Climate Denialist to Depart White House National Security Council
WASHINGTON — William Happer, the White House architect of a stalled plan to attack the established science of climate change, is leaving the Trump administration on Friday, according to three people familiar with his plans.
Dr. Happer, a physicist who gained notoriety by claiming that the greenhouse gases contributing to warming the planet are beneficial to humanity, and for likening attacks on fossil fuels to “the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler” in a 2014 interview, serves on the National Security Council as President Trump’s deputy assistant for emerging technologies.
His signature effort at the White House was a plan to establish a panel to question the scientific consensus that climate change is overwhelmingly caused by humans and is a growing threat to national security. The effort was blocked by other senior White House and administration officials, including members of the military and intelligence communities.
Dr. Happer also tried to edit scientific facts about climate change in testimony to Congress from a State Department intelligence analyst. His suggestions, first reported by The New York Times, included objecting to the phrase “tipping point” to describe when the planet reaches a threshold of irreversible climate change.
“‘Tipping points’ is a propaganda slogan for the scientifically illiterate,” Dr. Happer wrote in a margin comment captured by track changes in working documents. “They were a favorite of Al Gore’s science adviser, James Hansen.”
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The White House and a spokesman for the National Security Council did not respond to a request for comment, and Dr. Happer did not respond to an email seeking comment on Wednesday. His departure was first reported by E&E News, an energy policy news site.
The three people familiar with Dr. Happer’s plans noted the former Princeton University professor just turned 80 and had always intended to stay at the White House for one year.
“There’s this big hole now,” said Steven J. Milloy, a member of President Trump’s transition team for the Environmental Protection Agency who runs the website junkscience.com, which is aimed at casting doubt on the established science of human-caused climate change.
“There’s nobody in the White House to pick up where Will left off, except the president.”
Environmental activists cheered Dr. Happer’s departure but said they are still bracing for continued attacks on climate science from the White House.
“Someone who denies the existence of nuclear weapons or terrorism would never be given a senior position at the National Security Council, and that should have been true on climate change, which is recognized across parties as a security threat to the United States,” said Francesco Femia, a co-founder of the Center for Climate and Security, a nonpartisan think tank. “So while this is good news, he never should have been there in the first place.”
Rob Vessels, a campaign manager with the Sierra Club, an environmental group, said it was “an indictment of the Trump Administration’s dangerous denial of the climate crisis that countless deniers like Happer continue to be welcomed with open arms.”
Dr. Happer’s exit is the latest White House shake-up in an administration that has seen near-constant turnover and comes on the heels of President Trump’s ouster of John R. Bolton, his third national security adviser. Mr. Bolton was a supporter of Dr. Happer’s positions on climate change in the White House, according to several people with knowledge of their relationship.
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Lisa Friedman reports on climate and environmental policy in Washington. A former editor at Climatewire, she has covered nine international climate talks. @LFFriedman
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