No, NASA Did Not Release A Study On Aliens And Global Warming

Yesterday, the UK's Guardian reported on a paper “by a Nasa-affiliated scientist and colleagues at Pennsylvania State University” which asks whether contact with extraterrestrial intelligence “would benefit or harm humanity.” Among the numerous scenarios considered, the paper stated that aliens “may seek to preemptively destroy” our rapidly expanding civilization, which they could detect “because our expansion is changing the composition of Earth's atmosphere (e.g. via greenhouse gas emissions.)”

The Guardian falsely claimed that the report was “for Nasa” and has since issued a correction.

Indeed the report is not NASA research. Shawn Domagal-Goldman, the co-author of the paper who works at NASA, wrote yesterday:

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.


Yes, I work at NASA. It's also true that I work at NASA Headquarters. But I am not a civil servant... just a lowly postdoc. More importantly, this paper has nothing to do with my work there. I wasn't funded for it, nor did I spend any of my time at work or any resources provided to me by NASA to participate in this effort. There are at least a hundred more important and urgent things to be done on any given work day than speculate on the different scenarios for contact with alien civilizations... However, in my free time (what precious little I have), I didn't mind working on stuff like this every once in a while. Why? Well, because I'm a geek and stuff like this is fun to think about.

Nevertheless, conservative media are attributing the paper to NASA.

A NewsCore article posted on Fox claims that the paper is “a joint study by Penn State and the NASA Planetary Science Division.” Conservative blogger Jim Hoft wrote:

It's an Obama world. NASA, the once prestigious space agency, has morphed into a junk science outlet that focuses on Muslim outreach and space alien sensitivities to climate change.

And Commentary magazine falsely claimed: “Yes, this was written in a taxpayer-funded study.”

Fox News covered the paper twice this morning and aired the following on-screen text:

And here's what the headlines look like:

Conservative media have previously attempted to discredit NASA as a source of climate change information and analysis:

Forbes Runs False Quote In Attack On Climate Data

Fox Compares NASA's Hansen To Someone Being Paid By Big Tobacco To Deny Risks Of Smoking

Limbaugh Speculates That NASA Intentionally Crashed Satellite To Preserve Global Warming “Hoax”

Right-wing media forward conspiracy theory that NASA, NOAA manipulate climate data

UPDATE: In another Fox News segment, America Live anchor Megyn Kelly attributed the paper to “NASA scientists” and asked viewers to weigh in on whether “NASA [should] find new topics for its taxpayer funded research.” The following poll was posted on


Kelly later offered a correction, and the phrasing of the poll question and the third option have been changed.