White House physicist sought aid of rightwing thinktank to challenge climate science

william happer at trump tower in new york on 13 january 2017
William Happer at Trump Tower in New York on 13 January 2017. Photograph: The Washington Post/Getty Images

William Happer contacted Heartland Institute, one of the most prominent groups to dispute that fossil fuels cause global heating

— A member of the Trump administration’s National Security Council has sought help from advisers of a conservative thinktank to challenge the reality of a human-induced climate crisis, a trove of his emails show.

William Happer, a physicist appointed by the White House to counter the federal government’s own climate science, reached out to the Heartland Institute, one of the most prominent groups to dispute that burning fossil fuels is causing dangerous global heating, in March.

In the messages, part of a group of emails obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, Happer and the Heartland adviser Hal Doiron discuss Happer’s scientific arguments in a paper attempting to knock down the concept of climate emergency, as well as ideas to make the work “more useful to a wider readership”. Happer writes he had already discussed the work with another Heartland adviser, Thomas Wysmuller.

The emails from 2018 and 2019, received by the Environmental Defense Fund and provided to the Associated Press, also show Happer’s dismay that Jim Bridenstine, the Nasa administrator, had come round to accepting the science of climate breakdown.

In May 2018, an exchange between Happer and Heartland’s Wysmuller called Bridenstine’s change of heart “a puzzle” and copied in the Nasa administrator to urge him to “systematically sidestep” established science on temperature increases and sea level rise that the duo call “nonsense”.

This was followed by a February 2019 email in which Happer relays a complaint to James Morhard, Nasa’s deputy administrator, about climate crisis information on the space agency’s website. “I’m concerned that many children are being indoctrinated by this bad science,” said the email that Happer forwarded.

Happer has argued that carbon dioxide emissions actually benefit the planet rather than drive harmful climate disruption, once claiming that carbon dioxide has been demonized much like “the poor Jews under Hitler”.

The physicist was previously a leader and co-founder of an advocacy group called the CO2 Coalition that received money from far-right organizations and fossil fuel interests such as the Mercer Family Foundation and the Charles Koch Institute.

Earlier this year the Trump administration launched an NSC initiative in which a panel would challenge the well-established findings of the government’s own agencies, including Nasa, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as well as international climate scientists, that human activity is causing the planet to dangerously heat up.

The Trump administration has recently ramped up its efforts to muzzle its own scientists from acknowledging the reality of the climate crisis. Last month, the White House barred a state department official from giving written testimony to Congress that the climate emergency was “possibly catastrophic”. The testimony of the official, Rod Schoonover, was critiqued by Happer but the state department refused his suggestions to remove references to harm caused by global heating.

“These people are endangering all of us by promoting anti-science in service of fossil fuel interests over the American interests,” Michael Mann, a Pennsylvania State University climate scientist, told the AP.


by Oliver Milman | The Guardian

Related:

The Pentagon emits more greenhouse gases than Portugal, study finds
White House climate change panel to include man who touted emissions
Youth Gather to Demand Action on Climate Change