In 2016, retired Princeton physicist Professor Will Happer accepted an invitation from conspiracy theorist G. Edward Griffin to give a keynote at his conference to talk about the “positive effects of CO2.”
Griffin thinks the science behind global warming is a scam. He also thinks there is “no such thing” as the HIV virus and that some plane contrails are part of a political plot to spray the population with poisons.
In an interview at the conference, Happer repeated his well-oiled mantra that “CO2 will be good for the Earth” and how it was “pretty clear we are not going to see dangerous climate change.”
Under normal circumstances, you might think that Happer's association with a notorious anti-science conspiracy theorist might not look good on your résumè for a government science committee. However, these are not normal times.
White House Probe
But less than three years later, Happer is now on the United States National Security Council and, according to the Washington Post, is about to be invited to head a White House committee to assess the risks climate change poses to U.S. national security. A 2014 Pentagon report concluded that climate impacts including extreme temperatures and rising sea levels were already positing a risk to national security.
Happer, 79, has a long list of scientific papers in distinguished journals on optics and atomic physics, but has no training on climate science and has never published a paper in a peer-reviewed journal on climate change.
Princeton colleague and climate scientist Professor Michael Oppenheimer has said of Happer that “with respect to climate science and scientists, he is not only unknowledgeable but appears to have become unmoored.”
One of the few genuine climate scientists to have engaged with Happer in detail about his interpretation of climate science is Dr. David Karoly, currently leader of the Earth Systems and Climate Change Hub at the Australian government's CSIRO science agency. In 2016, while at the University of Melbourne, Karoly engaged with Happer in a so-called “focused civil dialogue” on climate science.
Karoly told DeSmog he disengaged from the process after having reservations about the way it was being moderated. “But in the end, I realised that no matter what I said — all based on the peer reviewed science — he was not going to change his view, so I gave up,” said Karoly.
Commenting on Happer's suitability for the White House position, Karoly said: “Usually you would select a scientist with a strong peer-reviewed publication record in the area of interest. But he has not published a single peer-reviewed article on climate change in his career. That would suggest he does not have the credentials. I would argue that he does not have the appropriate experience, or the demonstrated capabilities, to be engaged in this sort of position.”
Jews and CO2
In a 2014 interview, Happer repeated a previous comparison he had made between carbon dioxide and the Holocaust.
“The demonization of CO2 is just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler. CO2 is actually a benefit to the world, and so were the Jews,” he said.
In 2015, Happer was caught in a sting operation after Greenpeace operatives posing as oil and gas industry representatives asked him to write a report on the benefits of CO2. Happer agreed, suggesting payments be made to the CO2 Coalition.
For years, Happer has been an active participant in the climate science denial community — serving as a trustee of the Exxon-funded and now-defunct George C. Marshall Institute and, later, co-founding the institute's next iteration as the CO2 Coalition with former Exxon manager Roger Cohen.
Reacting to Happer’s prospective role in leading an assessment of the national security risks of climate change, Francesco Femia, CEO of the Council on Strategic Risks and co-founder of the Center for Climate and Security, said: “We would welcome a rigorous and independent panel of credible climate and national security experts to study the security implications of climate change. However, this is not that.”
“The proposed committee is intended to provide an ‘adversarial’ review of already rigorously-reviewed reports from the intelligence, defense, science, and presumably other agencies, and will be chaired by a vocal climate skeptic that reports to the President. Therefore, it will be neither independent nor rigorous.”
Femia told the Washington Post: “This is the equivalent of setting up a committee on nuclear weapons proliferation and having someone lead it who doesn’t think nuclear weapons exist.”
Main image: William Happer giving an interview at the Freedom Force International climate change congress in December 2016. Source: YouTube