The physicist, 79, has a seat on the National Security Council and thinks the science that proves global heating is wrong
By the early 1990s, the man now dubbed the chief climate change skeptic in Donald Trumps White House had already decided he was uneasy with the science that showed humans were heating the planet.
William Happer, the former Princeton physicist now on Trumps National Security Council, was then in charge of energy research under George HW Bush.
He asked experts at the Department of Energy to discuss their work with him and was displeased with the attitude he sensed from a climate researcher, according to a story recalled by two of his colleagues.
They were not just defensive; they just werent going to entertain questions, said Richard Lindzen, an atmospheric physicist from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a critic of the scientific consensus on the climate crisis.
Two years later, when Bill Clinton entered office, Happer got into a public disagreement with Al Gore, then the vice-president, over evidence that refrigerant chemicals were eating a hole in the ozone layer. Happer was soon relieved of his government job.
Happer, now 79, remembers standing from his seat in the back of a meeting and telling Gore, What youve said is absolutely incorrect, according to Caleb Rossiter, who Happer helped recruit to run an organization he founded that questions climate science.
So began Happers reputation as a renegade and dissident within a small subculture of academics who think the huge body of research proving a man-made climate crisis is wrong.
Happers position veers far to the right of the typical conservative who questions the severity of the climate crisis.
Trumps former EPA chief Scott Pruitt previously the administrations most vocal climate denier questioned whether humans and their carbon dioxide pollution were the main cause of global warming. But Happers ideology goes a step further. He thinks the extra carbon is beneficial to the planet.
And he is in a position to embolden the presidents climate denial as the administration slashes environmental protections and encourages fossil fuel use.
Since he was appointed last autumn as the director of emerging technologies on the White Houses National Security Council, Happer has pushed to challenge the governments findings that climate change is a national security threat, according to documents first leaked to the Washington Post in February.
No further news has come of that effort, and the National Security Council declined to comment on any possible plans.
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