Donald Trump’s administration is assembling a panel to determine whether climate change—which scientific experts broadly agree poses an existential threat to the safety and well-being of the world’s population and is caused by human emissions of greenhouse gases—is really a threat to national security. According to reports in the Washington Post and New York Times, said panel is predictably planned to be headed by a man who insists that carbon dioxide is good, actually, and once compared the gas’s “demonization” by scientists to Jews murdered during the Holocaust.
According to the Post, a draft executive order on the proposed Presidential Committee on Climate Security says that it will be headed National Security Council senior director and physics professor William Happer, who thinks rising levels of atmospheric CO2 will be good for humans. The role of the committee, as described by NSC documents obtained by the paper, will be a “rigorous independent and adversarial scientific peer review” of the latest National Climate Assessment. (That’s the 1,656-page report federal scientific agencies released last year warning that unchecked climate change will have a devastating effect on the U.S., such as the destruction of 10 percent of the economy by the end of the century.)
As the Post noted, Happer is “not formally trained as a climate scientist.” He does not explicitly deny that the climate is changing; instead he disputes the underlying science showing that CO2 contributes to warming average global temperatures. Happer has also repeatedly insisted the globe is currently experiencing a “CO2 famine,” as well as wrote an op-ed arguing CO2 emissions will merely result in really bountiful crop yields. He has sat on the boards of the CO2 Coalition and the George C. Marshall Institute, industry-backed groups which have relentlessly questioned the scientific consensus on climate change.
At a 2016 summit held by the conservative Heritage Foundation, the Post wrote, Happer told attendees that CO2 is “not a pollutant at all.... We should be telling the scientific truth, that more CO2 is actually a benefit to the earth.”
Per the New York Times, in 2015, Greenpeace activists posing as representatives of an unnamed Middle Eastern oil conglomerate convinced Happer to agree to write a paper for them. Happer wrote to the Greenpeace members that he didn’t need to be paid directly, as his “activities to push back against climate extremism are a labor of love.”
The comments on the Holocaust came during a 2014 CNBC interview, per progressive group Media Matters:
Physics Professor William Happer has published no peer-reviewed research on climate change, yet co-host Joe Kernen introduced him as an “industry expert” on the July 14 edition of Squawk Box. After a softball interview with Kernen, co-host Andrew Ross Sorkin challenged Happer for “not believ[ing] in climate change”—to which Happer responded by telling Sorkin to “shut up.” Sorkin then asked Happer about comments he made to The Daily Princetonian in 2009 comparing climate science to Nazi propaganda. Happer doubled down on his comments, stating that “the demonization of carbon dioxide is just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler. Carbon dioxide is actually a benefit to the world, and so were the Jews.”
Notably, the National Climate Assessment is peer reviewed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NASA, and the National Academy of Sciences. Repeated military assessments have more or less mirrored its conclusions, finding that climate change could fuel economic distress, conflict, and extreme weather events around the globe. Meanwhile, Skeptical Science lists Happer as having published no papers which “take a negative or explicitly doubtful position on human-caused global warming” that have undergone peer review.
“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,” Council on Strategic Risks executive director and Center for Climate and Security co-founder Francesco Femia told the Post. “It’s honestly a blunt-force political tool designed to shut the national security community up on climate change.”