Meet Trump's New Climate Policy Guy: This F*cking Lunatic
The Washington Post reports the Trump administration is on the verge of forming a panel to reconsider the Pentagon and Intelligence community assessment that climate change poses a serious concern for national security. The idea that climate is a national security concern is hardly crazy -- the Pentagon has been warning about the implications of climate change for national defense since the 1990s, and by 2010, the Defense Department was urging that climate change should be considered a major force of destabilization around the world. Hungry people whose crops have dried up may get violent, you know? Or at least pick up and move elsewhere, where they may not be welcome. Similarly, the CIA in 2008 tried to assess the likely effects of climate change on security through 2030.
Of course, now that President ScienceBrain is in office, that's all in the trash, at least in the Oval Office. And this new effort to set up a "Presidential Committee on Climate Security" through an executive order has the potential to erase considerations of climate from national security planning, because the "president" doesn't believe it, and has surrounded himself with other great intellects who reject science too. And hoo boy, get a load of the guy in charge of the whole shebang: William Happer, a laser expert who worked on Reagan's Star Wars antimissile program and, not surprisingly, is not a climate scientist. Instead, he argues that we need a lot more CO2 in the atmosphere, because it's what plants crave.
Happer is actually a member of the National Security Council as a "senior director for emerging technologies" -- undoubtedly a job he got thanks to his deep connections to the rightwing climate denial community. According to NSC documents obtained by the Post, the proposed advisory committee would
"advise the President on scientific understanding of today's climate, how the climate might change in the future under natural and human influences, and how a changing climate could affect the security of the United States."
The document notes that the government has issued several major reports under Trump identifying climate change as a serious threat. "However, these scientific and national security judgments have not undergone a rigorous independent and adversarial scientific peer review to examine the certainties and uncertainties of climate science, as well as implications for national security," it said.
Translation: Instead of trusting the overwhelming scientific consensus, the intelligence community and military should Teach The Controversy. It's not clear whether the committee would also urge the Pentagon to consider Flat Earth advocates in planning for worldwide military operations, too.
Happer is a climate-denying crank of the first water, as Media Matters news director John Whitehouse pointed out in a Twitter thread yesterday. He's one of those fringe figures who somehow manages to keep popping up when the science adults are talking -- if you've read Merchants of Doubt, the essential book about rightwing anti science, you'll recognize the type. While Happer himself isn't in that book, he did for a time direct one muscular rightwing lobbying profiled in Merchants, the George C Marshall Institute, which in 2015 spun off its climate denial activities to another nonprofit run by Happer, the CO2 Coalition.
And like any good crank with a lot of support in the wingnut mediasphere, he has a real talent for saying "provocative" bullshit, as in this fun interchange with CNBC's Andrew Ross Sorkin in 2014.
Happer REALLY liked that line, and returned to it elsewhere; he ranted in an email to a Jezebel reader in 2017 that the "demonization of CO2" "really differs little from the Nazi persecution of the Jews, the Soviet extermination of class enemies or ISIL slaughter of infidels." He just LOVES carbon dioxide, and loves to argue that we don't have too much CO2 in the atmosphere, because after all, plants like it, so it must be good stuff. He likes to say stuff like, "If plants could vote, they would vote for coal," which explains why Trump got the rhododendron vote, and explains that since Earth once had much higher CO2 levels than even now, why worry?
Coal, formed from ancient CO2, is a benefit to the world. Coal is CO2 from ancient atmospheres. We are simply returning CO2 to the atmosphere from which it came when you burn coal. And it's a good thing since it is at very low levels in the atmosphere. We are in a CO2 famine. It is very, very low.
This is, of course, bullshit -- those ancient atmospheres were hundreds of millions of years before humans evolved. And nah, there's no such thing as a "CO2 famine."
Happer also made quite a name for himself when Greenpeace targeted him for a little sting: Posing as a Beirut-based consultant for an energy company, Greenpeace emailed Happer in 2015 to ask whether he'd be willing to write a paper for its "client" arguing that restricting atmospheric carbon would be bad, and talking up the benefits of lots of CO2. Happer was happy to, for the low low price of $250 an hour -- about $8,000 for a brief paper. He wouldn't even have to be paid directly -- instead, the money could go to his nonprofit climate denial group, the CO2 Coalition. He even advised the bogus consultants on how to mask the payment by sending the money through the giant rightwing group Donors Trust, which Mother Jones has called "the dark-money ATM of the right."
Oh yes, get this: Since the well-hidden payment would be going to the CO2 Coalition, Happer told the fake consultant, it would then be perfectly ethical to include an extra-special note on the paper:
Not that Happer is in this business for the money, although he does like being paid. No, he said in one of the emails, he's on a mission, you see.
My activities to push back against climate extremism are a labor of love, to defend the cherished ideals of science that have been so corrupted by the climate change cult.
Oh, yes, and this is cute. Remember that bit in the WaPo story about how Happer's proposed committee wants to subject climate change and its security implications to "a rigorous independent and adversarial scientific peer review"? When Greenpeace's ersatz energy consultant asked about the possibility of enhancing his product's credibility by having it peer reviewed, the great scientist replied that his "CO2 is good for the world" paper probably wouldn't make it through the normal peer review process:
If you like, I could submit the article to a peer-reviewed journal, but that might greatly delay publication and might require such major changes in response to referees and [to] the journal editor that the article would no longer make the case that CO2 is a benefit, not a pollutant, as strongly as I would like, and presumably as strongly your client would also like.
Real science would just distort his message, man. Happily, in a follow-up email, Happer proposed a solution: Have some hand-picked readers, as was the case when one of his pals had a paper published by an industry-friendly lobbying group. Oh, sure, he admitted, "Purists might object that the process did not qualify as a peer review," but let's not get too caught up in semantics.
I would be glad to ask for a similar review for the first drafts of anything I write for your client [...] and I think it would be fine to call it a peer review.
So that should give you at least a hint of what Happer may have in mind when it comes to subjecting climate science and the question of whether it has any implications at all for national security to "scientific peer review." He'd like it a lot better if that involved his peers in the climate denial business. After all, a lot of them are scientists just like Happer -- the kind who don't study climate, but that distance allows them to not get swept up in the cult, you see.
And then Trump won't ever have to be bothered any more by troublemakers like Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, who for the third year in a row included climate change as a national security concern in the intelligence community's annual "Worldwide Threat Assessment" for Congress. That was issued just three weeks ago, but what do a bunch of spies know about science anyway? Listen to the creepy laser man instead.
[WaPo / Center for Climate & Security / Guardian / Merchants of Doubt / John Whitehouse on Twitter / DeSmog Blog / Jezebel / Guardian / Greenpeace-Happer emails / Mother Jones / Center for Climate & Security / 2019 Worldwide Threat Assessment]
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.