Guest opinion by E. Calvin Beisner
You’d think so, if you observed the reactions by the climate-change establishment to President Donald Trump’s appointment, back in September, of Will Happer as Senior Director for Emerging Technologies on the National Security Council, and the prospect of Trump’s forming a Presidential Committee on Climate Security, headed by Happer, under the National Security Council, to bring the evidence for and against dangerous manmade global warming to the table for review.
“The White House is assembling a climate change panel to be headed by a known climate denier who once took money from a coal company to testify at a hearing and who has compared criticism of carbon dioxide to Hitler’s demonization of the Jews.”
Whoa! Somebody call Scotland Yard! This Happer fellow must be really, really evil!
Not only that, he must be pretty stupid, too—or at least poorly educated for the task assigned. EcoWatch describes Happer as “a Princeton physicist who has never trained as a climate scientist.”
Trump might as well have named a witch doctor Surgeon General, or Al Capone Attorney General.
Second example: E&E News reporter Scott Waldman, in an article (pay-walled) indiscriminately republished in Science, began his hit piece with this objective, detached, classically reportorial sentence that nobody in his right mind could confuse with poison-the-well lead:
President Donald Trump’s administration found a way to formally question climate science after almost 2 years of false starts.
William Happer, a prominent opponent of climate science in the Trump administration, is heading a new White House effort to downplay the national security risks posed by climate change. It resembles the “red team” approach promoted by scandal-plagued former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt.
Get it? Happer and the committee Trump wants him to head will “formally question climate science.” Not one particular set of opinions held by some climate scientists, mind you, but climate science itself. Obviously this Happer fellow is a Neanderthal who wouldn’t know a test tube from a planetarium.
And the aim of the committee? “To downplay the national security risks posed by climate change.” Not, mind you, to reassess those risks, taking into account evidence ignored by the U.S. Global Change Research Program or the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or pointing out the ways in which those and similar bodies trumpet catastrophic futures that could materialize only if the least-likely, worst-case scenarios of CO2’s atmospheric warming potential came true.
And that “red team” approach? It obviously must be evil, because Scott Pruitt was “scandal plagued.” I guess if Pruitt had endorsed Girl Scout cookies, they, too, must be hung on the gallows. Ignore the fact that red team/blue team is a concept developed by our military decades ago to put scenarios to the test—and what climate alarmists depend on are scenarios that also should be tested.
Third example: The Center for Climate and Security swung into action with an open letter and a news release opposing both the formation of the committee and Happer’s appointment to lead it:
In an extraordinary letter published yesterday by the Center for Climate and Security (CCS) and the American Security Project (ASP), a group of 58 senior retired military and national security leaders denounced the National Security Council (NSC) plan to set up an “adversarial” group to undermine the science that informs defense and intelligence threat assessments on climate change. The plan is being driven by vocal climate denier William Happer, who has expertise in neither climate science nor national security.
You got that? The committee is an “adversarial” group, and adversaries can’t be permitted. Its purpose is to “undermine the science,” not subject it to rigorous empirical testing, since after all that would be to subject it to—ooops, the scientific method. “Your honor, I object! That was meant to mislead the jury!” “Objection sustained. That statement will be stricken from the record, and the jury will ignore it.”
Okay, where were we now? Oh, yes, we were tacitly implying that Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman was right when he said comparing predictions with real-world observations was the “key to science,” and that those who feared that the proposed committee might do that were—oh, what shall we call them? Science deniers? Yeah, that might do.
Moving on. The villain heading that committee, Happer, is a “vocal climate denier … who has expertise in neither climate science nor national security.” Got it. Happer denies climate. Just as some people deny that men have walked on the moon. Except that I can’t figure out what it means to “deny climate.” One denies the truth of a proposition. Climate isn’t a proposition. It makes no claim to truth or falsehood. It’s just out there, like a toad, or a gerbil. You might deny that it’s there, but you can’t deny anything it says, because it doesn’t say anything. Neither does climate. And, I guarantee you, Happer would dress differently for a summer day in Miami than for a winter day in Nome.
I guess “climate denier” is some kind of code for someone who dares to question “scientific consensus”—you know, like that idiot Galileo, who bucked consensus to insist that Earth revolves around the Sun, not vice versa, or those idiots Barry Marshall and Robin Warren, who won the Nobel Prize for overturning the scientific consensus that ulcers were caused by excess stomach acid.
Because … because … “scientific consensus” EQUALS “science.” Just ignore that second word. It really doesn’t contribute anything.
But this guy isn’t just a “climate denier,” he “has expertise in neither climate science nor national security.”
Now that clinches it. Only an idiot could pick a know-nothing like this to head a “Presidential Committee on Climate Security” within the “National Security Council.”
Please, please don’t ask how much training some of the 58 people who signed the open letter have in climate science, like John Kerry, Chuck Hagel, Ray Mabus—
Well, phooey. I was going to pick a few who aren’t climate scientists, and, guess what? I could only find two who might have had real training in climate science—Rear Admiral David Titley (Ret.) and Rear Admiral Jonathan White (Ret.)—both of them oceanographers. (And the oceans really do have a lot to do with climate, y’know. After all, it was likely the Pacific Decadal Oscillation’s shift from negative to positive in the mid-1970s that set off the global warming of the next two decades. But don’t noise that around.
The consensus crowd thinks it was rising atmospheric CO2 concentration that set it off, although why the world cooled during the prior two decades and failed to warm significantly during the two most recent decades even while CO2 concentration was rising just as it was during the 1970s through 1990s is difficult for them to explain.)
“Aaoogah! Aaoogah! All hands to battle stations! Enemy off the port—no, I mean, starboard—bow!”
So just who is this Happer guy, and why in the world did Trump get suckered into thinking he should head a Committee on Climate Security?
He’s “Professor Emeritus in the Department of Physics at Princeton University, … a specialist in modern optics, optical and radiofrequency spectroscopy of atoms and molecules, radiation propagation in the atmosphere, and spin-polarized atoms and nuclei.” He got his Ph.D. in physics from Princeton in 1964 and taught and did research at Columbia and Princeton, then was Director of Energy Research in the U.S. Department of Energy under the Bush-1 and Clinton-only administrations, then returned to Princeton as “Eugene Higgens Professor of Physics and Chair of the University Research Board from 1995 to 2005” and from 2003 “held the Cyrus Fogg Brackett Chair of Physics until his retirement in 2014.”
Yeah, yeah, but what does Happer know about climate?
Well, I’ll let physicist Howard Hayden explain, quoting from his recent newsletter The Energy Advocate (pay-walled):
The American Physical Society (APS) has sixteen divisions, such as astrophysics, nuclear physics, chemical physics, fluid dynamics, and laser science. Happer’s field of expertise is Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics, AMO, for which the APS Division of Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics (DAMOP) is the most appropriate. Its members deal with experimental and theoretical aspects [of] atomic and molecular energy levels, “forbidden transitions,” collisional dynamics, excited-state populations, interactions with electro–magnetic radiation (a.k.a., spectroscopy), and so forth.
Let us be perfectly clear about this. The only aspect of science that links CO2 to putative global warming (a.k.a., climate change) is AMO: Atomic, Molecular and Optical physics. …
In other words, what passes for “no formal training in climate science” is Happer’s long career in AMO, the field that is not part of any traditional course in climatology, and the only one that has any relationship to the greenhouse effect.
I.e., without the kind of expertise Happer has, there could be no understanding, no theory, of how CO2 might warm the planet. Or, to put it differently, Happer has precisely the kind of expertise, in AMO (not to be confused with Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, another important driver of climate ups and downs, but don’t mention that or you’ll be named a climate denier), that is indispensable to the kind of “climate science” the alarmist “consensus” requires.
Oh, but what does he know about national security?
Gee, I suppose he might have learned a little about it while from “1987 to 1990 he served as Chairman of the Steering Committee of JASON, a group of scientists and engineers who advise agencies of the Federal Government on matters of defense, intelligence, energy policy and other technical problems …” and from “2002 to 2006 he chaired of the National Research Council’s Standing Committee on Improvised Explosive Devices that supported the Joint Improvised Explosive Devices Defeat Organization of the Department of Defense.”
Is Will Happer well qualified to head that panel? You decide.
E. Calvin Beisner, Ph.D., is Founder and National Spokesman of The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation.