William Happer, 2009 Senate Statement

Statement to the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee by William Happer, Cyrus Fogg Brackett Professor of Physics Princeton University, made on February 25, 2009.  Excerpts:

Sometimes the obsession for control of the climate got a bit out of hand, as in the Aztec state, where the local scientific/religious establishment of the year 1500 had long since announced that the debate was over and that at least 20,000 human sacrifices a year were needed to keep the sun moving, the rain falling, and to stop climate change.

I believe that the increase of CO2 is not a cause for alarm and will be good for mankind.

The climate has changed many times in the past with no help by mankind. Recall that the Romans grew grapes in Britain around the year 100, and Viking settlers prospered on small farms in Greenland for several centuries during the Medieval Climate Optimum around 1100. People have had an urge to control the climate throughout history so I suppose it is no surprise that we are at it again today.

The whole hockey-stick episode reminds me of the motto of Orwell’s Ministry of Information in the novel “1984:” “He who controls the present, controls the past. He who controls the past, controls the future.”

I keep hearing about the “pollutant CO2,” or about “poisoning the atmosphere” with CO2, or about minimizing our “carbon footprint.” This brings to mind another Orwellian pronouncement that is worth pondering: “But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.” CO2 is not a pollutant and it is not a poison and we should not corrupt the English language by depriving “pollutant” and “poison” of their original meaning. Our exhaled breath contains about 4% CO2. That is 40,000 parts per million, or about 100 times the current atmospheric concentration. CO2 is absolutely essential for life on earth. Commercial greenhouse operators often use CO2 as a fertilizer to improve the health and growth rate of their plants. Plants, and our own primate ancestors evolved when the levels of atmospheric CO2 were about 1000 ppm, a level that we will probably not reach …