William Happer

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William Happer, born 1939 (age 84–85), is the Cyrus Fogg Bracket Professor Emeritus of Physics at Princeton University. He is known for his research in atomic physics.[1] Happer has no formal training in climate science,[2] but is notorious among climate scientists and environmentalists for his staunch denial of climate change and the science supporting it.[3]

In February 2019, the Donald Trump administration announced that Happer will lead the "Presidential Committee on Climate Security." A committee which is tasked with assessing "whether climate change poses a national security threat” according to documents obtained by the Washington Post.[2]

As of March 2019, Happer serves a Senior Director of National Security Council. Before joining Trump, Happer served as president of a group called the CO2 Coalition, which was funded by the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, Mercer Family Foundation, and Charles Koch Foundation.[3] He has also been the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the George C. Marshall Institute and is on the Academic Advisory Council of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a climate denier think tank.[4] Happer is a member of Climate Exit (Clexit), a group based on the premise that “the world must abandon this suicidal Global Warming crusade.”[5] He has been an "Adjunct Scholar" at the CATO Institute.[5] Happer worked for the Energy Department under George H.W. Bush[2] And additionally served as Chairman of the Steering Committee of the JASON Committee from 1987 to 1990.

News and Controversies

Funding from the Far Right and Coal Companies

Happer was the director of the CO2 Coalition, "a group formed in 2015 out of the former George C. Marshall Institute".[5] The CO2 Coalition describes its mission as “educating thought leaders, policymakers, and the public about the important contribution made by carbon dioxide to our lives and the economy.” In a section on its website dubbed, “CO2 Fundamentals,” CO2 Coalition says, “The debate about global warming and climate change has shifted from genuine scientific exploration to a campaign demonizing CO2.”[3] The group received $100,000 from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, at least $260,000 from the Scaife Foundation, $320,000 from the Mercer Family Foundation, $32,409 from the Charles Koch Foundation, $10,000 from the Charles Koch Institute, $125,000 from Searle Freedom Trust $125,000 from Thomas W. Smith Foundation, $50,000 from Achelis and Bodman Foundations, and $40,000 from the Randolph Foundation between 2016 and 2017.[3]

Happer helped to organize a group called the CO2 Coalition, through which his fees are paid.[6] He has been funded by the Peabody Energy[7]


Happy testified before the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming of U.S. House of Representatives in May of 2010 and said that he thinks global "warming will be small compared the natural fluctuations in the earth’s temperature and that the warming and increased CO2 will be good for mankind."[8]

He is the author of a 'briefing paper' by the Global Warming Policy Foundation entitled 'The Truth About Greenhouse Gases'. Happer writes 'We conclude that atmospheric CO2 levels should be above about 150 ppm to avoid harming green plants and below about 5000 ppm to avoid harming people. That is a big range, and our atmosphere is much closer to the lower end than the upper end.'[9]

In a two-author op-ed piece featured in the Wall Street Journal entitled "In Defense of Carbon Dioxide", Harrison Schmitt and William Happer make the case that excess carbon dioxide is not bringing about detrimental climate change but is in fact necessary and beneficial. The authors criticize global warming theories as they relate to carbon dioxide, stating, "Thanks to the single-minded demonization of this natural and essential atmospheric gas by advocates of government control of energy production, the conventional wisdom about carbon dioxide is that it is a dangerous pollutant." The authors follow with their take on how to interpret scientific evidence on the matter, concluding, "There isn't the slightest evidence that more carbon dioxide has caused more extreme weather."[10]

As a direct response to the claims made and scientific evidence used in this piece, Media Matters for America, a progressive nonprofit watchdog group, published a specific response addressing several points posited in the op-ed. Beginning with a reference to Schmitt and Happer as "authors with no peer-reviewed papers on the topic and ties to groups funded by the oil industry," Media Matters presents contrary evidence to the information in the op-ed, citing work by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, NASA, the World Bank, the National Research Council, Smithsonian Magazine, the New York Times, Skeptical Science, and several other scientists and academics.[11] This response goes on to expose the authors' history, illustrating their lack of peer-reviewed research on the topic and their ties to the oil industry. Media Matters' profile on Schmitt highlights his former position as Director at the oil industry-funded Heartland Institute. Happer's profile identifies his status as current chairman of the George C. Marshall Institute, a recipient of funding from the oil industry as well as the Koch brothers.

Jack Williams, the director of the Nelson Institute Center for Climatic Research and geography professor from the University of Wisconsin - Madison, where Schmitt serves as an adjunct professor, also responded critically to the piece. "I think they're ignoring the scientific evidence," Williams posits, "...it's a bit of a one-sided perspective on the effects of CO2."[12]

According to Jezebel, Happer "has compared established climate science to Nazi persecution multiple times before."[13]


  • “We evolved as a species when CO2 concentrations were three or four times what they are now”.[9]
  • "I believe that the increase of CO2 is not a cause for alarm and will be good for mankind."[9]
  • “The 97% consensus is phony.”[14]

Futher reading

External resources

External articles


  1. Princton University https://dof.princeton.edu/about/clerk-faculty/emeritus/william-happer William Happer] academic organizational website, accessed March 12, 2019
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Juliet Eilperin and Missy Ryan White House prepares to scrutinize intelligence agencies’ finding that climate change threatens national security The Washington Post February 20, 2019
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 David Armiak Trump Taps Climate Denier to Lead a Secret White House Climate Panel ExposedbyCMD March 12, 2019
  4. Global Warming Policy Foundation, "Academic Advisory Council,", organizational website, accessed May 16, 2013
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 DeSmogBlog William Happer DeSmogBlog Profile, accessed March 12, 2019
  6. [1]
  7. Lawrence Carter and Maeve McClenaghan Exposed: Academics-for-hire agree not to disclose fossil fuel funding Greenpeace Dec. 8, 2015
  8. William Happer Climate Science in the Political Arena Testimony May 20, 2018
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 William Happer, The Truth About Greenhouse Gases,, Global Warming Policy Foundation, undated
  10. Harrison H. Schmitt and William Happer, In Defense of Carbon Dioxide, Wall Street Journal - Opinion, May 8, 2013.
  11. Shauna Theel, Wall Street Journal's Idiocracy: CO2 Is What Plants Crave, Media Matters for America, May 9, 2013.
  12. Steven Elbow, UW Adjunct Prof Pens an Op-ed Denying Effects of Carbon Dioxide, Cap Times, May 15, 2013.
  13. Ellie Shechet Possible Trump Science Advisor Compares Climate Science to ISIS, Tells Us Jezebel 'Is Well Named' Jezebel March 17, 2017
  14. Heritage Foundation At the Crossroads IV: Energy & Climate Policy Summit Heritage Foundation, November 30, 2017