Tag Archives: William Happer

Climate Sense: So much is still about politics

Climate change is finally being discussed in Congress and by the Trump administration, but not necessarily in a good way. This week I share some of the things I’ve been reading with regard to the politics of climate change. If there’s a silver lining, it could be that climate change is getting some attention among politicians. I’m holding some interesting scientific studies for another week.

Item 1: Concerns about politicizing climate change

In a letter to President Trump (PDF 192 kb), 58 former national security leaders have voiced their concerns about a committee being formed by the Trump administration to question whether climate change is a national security threat.

“It is dangerous,” the letter says, “to have national security analysis conform to politics. Our officials’ job is to ensure that we are prepared for current threats and future contingencies. We cannot do that if the scientific studies that inform our threat assessments are undermined. Our national security community will not remain the best in the world if it cannot make decisions based on the best available evidence.”

Among the leading signators are President Obama appointees John Kerry, former Secretary of State; Chuck Hagel, former Secretary of Defense; and Ray Mabus, former Secretary of the Navy. Their letter is posted on the website of the Center for Climate and Security, which includes other information about climate change.

CNN’s Christine Amanpour interviewed retired Rear Admiral David Titley about why the 58 security officials feel the need to speak out on the issue. Check out the video on CNN.

The letter was prompted by a discussion within the administration about forming a panel called the Presidential Committee on Climate Security. William Happer, a national security adviser in the Trump administration, could be chosen to lead the panel. Happer has been downplaying concerns about climate change and is often labeled a “climate denier.” Check out a story in “The Hill” by Miranda Green.

Item 2: Avoiding the trap of the Green New Deal

I thought that David Roberts, climate reporter for Vox, made some good points about the maneuvering being done by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer with regard to a vote on the Green New Deal:

“Schumer is now trapped in a familiar bind: He has to decide whether to vote on something bold and ambitious, which could divide his caucus, or to continue dodging clear votes and rallying behind nonthreatening statements of purpose that will receive the full backing of his caucus but won’t excite anyone,” Roberts writes.

“This is just another version of the trap Democrats have been in since 2010. Since there is zero prospect of Republican cooperation, being ‘realistic’ about legislative goals means crafting them so they are acceptable to the rightmost member of the Democratic caucus. (Recall when Joe Lieberman single-handedly killed the public option in Obamacare.)”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell doesn’t seem to care about climate change, but he wants a vote on the Green New Deal, which calls for major changes in the country’s energy system.

Politico Reporter Anthony Adragna lays out the political drama this week in an article titled, “Democrats seek to evade GOP trap on Green New Deal vote.”

Despite McConnell’s political games, some Republicans are beginning to look for more conservative ways of addressing climate change, as reporter Mark Matthews describes in E&E News. If the discussion can begin in earnest among members of both parties, there might be hope of taking steps toward reducing the impacts of climate change.

The political dynamics is interesting, but David Roberts of Vox remains skeptical that the Republicans in Congress intend to do anything at all. He called the U.S. political system a “dumpster fire.”

“There’s no prospect of any cooperation from the right on any climate response of any remotely appropriate scale,” he wrote in his column. “The only way to change the status quo is through power, and the only power available to progressives on this issue is people power — bodies in the streets, in congressional offices, and in voting booths. Any plan to address climate change must involve not just policy but the question of how to build people power around it and thus change the status quo.”

Item 3: How will Jay Inslee handle the Green New Deal?

Gov. Jay Inslee, who is now officially running for president, has been saying that climate change is part of every major issue, from health care to education to jobs and the economy. His vision is clearly separate from the Green New Deal, but he won’t escape questions about its specific goals.

When Inslee appeared on “The View,” Meghan McCain began by telling him, “Maybe I am just a unicorn from another planet, but climate change doesn’t even hit my top 30 of how I vote for somebody. I do think I am on this panel to say that (climate change) isn’t what is selling me on you beating Trump. I say that with respect. What also isn’t selling me on you beating Trump is the Green New Deal…”

How well Inslee handles these kind of exchanges could make a difference among people who still need to be “sold” on climate change.

Item 4: ‘Inoculation’ against climate change misinformation

I’ve listed some articles and videos that could help people talk to their friends and family members about climate change (Water Ways, Feb. 16). Now a group of researchers led by Justin Farrell, a professor of sociology at Yale University, describes some strategies that might be used on a wider scale.

Writer Kevin Dennehy of Yale News describes four of the strategies, including the notion that “society can ‘inoculate’ against misinformation by exposing people to refuted scientific arguments before they hear them, much like one can prevent infection through the use of vaccines.”

The paper was published in the journal “Nature Climate Change.”

“Climate Sense” is my attempt to share some of the important research, political developments, fascinating viewpoints or inspiring opinions that I come across during my reading. For a further explanation, read my first Water Ways post of 2019: “Climate Sense: I would like to share what I learn during this coming year.”

Amusing Monday: Colbert has fun with Trump’s climate views

I’m not a regular viewer of Stephen Colbert’s “The Late Show,” so I wasn’t aware of how much he talks about climate change in his monologues and intros until I began reviewing video clips of the show.

Colbert especially likes to joke about the Trump administration’s management of climate change — or should I say the administration’s apparent desire for the subject to just go away.

Last week, Colbert lambasted the appointment of William Happer to head a committee formed to determine whether climate change poses a threat to national security. Happer is a physicist who has no formal training in climate science, although he served as director of the Department of Energy’s Office of Science under the George HW Bush administration.

Happer’s claim to fame has been his assertion that global warming is largely a natural phenomenon and that increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is really a good thing.

“The demonization of carbon dioxide is just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler,” he told CNBC in 2014, a comment that did not go unnoticed by Colbert.

If Happer didn’t seem so serious about all this, he might have a career as a comedian, considering his colorful use of language. Bess Levin of Vanity Fair rounded up several of his other comments, including this quote from Climate Depot: “If plants could vote, they would vote for coal.”

If you’d like to dig deeply into Happer’s beliefs, check out the article he wrote called “The Truth about greenhouse gases” in “First Things” along with a rebuttal in Climate Science & Policy Watch by Michael MacCracken of the Climate Institute.

Sorry, I’m getting off the track. My intention here in this “Amusing Monday” piece is to share some of the many Colbert clips about climate change. Besides the videos on this page, I’ve embedded links to other videos in the text below. Check out this cartoon intro that describes Trump’s climate change committee as a hapless group of superheroes.

With all the hubbub surrounding the Green New Deal, Colbert presents another cartoon showing Kermit the Frog singing the song, “It’s not easy being green” with words relevant to the current topic (second video on this page).

Rather than shy away from science issues, Colbert may take time to explain things in a somewhat accurate way before going off on funny tangents. Other times, he just makes fun of what Trump himself says about climate and weather, as in the third video above.

When a draft of the government report was leaked to the press in 2017, Colbert wondered in a three-minute monologue whether secret weather reports would be next, especially in light of a directive from the Department of Agriculture calling on its employees to stop using the term “climate change.”

In a cartoon featuring Frosty the Snowman, Frosty says he stands with President Trump when it comes to climate and weather. “Relax Snowflake,” Frosty tells a little girl, “you’re just brainwashed by the liberal media” — and then he melts away.

During the recent cold snap in the Midwest, Colbert effuses about Trump’s recent tweet: “What the hell is going on with Global Waming (sic)? Please come back fast, we need you!” If Trump actually believed in climate change, his comment might have been funny at one time. This discussion took up the first two minutes and 20 seconds of Colbert’s monologue.

When the president denied being a climate denier in an interview with 60 Minutes’ Lesley Stahl, Colbert took him to task during the first 50 seconds of a monologue from October.

Back when the president announced the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement, designed to reduce the worldwide production of greenhouse gases, Colbert produced a satiric video (above) called “Planet Earth 2025” in which he portrays the voice of David Attenborough.

In the last video on this page (starting at 2 minutes), Colbert ridicules Trump for his ambivalence about climate change and his claim of having a “natural instinct for science.”