is any $$$ for them in this angle though 🙂

George Turner

Zowie. So why would the aliens think a slight increase in a trace gas, still well below prehistoric levels, indicates civilization when most planets undergo dramatic shifts in atmospheric composition, such as occured on the Earth, Mars, and Venus?
I, for one, look forward to an invasion attempt by these alien idiots who can stare at thousands of planets for millions of years and not realize that atmospheric gases change over time.

Honest ABE

Um…..sounds like the plot to The Day the Earth Stood Still.
In any case, this “scientist” argues we should limit our economic growth because it’ll make “nice” aliens less likely to commit planetwide genocide on us?
If aliens were a real threat then limiting economic growth and energy production would not be a good strategy – rapidly expanding the economy with nuclear power, detection systems and space-based military technologies would be far more useful.

mark wagner

When will people realize that due to the superincredinormus distances involved, the time required to travel such distances, and the amount of energy required to accelerate a spacecraft to any significant percentage of light speed (on the order of several sun’s worth of energy) the mathematical probability of any human EVER encountering an intelligent alien is exactly:


And yet any aliens that might be monitoring our atmosphere would only see the changes hundreds, if not thousands of years in the future (assuming then even live in our galaxy), by which time we’d probably be sufficiently advanced to fight them off. Or extinct, if the antis have their way…


That’s beyond crazy, that’s flipping laugh-out-loud hilarious. These “scientists” who produced this must surely be satirists spoofing the whole CAGW movement?
To be fair, it seems that the entire exercise is one big what-if thought experiment, but trust the Grauniad to seize on the carbon cultist crackpot chunk and frame the paper as being more scientific rationale for puritanical eco-flagellation.


Peer review passed the paper? It reads like an late night college bull session between sophomores that are avoiding real scholarship.

P Walker

This is beyond merely climate craziness . This is full bore bat s__t craziness . Have they been talking to Paul Krugman ?

charles nelson

When people talk about ‘cut backs’ on expenditure…wouldn’t stuff like this be a very good place to start!

Aynsley Kellow

Appropriately, this brings virtual science right back to its origins – in the Drake Equation that underpins the SETI experiment. The late Michael Crichton was onto this, with his essay ‘Aliens Cause Global Warming.’ Life resembles art!!

Brian Johnson uk

David Cameron will believe it – so will his cabinet!

Lonnie E. Schubert

Shark jumping alert!


“I snap”
“I lose it”
“Flurry to the solar nexus”
It must be bad in AGW land and the Guardian has now slipped below the National Enquirer in terms of credibility.

Penn State, uh? Suddenly, the double whitewash for Mann starts making sense

Ah – at last a credulous explanation for the various mass-extinctions.
Dinosaurs succumbed to alien extermination because of the much higher CO2 and Methane levels caused by their breathing, belching and farting
Now I understand !!!

View from the Solent

Weird. I clicked on WUWT and got instead. Looks like my browser’s been hijacked.


For those outside the UK, the Guardian is a left-wing ‘warmist’ newspaper which prides itself on having an online comment section called ‘Comment is Free’. And it is, unless you suggest that climate change may be natural; in which case you are ‘deleted’. So, comment is free, but speech isn’t.
I notice that this piece is written by someone called Ian Sample, who is described as their ‘Science Correspondent’. So much for the Guardian’s science then.
But this one really takes the biscuit. it shows that they are getting desperate. It’s enough to make a cat laugh.
“Whom the Gods would destroy, they first make mad”

Geoff C

If aliens can detect any fingerprint of intelligent life on earth, it will be our electronics communications.


If the person who wrote this is even allowed in the same building as real scientists. Then we really do have a HUGE problem!

Tom in Florida

So thermonuclear explosions will not trigger this response from ET but a very tiny increase in a life giving trace gas will. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. Perhaps ETs just hate plants.

Wouldn’t it be funny if aliens destroyed our civilization to protect the Universe from ever reading The Grauniad?


“…and yet, across the gulf of space, minds immeasurably superior to ours regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely, they drew there plans against us”
Meanwhile, in the Guardian newsroom, minds immeasurably inferior to ours wrote this.


“Humanity may just now be entering the period in which its rapid civilizational expansion could be detected by an ETI because our expansion is changing the composition of Earth’s atmosphere (e.g. via greenhouse gas emissions), which therefore changes the spectral signature of Earth. While it is difficult to estimate the likelihood of this scenario, it should at a minimum give us pause as we evaluate our expansive tendencies.”
So, how many advanced alien civilizations are estimated to be located within one hundred thousand light years of earth?
Propagation delay — it’s a tough concept.
I think NASA could tolerate a few budget cuts.

Hey, is the article really that bad? They do say it’s “unlikely” – like the IPCC says climate sensitivity is “unlikely” to be above 4.5. Seems to me the odds are about the same.



As a proud member of the Union of Concerned Scientists, I am advocating everyone get a copy of Slim Whitman’s Indian Love Call and have it ready to play when we are invaded.
Nuckuler weapons are powerless against these alien forces, we must have at the ready the only known weapon that can destroy them in their tracks: Country Music.
I am also urging the UCS to put out an urgent bulletin that implores the males to learn jews harp, and females to learn to play the spoons. Small children should be given kazoos, and people of German extraction should make ready their accordions.
As an absolute last resort, and ONLY as a last resort, those few that are remaining should be encouraged to uncask the banjos. I just hope it doesn’t come down to that. (prepare them with aDF#AD tuning, boys)

I, for one, welcome our new eco-friendly overlords.
Let’s face it, they’ve got to be better than the eco-friendly overlords we’re already putting up with.


About “Acta Astronautica”, Elsevier publication:
It’s a peer-reviewed publication.
“The system automatically converts source files to a single Adobe Acrobat PDF version of the article, which is used in the peer-review process. Please note that even though manuscript source files are converted to PDF at submission for the review process, these source files are needed for further processing after acceptance.”
So i think the publication of this paper is an important milestone for science: It proves beyond any reasonable doubt that you can publish any kind of drivel in a peer-reviewed journal as long as you believe in AGW.

Theo Goodwin

Paranoia strikes deep
Into your heart it will creep
Begins when you are always afraid
Step out of line and the man comes and takes you away
My paraphrase of Buffalo Springfield. Paranoia with delusions is a serious mental illness.


aliens may kills us because stories like this prove that we are mindless fools.

take us out early, vell that should have been after the toba supervolcano eruption some 70.000 years ago, just about 10.000 of us left after that one.
As for aliens detecting signs of intelligent life on earth, let’s just beam that “science” report out into space, it will clearly show that there isen’t any here…

Daniel M

Just a guess, but the brainstorming session with Messrs Baum, Haqq-Misra, & Domagal-Goldman included one or more of the following:
Jaeger shots
box set of Star Trek TOS
someone fluent in Klingon
the statement “I can’t believe I’m getting grant money for this!”
Oh, BTW, Carl Sagan IS dead, so they might want to change the tense:
“Even Carl Sagan, who is usually quite optimistic about
ETI encounters, has expressed concern regarding ETI risks.”


I must remember this one the next time someone sounds off about the precautionary principle.

Speaking as a lifelong science fiction fan, this crap isn’t science fiction at all. It just barely qualifies as fantasy.

Mark in Sandy Eggo

Your tax dollars at work.


I am so happy to know that my tax dollars are being spent on research about the big possible maybe that the “statistical probability extra-terrestrial” is possibly either nice and pleasant, don’t care hippies of green skin, or a legion of storm troopers that may be benevolent, helpful, or just angry. Of course, all of this is meaningless unless this was done a computer model.. oh wait.. it probably was.. except, the programmers used the climate models as a baseline and left in the CO2 knob. Someone obviously turned it on the “super high death warming mode” and with a few “hansen adjustments” made it into the paper…
Now, where did I put that photo torpedo? I at least found my light saber..

Wayne Ward (truthsword)

As opposed to NASA working on space flight….

barking toad

No wonder I drink
Have these kiddies been watching the Simpsons while inhaling the stuff Bill said he didn’t?

John M

Acta Astronautica? Sounds more like Acta Astroretracta.

Scott Covert

The Onion called, they want their “scientist” back.


Time travel?
(Submitted on 22 Apr 2011 (v1), last revised 16 Aug 2011 (this version, v2))
[Full pdf here: ~dbs, mod.]

“Truly this is science fiction, and not the good kind.”
No. It isn’t.
Not even the bad kind.
I write science fiction. My readers expect the science part to have some basis in reality (even if only a theory not generally accepted, it has to be internally consistent). My readers will write and ask to see my numbers or references if they have difficulty with one of my plot elements (and unlike certain “climate researchers”, I will share that data) .
Suspension of disbelief is one thing. But… 1) aliens detect a 1-Earth mass planet, 2) at a range of multiple lightyears determine its “correct” temperature, 3) determine that temperature is rising dangerously (which we can’t do on site), 4) detect that the increase is SGW (sapiogenic global warming [grin]), 5) determine that makes humans a threat to other species lightyears away (hmm, better make that sapiogenic galactic warming instead), and 6) decide that the only way to stop the inevitable massacre is to… massacre the miscreants…
I wouldn’t touch it.
True, the idea has been used. But not in what I would call SF, and very poorly at that.

John From New Zealand

They’re more likely to assume we’re a pack of dumb asses due to the blind faith in the AGW religion.

Bill Parsons

Well, Penn State, for one, can welcome our big-headed overlords.

So can we add “the threat of alien invasion” to the things that Global Warming can cause, then?


EE Doc Smith, Simak, Hoyle, Heinlein, Azimov etc really have had a big influence on these guys.
Did they ever get past peer review ????

I happen to think the premise of this paper has already come true.
We HAVE BEEN invaded by aliens who are trying to destroy our civilization, they’ve been among us since about the 70’s and they are disguised as Greens, or eco-nuts if you prefer.
Unless we wake up to this fact and cull these aliens, our societies will be taken back to subsistence level of development and our numbers cut back to a few hundred millions. 🙂


Well, if you scrape the bottom of the barrel long enough, eventually you go right through.
“Warning, Will Robinson! Put out that fire!”