An Interview With Scientist William Happer

Best known to the general public as a vocal critic of the U.N. IPCC “consensus” on global warming, he has been called frequently to give expert testimony before various U.S. congressional committees on the subject of global warming (climate change). In 2015, he found himself at the center of a new controversy involving a so-called “sting” operation organized by Greenpeace.

A list of some of Professor Happer’s major research publications may be accessed here.

These excerpts have been taken from the interview, and appear here without quotes. (h/t to WUWT reader Sasha)


About three months after the beginning of the Clinton administration, Hazel O’Leary called me into her office to ask, “What have you done to Al Gore? I am told I have to fire you.” I assume that the main thing that upset Al Gore (left) was my questioning of blatant propaganda about stratospheric ozone that was his focus at the time: “ozone holes over Kennebunkport” and similar nonsense.

…while I was at DOE. But watching the evening news, I would often be outraged by the distortions about CO2 and climate that were being intoned by hapless, scientifically-illiterate newscasters.

Greenpeace is one of the many organizations that have made a very good living from alarmism over the supposed threat of global warming. They are unable to defend the extremely weak science. So, they demonize not only the supposed “pollutant,” atmospheric CO2, but also any scientists who seem to be effectively refuting their propaganda.

GreenpeaceI suppose I should be flattered to be one of their targets: je mehr Feinde, je mehr Ehre (“the more enemies, the more honor”), as the old German saying goes. But my trials pale compared to those of scientists like Willie Soon, Patrick Michaels, and others, who were not only vilified, but driven from their jobs.

The result of the Greenpeace smear included many hostile, obscene phone calls and emails with threats to me, my family, even my grandchildren. George Orwell wrote about these tactics in his novel, 1984, when he described the daily, obligatory “Two Minutes of Hate” for Emmanuel Goldstein (Leon Trotsky) and his agents, who were the enemies of Big Brother (Stalin) and his thugs.

Greenpeace and other even more fanatical elements of the global-warming movement fully embrace the ancient lie that their ideological end — elimination of fossil fuel — justifies any means, including falsification of scientific data and character assassination of their opponents.

Global warming is a well-established fact. This statement is only half true. A more correct statement would be “global warming and global cooling are both well-established facts.” The earth is almost always warming or cooling. Since the year 1800, the earth has warmed by about 1° C, with much of the warming taking place before much increase of atmospheric CO2. There was a quite substantial cooling from about 1940 to 1975. There has been almost no warming for the past 20 years when the CO2 levels have increased most rapidly. The same alternation of warming and cooling has characterized the earth’s climate for all of geological history.

…more CO2 will be a benefit to humanity. The predicted warming from more CO2 is grossly exaggerated. The equilibrium warming from doubling CO2 is not going to be 3° C, which might marginally be considered a problem, but closer to 1° C, which will be beneficial. One should not forget that the “global warming” is an average value. There will be little warming in the tropics and little warming at midday. What warming occurs will be mostly in temperate and polar regions, and at night. This will extend the agricultural growing season in many countries like Canada, Scandinavia, and Russia. More CO2 greatly increases the efficiency of photosynthesis in plants and makes land plants more drought-resistant. So, the net result of more CO2 will be strongly beneficial for humanity.

The astonishing recent claim by NOAA, that there never was a hiatus, reminds me of the Baron’s soliloquy about the power of his treasure chests in Pushkin’s “little tragedy,” The Miserly Knight, of 1830 (AKA The Covetous Knight). I have tried to reproduce the solemn, iambic pentameter of Pushkin’s verse in my translation :

And muses will to me their tribute bring,
Free genius will enslave itself to me,
And virtue, yes, and, sleepless labor too
With humble mien will wait for my reward.
I’ve but to whistle, and obedient, timid,
Blood-spattered villainy will crawl to me
And lick my hand, and gaze into my eyes,
To read in them the sign of my desire.

The hockey-stick temperature record was conspicuously absent from the latest IPCC report, which speaks volumes. My guess is that the hockey stick started out as an honest but mistaken paper, but one welcomed by the global-warming establishment. They had been embarrassed for years by the Medieval Warm Period, when Vikings farmed Greenland, and when emissions from fossil fuels were negligible. A.W. Montford’s book, The Hockey Stick Illusion (Anglosphere Books, 2015), is a pretty good summary of what happened

NOAA’s recent attempt to eliminate the hiatus is an example of the same kind of thinking that went into the hockey stick. If a politically correct theory does not agree with observations, revise the observations. This is the complete opposite of Nobel Laureate–physicist Dick Feynman’s definition of science, which he spelled out in an entertaining lecture at Cornell University in 1964 :

In general, we look for a new law by the following process. First, we guess it (audience laughter), no, don’t laugh, that’s really true. Then we compute the consequences of the guess, to see what, if this is right, if this law we guess is right, to see what it would imply and then we compare the computation results to nature, or we say compare to experiment or experience, compare it directly with observations to see if it works.

If it disagrees with experiment, it’s wrong. In that simple statement is the key to science. It doesn’t make any difference how beautiful your guess is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are who made the guess, or what his name is… If it disagrees with experiment, it’s wrong. That’s all there is to it.

I don’t question that the earth has warmed since the end of the Little Ice Age, but I am persuaded that most of the warming was due to natural causes, about which the governments can do nothing. We are already seeing more vegetation on the earth and it is absorbing more CO2. But as I will discuss in response to your next question, I believe that more CO2 is good for the world, that the world has been in a CO2 famine for many tens of millions of years and that one or two thousand ppm would be ideal for the biosphere. I am baffled at hysterical attempts to drive CO2 levels below 350 ppm, or some other value, apparently chosen by Kabbalah numerology, not science.

…plants get the carbon they need from the CO2 in the air. Most plants draw other essential nutrients — water, nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, etc. — from the soil. Just as plants grow better in fertilized, well-watered soils, they also grow better in air with CO2 concentrations several time higher than present values.

Essex and McKitrick are on target in their book, Taken by Storm. It is striking that many skeptics, like me, are retired. Aside from character assassination, there is not much the attack dogs of the climate consensus can do to us, at least so far. But young academics know very well that they will risk their careers by expressing any doubt about the party line on global warming.

I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you’re being had.

Let’s be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world.

In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus.

There is no such thing as consensus science. If it’s consensus, it isn’t science. If it’s science, it isn’t consensus. Period.

Are our all-powerful governments going to fight increases or decreases of solar activity? Where is Owen Glendower when we need him to “call the spirits from the vasty deep,” or King Canute to stop the tides? I am not keen to submit to lunatic, government-sponsored geoengineering schemes of contemporary Dr. Strangeloves. Nor does driving the earth’s human population down from its current seven billion people to no more than 1 billion have much appeal to me, even though it is promoted by influential climate advisers of politicians and popes. Are we supposed to draw straws to decide which six out of seven people must disappear from the face of the earth?

I can’t see any reason to reduce CO2 emissions. Doubling or quadrupling current CO2 levels will be good for the world. The economic burdens you talk about are all pain with no gain for most of the world.

The evidence that CO2 is a pollutant so fearsome that we must give up democracy, punish “deniers,” and impoverish much of the world by eliminating the use of fossil fuels is looking more and more like spectral evidence. If you can’t find real scientific evidence for alarm, dream up hockey sticks, dream away hiatuses, and get rid of your opponents as soon as possible.

Isn’t the freedom to think what we like and say what we think at the very heart of the scientific endeavor? If so, then how did we get ourselves into this fix?

The situation seems to many of us to be truly scandalous — one that historians of science are going to be making hay out of for decades and centuries to come.

During Stalin’s Great Terror, the equivalents of evil fossil fuel interests were Leon Trotsky and his followers. They were a direct threat to Stalin’s control of the world-wide Communist movement, just as climate skeptics are regarded as an existential threat to the global warming establishment.

I would be surprised if the net total funding of climate skeptics exceeded $2 or $3 million dollars a year, and even that may be high. In the last few years, US government spending for climate research [ (48-page PDF)] has been about $20 billion dollars a year — more than a thousand times greater than skeptic funding. But even this huge financial advantage is not sufficient to support the pathetically weak scientific case that the world is in danger from more CO2.

In accepting his 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, Al Gore said the summer Arctic could be ice-free by 2013 due to CO2 emissions. I invite readers to have a look at the data site I mentioned earlier []. A few minutes of inspection of the “sea ice” link will show that there has been no significant change in sea ice since 2007. With all due respect to Nobel Laureate Gore, there was plenty of summer ice in 2013.

Full interview:

William Happer is the Cyrus Fogg Brackett Professor of Physics, Emeritus, in the Department of Physics at Princeton University. A long-time member of JASON, a group of scientists which provides independent advice to the U.S. government on matters relating to science, technology, and national security, Happer served as Director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science from 1991–1993.



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