President Donald Trump told a candidate to be his top science adviser that he agreed global warming had become a “cult movement in the last five or 10 years.”
Princeton University physicist Will Happer met with Trump in January about a week before the inauguration. He told Trump he believed man-made global warming had been “exaggerated,” to which Trump replied: “I agree with you.”
“Very briefly. I said, ‘I’m sure you know my position that I think climate change has been tremendously exaggerated—its significance. Climate is important, always has been, but I think it’s become sort of a cult movement in the last five or 10 years,’” Happer told The Scientist (TS) in a wide-ranging interview.
“So in just a sentence or two, I said, ‘That’s my view of it,’” Happer said. “And he said, Well, I agree with you. But that’s all we discussed.”
Happer is a candidate to be one of Trump’s top science advisers, though it’s unclear where his official post will be. For example, Happer could head White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy or even sit on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.
Happer served as the director of the Office of Energy Research at the Energy Department (DOE) under former President George H.W. Bush. So, maybe Happer could be asked to head DOE’s Office of Science.
Happer is a prominent skeptic of man-made global warming — in fact, he believes more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is a good thing since it stimulates plant life. He’s said the world is in a CO2 “drought” and fought the Obama administration’s labeling it as a “pollutant.”
One of Happer’s goals, if he’s asked to join the Trump administration, would be fixing currently perverse incentives that come with government-funded science.
“One of the problems with the programs for the last 15 or 20 years was, unless you promised that your results were going to bring some sort of alarming new evidence that people were driving the planet to extinction by releasing CO2, you couldn’t get funding,” Happer told TS.
“That was really sick,” he said. “You shouldn’t have funding decisions based on whether you expect to get alarmist results from the applicant. And that’s the way it was.”
TS pushed back, asking Happer for examples of this, to which Happer responded: “I told you it was an anecdote, but my impression is it’s been in the last 10 years.”
Happer may not have had any concrete examples, but his interview comes amid allegations from a whistleblower that National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientists manipulated climate data to show more warming in order to influence policymakers.
Dr. John Bates, the former principal scientist at the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., said NOAA scientists toyed with data in a 2015 study “to discredit the notion of a global warming hiatus and rush to time the publication of the paper to influence national and international deliberations on climate policy.”
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