Climate change poses one of the biggest national security threats to the U.S. So naturally, the Trump administration just hired a climate denier to come aboard the National Security Council as an advisor.
Princeton physics emeritus professor William Happer joined the council this week in news first reported by CNN. He was also on the short list to be Trump’s science advisor, but with that role now being filled by an Oklahoma atmospheric scientist, it appears the administration found another place for him.
Happer’s expertise is in atomic physics and he has worked on defense-related issues. He also worked at the Department of Energy under the President George H.W. Bush. He’ll be working on emerging technologies with the National Security Council, according to E&E News.
That’s all well and good, but what’s really set Happer apart in recent years has been his prominent and vociferous invectives against mainstream climate science, a subject which he has no expertise in. He has said “we are in a CO2 famine” along with a whole host of other misinformed comments documented in detail by Desmog Blog.
Aside from his Princeton affiliation, he also splits time working with or advising the Cato Institute, Global Warming Policy Foundation, and Clexit (Climate Exit, get it?), all of which espouse various flavors of climate skepticism and denial. My fav is Clexit, whose founding statement says that “The world must abandon this suicidal Global Warming [sic] crusade.”
In addition to sharing denier talking points, Happer also has a bit of a persecution complex. Here’s what he wrote to a Jezebel reader who reached him last year questioning his viewpoints (the reader forwarded their exchange to Jezebel):
“Demonization of CO2 and people like me who come to its defense is nothing to be proud of. It really differs little from the Nazi persecution of the Jews, the Soviet extermination of class enemies or ISIL slaughter of infidels.”
It isn’t even the first time he’s invoked Nazis in his denial of global warming.
These sorts of views are of course nothing new for the Trump administration. But that doesn’t make them any less disturbing, particularly in a role where national security is at stake.
It’s well established that climate change is a threat multiplier that can exacerbate unrest or migration and increase risk of conflict in regions like the melting Arctic. The military also faces massive challenges from climate change as sea level rise inundates Navy bases, permafrost melt affects remote outposts in the Arctic, and increasingly heavy downpours affect training operations. The Department of Defense is actively preparing for the impacts, which is good. But having a National Security Council that turns a blind eye to them—or even worse, scoffs at them—is decidedly not good because the group is there to “advise and assist the President on national security and foreign policies.”
But then a driving purpose of the Trump administration seems to be ignoring the threat of climate change while wringing the last profits for the fossil fuel industry out of the ground. So Happer should fit in perfectly.
Earther reached out to Happer to see if his role will touch on climate change or any emerging energy technologies. He responded saying he wasn’t supposed to talk with the press, but added that “I will do my best to get as much sound science and technology into U.S. government policies as I can.”