Physics professor William Happer GS ‘64 has some tough words for scientists who believe that carbon dioxide is causing global warming. “This is George Orwell. This is the ‘Germans are the master race. The Jews are the scum of the earth.’ It’s that kind of propaganda,”
Happer, the Cyrus Fogg Brackett Professor of Physics, said in an interview. “Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant. Every time you exhale, you exhale air that has 4 percent carbon dioxide. To say that that’s a pollutant just boggles my mind. What used to be science has turned into a cult.” Happer served as director of the Office of Energy Research in the U.S. Department of Energy under President George H.W. Bush and was subsequently fired by Vice President Al Gore, reportedly for his refusal to support Gore’s views on climate change. He asked last month to be added to a list of global warming dissenters in a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee report. The list includes more than 650 experts who challenge the belief that human activity is contributing to global warming.
Though Happer has promulgated his skepticism in the past, he requested to be named a skeptic in light of the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama, whose administration has, as Happer notes, “stated that carbon dioxide is a pollutant” and that humans are “poisoning the atmosphere.” Happer maintains that he doubts there is any strong anthropogenic influence on global temperature. “All the evidence I see is that the current warming of the climate is just like past warmings. In fact, it’s not as much as past warmings yet, and it probably has little to do with carbon dioxide, just like past warmings had little to do with carbon dioxide,” Happer explained.
Happer is chair of the board of directors at the George C. Marshall Institute, a nonprofit conservative think tank known for its attempts to highlight uncertainties about causes of global warming. The institute was founded by former National Academy of Sciences president and prominent physicist Frederick Seitz GS �34, who publicly expressed his skepticism of the claim that global warming is caused by human activity. Seitz passed away in March 2008.
In 2007, the Institute reported $726,087 in annual operating expenses, $205,156 of which was spent on climate change issues, constituting the largest portion of its program expenses, according to its I-990 tax exemption form. In a statement sent to the Senate as part of his request, Happer explained his reasoning for challenging the climate change movement, citing his research and scientific knowledge.
“I have spent a long research career studying physics that is closely related to the greenhouse effect, for example, absorption and emission of visible and infrared radiation, and fluid flow,” he said in the statement. “Based on my experience, I am convinced that the current alarm over carbon dioxide is mistaken.”
Geosciences professor Michael Oppenheimer, the lead author of the fourth report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) - whose members, along with Gore, received the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize - said in an interview that Happer’s claims are “simply not true.” Oppenheimer, director of the Wilson School's Program in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy, stressed that the preponderance of evidence and majority of expert opinion points to a strong anthropogenic influence on rising global temperatures, noting that he advises Happer to read the IPCC’s report and publish a scientific
report detailing his objections to its findings.
The University is home to a number of renowned climate change scientists. Ecology and evolutionary biology professor Stephen Pacala and mechanical and aerospace engineering professor Robert Socolow, who are co-chairs of the Carbon Mitigation Initiative (CMI) and the Princeton Environmental Institute, developed a set of 15 “stabilization wedges.” These are existing technologies that would, by the year 2054, each prevent 1 billion tons of carbon emissions. They argue that the implementation of seven of these wedges would be needed to reach a target level of carbon in the atmosphere. Neither Pacala nor Socolow could be reached for comment. Happer said that he is alarmed by the funding that climate change scientists, such as Pacala and Socolow, receive from the private sector.
(see more at icecap.us)