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Even Princeton Makes Mistakes

Posted on 26 May 2011 by Chris Colose

In general, belonging to a respected department at a top institution (such as MIT, Princeton, Harvard, Cambridge, Oxford, etc) gives your word strong authority in the public eye.  Richard Lindzen, for example, is known for his work in dynamics and what he has contributed to the referred literature amongst colleagues, but to a general audience he is "Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at MIT."  This, of course, is not an intrinsically bad thing-- we accept authority all the time on subjects we know little about.  Just last night, I watched a movie called "Double Jeopardy" with Tommy Lee Jones, a film built somewhat around a constitutional law that forbids someone from being tried for the same crime twice. Afterward, I was curious enough to check the internet to see how well the film did at legal interpretation, and I found through wikipedia that a "Harvard law professor" said it was not entirely accurate (though I do recommend the movie, it was quite good).  I'm sure he is right, his reasoning made sense to me, and I didn't have a particular interest in researching the matter further.

These respected institutions, in turn, must hire only the best to be the best, and in general to have a position of authority at these places means you have earned it.  Nonetheless, they do make mistakes sometimes.  Lubos Motl at Harvard comes to mind.  Another example is William Happer, a Professor of Physics at Princeton.  To me, the credibility of a scientist doesn't just come from what he publishes in the literature, but also what he publishes throughout the internet as well.  In the case of many of the more prominent global warming skeptics who have actual publishing experience, much of what they say on the internet is done precisely because it would never get accepted into a journal document.  Nonetheless, by placing themselves in a position of authority on the subject, they also position themselves to be criticized for what they say.  The same is true of me, or many other climate bloggers who now try to "teach the science."

Just who is William Happer to someone who doesn't really care much? Well, he is "the Cyrus Fogg Brackett Professor of Physics at Princeton University", which probably makes him correct concerning a lot of physical phenomena he chooses to talk about.  But then you come across an article such as this (which was then reproduced at Watts Up With That, presumably for the sole reason that it is a disinformation piece).

The outline of the article is to lay to rest the "contemporary moral epidemic" surrounding "the notion that increasing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, notably carbon dioxide, will have disastrous consequences for mankind and for the planet."  As one would expect from such an opening, there are also the usual references to a climate crusade, money-hungry govermnemts, greedy scientists, etc.  For the next 10 paragraphs or so, Happer uses a lot of words to say absolutely nothing, except that life needs carbon and it shouldn't be regulated as a "pollutant."

Personally, I have little interest in the legality of making CO2 a "pollutant" or not.  I'm quite sure different people here have their own perspective on this, but to me whether we call it a "pollutant" or a "banana" doesn't change its physical properties: CO2 is a strong greenhouse gas, and it is important in impeding how efficiently our planet loses radiative heat to space.  We don't often think of CO2 as a "pollutant" on Venus, yet it still allows the planet to support temperatures well above the melting point of lead or tin.

Happer then throws in a few classical straw man attacks such as:

"CO2 levels have increased from about 280 ppm to 390 ppm over the past 150 years or so, and the earth has warmed by about 0.8 degree Celsius during that time. Therefore the warming is due to CO2. But correlation is not causation. Roosters crow every morning at sunrise, but that does not mean the rooster caused the sun to rise. The sun will still rise on Monday if you decide to have the rooster for Sunday dinner."

This would, of course, be a perfectly valid counter-argument to would-be fallacious reasoning, yet it isn't the reasoning any real scientist uses, and is therefore a smokescreen.  Naturally, the WUWT crowd has eaten it up without thinking twice.  The causative mechanism is the underlying radiative physics of how a CO2 molecule interacts with infrared light, and also a wide variety of indirect signatures of climate change induced by agents acting on the longwave part of the spectrum, such as stratospheric cooling or the radiative imbalance at the top of the atmosphere.   

Happer can't resist throwing in a few outdated one-liners about the Vikings in a "green" Greenland, how CO2 lags temperatures in ice cores, and other boring punchlines that most skeptics don't even bother with anymore.  He implies that Earth cooled by about 10 C during the Younger Dryas, but actually the YD was a time of relatively little global temperature change, even though a large area of the planet was actually being affected (see here).  There's a whole list of other quick talking points about climategate, the hockey stick, etc that readers here will be well familiar with.  What is most surprising to me is that a distinguished physicist apparently has no original thoughts on the matter.

Happer's reasoning is well out of line throughout his entire article, yet that doesn't stop a Princeton physicist from declaring with such confidence that this CO2-induced global warming thing is all a sham.  Throughout the article he shows his unambiguous mission to confuse the reader, and his own ignorance concerning the physics of climate. He makes a number of serious accusations against a very large community, something which if unfounded (as it is surely is) should ruin the reputation of any serious scientist.  Indeed, for me at least, it has.  It is possible his own area of research is so far removed from climate that none of his colleagues will bother to care.

In short, even Princeton can make mistakes in who they decide should represent their department.

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Comments 1 to 50 out of 116:

  1. Nice post, Chris. It's worthwhile to read Happer's article just to see the sheer number of absurd claims he makes. The article contains on the order of 20 of the SkS climate myths. A true Gish Gallop unworthy of a Princeton physicist.
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  2. He does not imply that the Earth has cooled 10ºC in the Younger Drias. He actually states that:

    "During the “Younger Dryas” some 12,000 years ago, the earth very dramatically cooled and warmed by as much as 10 degrees Celsius in fifty years."

    What would be the correct statement here?

    Maybe "During the Youger Drias Greenland has warmed by as much as 10ºC in fifty years"?

    No comments about the rest. Really disappointing from someone that probably knows how unscientific, unaccurate and harmful to our society that kind of text is.
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  3. My attention was drawn to Happer's article when I saw it referenced on a website I visit. Of course, it was being quoted in favour of the denialist position.

    It astonishing that it contains no references to peer-reviewed science at all, just Happer's unsupported assertions. If anything, it showed his lack of acquaintance with climatology.

    A miserable effort from someone who must have been once quite distinguished.
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  4. Has Happer "gone emeritus", or is he about to? Perhaps he needed a little extra retirement money.
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  5. Happer stoops to using "correlation is not causality" when talking about the overwhelming majority of climate scientists? That's an astonishingly narrow-minded and condescending claim.

    I've heard many people talk about how physics is the field that produces the most adamant and often just plain wrong deniers. (Which is NOT to say that all physicists are deniers, merely that the worst ones with a background in a hard science tend to come from that field.) Happer sounds like a prime example of the phenomenon, right up there with Dyson.
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    Response: [JC] Hey, no dissing physicists! What about petroleum geologists? :-)
  6. I've said it before about Lindzen, and now I'll say it about Happer and Motl.

    Princeton, MIT, and Harvard should all be huddled in shame. Certainly such institutions have to be very careful about squelching independent thought, allowing their researchers to pursue their instincts and their initiative where ever it takes them, and making sure that they have freedom of speech concerning political issues, as is the right of any one in the USA.

    But that does not entitle a researcher to use his title and standing at that university to "authoritatively" spout what are inarguable academic and scientific falsehoods, and to disparage an entire field of science and practicing scientists. This is particularly true if they do not actively do research and publish in that particular field.

    It may seem okay because the science has been turned into a political issue by economic and social forces (meaning fossil fuel interests, wing nuts, and weathermen with too much time on their hands), but it makes the university in question look very, very bad.

    MIT, Harvard and Princeton should all be ashamed, and in my mind it reflects very, very poorly on those particular institutions.

    Are there no actual climate scientists at these institutions? Don't they have something to say in the matter, when someone like Happer pontificates in an area that is clearly outside of his realm of understanding?
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  7. @Shoeymore

    Happer happens to be a friend of mine and since he is an authority on physics he doesn't need to site items that are common knowledge to himself. Furthermore, Happer was fired by Al Gore as director of energy research, which just further proves the point that global warming began and is still a political movement. Furthermore, it is quite ignorant to dismiss history as is done on this website. The only way elevated co2 levels could cause harm to humanity is if it caused extreme weather events, which it does not. Simply having a lot of co2 in the atmosphere does not effect a human's ability to breath, unless it exceeds 8,000 ppm, which is pointed out in Happer's article.
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    Response: "The only way elevated co2 levels could cause harm to humanity is if it caused extreme weather events, which it does not"

    Let me direct you to http://sks.to/impacts to disabuse you of that notion.
  8. Here is the text of a letter I sent last June, to which I have yet to receive a reply:

    From: "Wit's End"
    To: austin@princeton.edu, happer@princeton.edu, smt@princeton.edu

    Dear President Tilghman, Dr. Austin, and Dr. Happer,

    I am writing in reference to this [http://sppiblog.org/news/many-leading-scientists-tell-the-epa-to-think-again] undated letter to which Drs. Austin and Happer are purportedly signatories.

    As a proud Princeton parent, I am dismayed that anyone affiliated with this institution would trample on its prestige, reputation, and academic integrity by being party to this fraudulent folly. I can only hope that the names of Drs. Austin and Happer were attached to this screed without their knowledge.

    Their entire premise of asking the EPA to hold hearings on the CO2 endangerment finding is based on this crucial lie:

    "In our view, particularly with temperatures now falling, the argument for CO2 regulation rests solely on the “validity” of the climate models relied upon by the IPCC and the EPA."

    Global average temperatures are NOT falling, they are demonstrably, irrefutably rising, as stated by NASA - reputable, reliable corroboration for which any undergraduate could find in the most trivial search attempt. For Drs. Austin and Happer to state otherwise is pure drivel. It is either unforgivably inept at best, or mendacious at worst.

    I am looking forward to a public statement by them repudiating this dangerous, deliberately misleading political propaganda; or to an announcement that their employment with Princeton has been terminated on grounds of moral turpitude.

    Of what value will my child's Princeton education be when she inherits a world dominated by climate catastrophe thanks to her elders, those charged with her education, disseminating and perpetrating lies that benefit no one other than energy corporations?

    How incisive was it for the speaker at Class Day, Charlie Gibson, to basically admit that "our" generation has abdicated any responsibility for the existential threats we have created - insurmountable debt, increasing income inequality, squandering energy and polluting the Earth's air, land and water? The hapless graduates and future generations are left to contend with rising seas and global warming likely to render many regions uninhabitable.

    And I might add, from observing the many students I have met, their Princeton education has left them woefully uninformed about the most important challenge facing humanity ever, and thus less prepared than a third-world peasant on a subsistence diet to survive in a rapidly and radically changing world.

    The university's approach to educating students about the perils of climate change has been wholly inadequate. If history is not to judge your enterprise as nothing more than a sham to prop up the status quo, there must be a fundamental effort to disseminate the facts throughout the curriculum, and professors who lie about the facts must be, at the least, called out and disciplined.

    Sincerely,

    Gail Zawacki
    Princeton Parent 2010
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  9. Dr. Jay Cadbury - So, you defend Happer's misstatements with a few of your own?

    "Simply having a lot of co2 in the atmosphere does not effect a human's ability to breathe" - Complete strawman, nobody has asserted that we're going to start flopping like fish out of the water due to CO2.

    "The only way elevated co2 levels could cause harm to humanity is if it caused extreme weather events" - Please read the thread on it's not bad. Sea level rise, ocean acidification, terribly expensive changes to croplands, food supplies, etc., species loss - you consider these to not be "harm"??? I'm appalled, Jay, simply appalled.

    Happer's article is a list of well debunked skeptic arguments, absolutely no science, and represents a political view in and of itself. Yet you're defending it?

    You have now, more clearly than ever, defined your point of view. And it's certainly not a scientific one - more one of denial.
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  10. Cadbury...that's pretty poor

    "...he is an authority on physics he doesn't need to site items that are common knowledge to himself"

    He does if nobody else knows about them. Noone is exempted from that in academics, no matter who employs them or how respected they are.

    "Furthermore, Happer was fired by Al Gore as director of energy research, which just further proves the point that global warming began and is still a political movement."

    Are you suggesting that the earth is making a political statement by warming in response to greenhouse gasses? Sour grapes if you ask me.

    "The only way elevated co2 levels could cause harm to humanity is if it caused extreme weather events, which it does not. "

    First, we do not know Co2 levels don't affect hurricane or tornados - more research is required before any judgement can be made negative or positive. That would be the proper statement...

    That aside... you are ingnore all of the other possible impacts on impacts of sealevel rise, agriculture, extreme heating and precipitation events....
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  11. Dr. Jay Cadbury, phd.,

    Happer happens to be a friend of mine and since he is an authority on physics he doesn't need to site items that are common knowledge to himself.
    So why does he cite untruths that are common knowledge to everyone, and have been debunked dozens of times, and are easy to categorically and indisputably disprove? The level of Happer's piece is appallingly simplistic. I don't know the man, and I'm unfamiliar with his work, but if his physics is as childish as that diatribe, I'd never let anyone I know attend Princeton, or trust anything that comes out of that institution.
    Furthermore, Happer was fired by Al Gore as director of energy research, which just further proves the point that global warming began and is still a political movement.
    No, it's an important issue which requires action, and someone who is too ignorant or biased to act in the best interests of the country and humanity has no right to such a position.
    Furthermore, it is quite ignorant to dismiss history as is done on this website.
    That's quite a strong accusation, but it's unclear what you're talking about.
    The only way elevated co2 levels could cause harm to humanity is if it caused extreme weather events, which it does not.
    What complete foolishness. Obviously rising sea levels, increased droughts, drops in food production, and other calamities which have not yet become pronounced, but which are an inevitable consequence of global warming will be a very serious and indisputable way that elevated CO2 levels can cause harm to humanity. Your attempt to portray the situation otherwise does not speak well for your understanding of the issues.
    Simply having a lot of co2 in the atmosphere does not effect a human's ability to breath, unless it exceeds 8,000 ppm, which is pointed out in Happer's article.
    What complete foolishness. Nobody has said that CO2 is poisonous to breathe. Arguing that point reflects rather poorly on your understanding of the issues.

    Really, why am I not surprised that you and Happer are friends, and your comment here looks almost as if it were written by Happer himself (based on the level of knowledge and thought contained in both)?
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  12. Cadbury said... "The only way elevated co2 levels could cause harm to humanity is if it caused extreme weather events, which it does not."

    This kind of casual dismissal of what amounts to vast swaths of known science never ceases amazing to me.
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  13. Dr. Cadbury:

    "Happer happens to be a friend of mine and since he is an authority on physics he doesn't need to site items that are common knowledge to himself."

    "Common knowledge to himself." That is pretty funny. And talk about appealing to authority.
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  14. It's obvious by now that being a Phd doctorate (especially when it is being used to try to project some sort of scientific credibility to impress the credulous) is certainly no guarantee of rational, thoughtful, considerate, honest, unbiased or intelligent writing. What a great shame.
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  15. @Sphaerica

    Okay well why don't you comb the article again, give me some statements you think are incorrect and I will check up on it with him?
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  16. @Rob Honeycutt

    Give me a natural disaster or a storm that has happened since the beginning of the industrial era and I can find you a bigger storm or larger natural disaster in the past.
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  17. JMurphy @14,

    "It's obvious by now that being a Phd doctorate.....is certainly no guarantee of rational, thoughtful, considerate, honest, unbiased or intelligent writing. What a great shame."

    Amen. Now are you talking about Happer or Lindzen or Christy or Spencer or Michaels or McKitrick or Muller or Curry or Plimer...? ;)
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  18. Jay @ 15,

    "Okay well why don't you comb the article again, give me some statements you think are incorrect and I will check up on it with him"

    You have actually bothered to read the feature post that we are all commenting on right?
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  19. Excellent post, but this sentence troubles me: "In short, even Princeton can make mistakes in who they decide should represent their department"

    What in the world led you to believe that Princeton decided to let Happer represent them? That's nonsense. Princeton didn't decide that Happer should represent anyone or anything. Happer decided entirely on his own to speak out on topics he doesn't really understand very well. Most universities have a handful of faculty members with tenure who end up making stupid statements that are an embarrassment. But being embarrassing isn't a criterion for dismissal or suppression.
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  20. Jay @ 16... Then obviously you do not understand distribution curves, or are conveniently attempting to ignore what they mean.
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  21. Just a thought folks. Is Dr Jay for real? Sounds like a joker to me. Hardly worth spending time responding to his asinine remarks. "Ph.D." might be more convincing than "phd"! What's your doctorate in Dr. J?
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    Response:

    [DB] It is immaterial whether Jay has a doctorate or what it may be in.  Perusal of his comments over time here and elsewhere should make it self-evident as to his capabilities to make and formulate objective and substantive comments and decisions.  Thus, unless also from Princeton, it has no bearing on the topic of this thread.

  22. @Rob

    okay that's not what I asked for. But I do in fact understand distribution curves.

    @Albatross

    As I stated before, I am a friend of Happer so yes of course I read the article and happen to agree with most all of it. I think what got lost in the article is that Happer is a true environmentalist and believes we should be focusing on some other problems in the environment.
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  23. 21 - yes, of course he is!

    Oh, and the poster called "Albatross" is really a sea-going bird.

    No, really...
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  24. Jay @16,

    "Give me a natural disaster or a storm that has happened since the beginning of the industrial era and I can find you a bigger storm or larger natural disaster in the past."

    And because we had wildfires before, does not mean that we do not have people causing fires now does it? Please, this is a science site. You are intentionally missing the point. And you need to do much, much bette than that horrendously lame attempt quoted above.

    The science shows that extreme rainfall events are on the increase. See here, here, here and here for some examples.

    Happer is doing a fine job destroying his credibility, he doesn't need your help. But why should I care......
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  25. @Paul Barry

    Paul, I don't appreciate the cheap shots. I do in fact have a phd but I am not comfortable disclosing it.
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    Response:

    [DB] Please, let us all return to the subject of this thread.

  26. Jay,

    "Happer is a true environmentalist and believes we should be focusing on some other problems in the environment."

    That may be true, but he is presenting people with false choices in that case. The REDD programme is about protecting forests while also tackling AGW. We have been and can still continue do both.

    The scenario that you are trying to paint is an old "skeptic" tactic.

    As for "I do in fact have a phd but I am not comfortable disclosing it."

    Then why on earth is it part of your moniker. I have PhD too, as do other regular posters here, but do not feel entitled to advertise it each and every time I post.
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  27. 15, Cabury,

    You asked for a list:

    By breathing are we rendering the air unclean, defiling or desecrating it?

    This is an idiotic thing to say. Obviously no one has said that human breath is making the air unclean. This is a lie by implication (i.e. implying that a claim has been made, when it has not).

    As far as green plants are concerned, CO2 is not a pollutant, but part of their daily bread...


    A pollutant is anything that contaminates an environment. It does not in itself need to be directly poisonous. In the case of CO2, if it raises temperatures and reduces precipitation patterns, it will be harmful to the species of plants currently adapted to existing (and to be changed) ecosystems.

    This makes CO2 a pollutant.

    It also makes the above statement a lie by omission.

    We conclude that atmospheric CO2 levels should be above 150 ppm to avoid harming green plants and below about 5000 ppm to avoid harming people.
    This is based on the failed logic that only direct poisoning by CO2 is dangerous, which is clearly not what anyone is saying. This makes this statement disingenuous to an insulting nth degree. Another lie by omission.

    By analogy, there is probably a maximum amount of water that a person can safely drink, so shoving your head in a bucket full of that amount of water and holding it there should be perfectly safe!

    As we have discussed, animals would not even notice a doubling of CO2 and plants would love it.
    False! Plants will ultimately suffer with raised temperatures and reduced precipitation in areas. Humanity could actually see the loss of huge swaths of the Amazon rainforests, among other ecosystems. Ignoring this aspect of climate change is insane.

    That statement was a flat out lie.

    ...since the predicted warming has failed to be nearly as large as computer models forecast...
    This is false, as discussed elsewhere on this site.

    Climate change itself has been embarrassingly uneventful
    This is a disingenuous distraction. No one ever said that climate change would be instantaneously harmful. The major effects of our actions today won't be felt for 20-50 years, but they will be irreversible. To ignore this truth is a lie by omission.

    ...to stop the hypothetical increase of extreme climate events like hurricanes or tornados. But this does not necessarily follow. The frequency of extreme events has either not changed or has decreased
    Again, a lie by omission. No one ever said climate change would instantly and obviously increase storm strengths. In fact, I've never seen any statement in the science about it increasing tornadoes. Even the science on hurricanes is not settled (see What is the link between hurricanes and global warming? for an overview of published papers on the subject).



    This is enough for now. I'll add to it later.
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  28. Happer's been at it awhile.

    Exxon Funded Think-Tank Chair Will Happer to Testify in Congress on Climate


    CO2 Famine
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  29. Sphaerica 27:

    I'll add to it now. Happer has asserted that since the human race has survived dramatic climate change in the past, it follows that we'll be fine (I paraphrase). It's an idiotic statement, since the human population was dramatically less during the transitions into and out of ice ages, for example; it was nomadic, not dependent on an integrated world economy involving fixed infrastructure--and besides, "survived" is a pretty low standard. Does Happer know, for example, that 50% of the human race wasn't wiped out in those past episodes? Of course he doesn't.

    In short, another statement that a scientist with an ounce of shame wouldn't let emerge from his mouth.
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  30. I'm fascinated by the "Gore fires Happer" story... a quick google reveals that Happer was fired because he objected to the VP wanting to take over the world by pretending AGW is true.

    However Happer was a Bush appointee and only, originally, kept on for 4 months at the start of the Clinton administration. He was fired after 3 for disagreeing with Gore both about climate change on the Ozone hole - claiming he agreed that both where important but more measurement is required... in his own words at the time.
    Who knows? It's not unusual for administrations to keep folks on for a period and then change... and much the same happened to his predecessor Bob Watson... ousted by Exxon!

    So Happer got his job to oppose climate change action and lost it for doing the same thing...
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  31. I don't have my copy of MoD to hand... but my above post made me wonder...

    reskes and Conway have unearthed a treasure trove of primary documents covering decades of this sort of activity that leaves one enormously impressed at the scope of their efforts. But this is not just a history of a time before we all became far too sophisticated to fall for such foolishness. It is worth noting that the heirs of this tradition, such as William Happer, a Princeton University professor of physics and current chairman of the George C. Marshall Institute, continue to operate in the same way.

    bingo!
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  32. 15, Cadbury,

    The list continues:

    More CO2 is supposed to cause flooded cities, parched agriculture, tropical diseases in Alaska, etc., and even an epidemic of kidney stones.
    I haven't myself seen these studies, but even if they exist, the implication here is clearly that if it hasn't happened already, it will never happen. This is a lie by implication.

    The question is how much warming, and whether the increased CO2 and the warming it causes will be good or bad for the planet.
    No one scientific has raised this question, only deniers. The question is "how bad", not "good or bad." This lie falls somewhere in the gray area between a direct lie, a lie by implication, and a lie by omission.

    The argument starts something like this. CO2 levels have increased from about 280 ppm to 390 ppm over the past 150 years or so, and the earth has warmed by about 0.8 degree Celsius during that time. Therefore the warming is due to CO2.
    This is a bold faced lie. First, it's not an "argument," it's a scientific position shared by the vast majority of practicing climate scientists. Beyond this, the argument has to do with radiative physics, contemporary observations, deductions through paleohistory, and more. The argument was never "CO2 rose, and so did temperature, so the former caused the latter."

    That one was probably the most egregious lie in his article.

    There have been many warmings and coolings in the past when the CO2 levels did not change
    This is another lie by omission. Any climate change which endured for a half a millenium or more did see changes in CO2 levels, which were a result of the warming. Periods like the Medieval Climate Anomaly did not last long enough to produce CO2 feedbacks. But more to the point, the planet has never before had an intelligent species capable of digging up and burning the carbon that nature spent hundreds of millions of years burying. It should be no surprise that this has never happened before, or that because there can be other causes for climate change, this cannot be one of them.

    Since the end of the little ice age, the earth has been warming in fits and starts, and humanity’s quality of life has improved accordingly.
    This is a lie by implication, i.e. that because temps have increased, and human quality of life has increased, then the two are related and any warming of any magnitude is good. But who was it that said "correlation is not causation?" Oh, yes, it was Happer, just a few paragraphs back. And before that he said "in reality, you can get too much or too little of a good thing." This time he should listen to himself.

    Our present global warming is not at all unusual by the standards of geological history, and it is probably benefiting the biosphere.
    Another lie by ommission. It's not unusual, and life and the planet may well survive, but such climate change in the past has spelled the end for many species, and will be just as dangerous to ours.

    The statement about benefiting the biosphere has already been addressed, and is a direct, egregious, and complete falsehood.


    Okay, this is getting boring, because pretty much every other sentence in his article is a falsehood of one sort or another. I'll stop here, rather than clutter the entire comment thread with more of his drivel.
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  33. @Les

    I agree with some of that but I don't think Happer was hired to disagree about climate change.

    @Sphaerica

    See I don't understand how plants would ultimately suffer with elevated co2 levels because they were huge in the time of the dinosaurs with high co2 levels. Since greenhouse owners often pump levels of 1,000 ppm into greenhouses, what level would be detrimental to plants?
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  34. 33 Jay - why?

    It's completely consistent... Exxon clearly had a big say in the Bush administration. Seems the Georgy Boy Marshall Institute gets cash from Exxon etc.
    He used the classical "needs more research" Merchents of doubt technique...

    So, why don't you agree? Just 'cos he's a mate?
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  35. In short, even Princeton can make mistakes in who they decide should represent their department

    The implication clearly being that Happer should be removed by the powers that be at Princeton. Are you prepared to come out and openly espouse that postion?
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  36. 33 Jay - I mean, like you said "Furthermore, Happer was fired by Al Gore as director of energy research, which just further proves the point that global warming began and is still a political movement." So the 'fact' of the firing is, to you, sufficient evidence of AGW being a political movement... although, of course, Happer got his job many years before Gore as Bush fired his predecessor for AGW reasons... although that may have been more oil money than politics... may be?

    So? How do you know better?
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  37. 33, Cadbury,

    I guess it all depends on what you mean by "plants".

    Overall, plant growth will probably increase dramatically. But the plants that thrive will not be those that thrive today, and they won't be in the same areas as today. Interestingly, C4 plants have evolved for low CO2 but high temperatures, so it will be interesting to see which species of plants fail, which succeed, and how they evolve to handle a climate with more CO2 but also higher temperatures and more, less or inconsistent precipitation.

    The Hadley Cells are expected to enlarge, and precipitation patterns will change, so we can expect deserts to grow. That's not good for plants in those areas.

    Droughts may be more frequent and more severe. We've already seen two of the worst in the Amazon just since 2000. One possible extreme proposition is the conversion of the Amazon rainforest to savanna, since rainforest plants are so ill-equipped to handle water shortages. There's still a lot of work being done there, so it's a question mark, but it's not something to just shrug off.

    Plants can start to move further north, but the soil is particularly bad up north, where glaciers scraped away the top soil, and there hasn't been enough vegetation long enough to create more. So I guess in a few thousand years plants may be thriving there, but not in our lifetimes. Beyond this, the the change in seasons and seasonal daylight is more dramatic. I'm not sure which plants will be able to survive further north with good temperatures, but different light, moisture, soil and seasonal conditions.

    And, of course, what most selfish humans mostly care about is food crops. That could be very bad, if precipitation and moisture changes make the northern and northeastern US more fertile, but central, southern and western US all less fertile, along with great swaths of the USSR, and the countries along the northern shore of the Mediterranean Sea.

    So you see, your logic is rather simplistic. You stopped way short in the process of projecting what may happen, and what the implications are.
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  38. Jay @ 22... "okay that's not what I asked for. But I do in fact understand distribution curves."

    Then you surely understand the implications of shifting the distribution curve one way or another. You will still find larger extreme events in the past even when shifting the curve one direction. That is not an indication that a shift is not occurring. As Albatross pointed out at 24, the shift is happening.

    I know this is not a scientific way of looking at it, but just think back for a moment. When do you EVER remember people talking about 1000 year extreme weather events? I've been around long a while I can not remember this. I remember 100 events. Today we are witnessing many 1000 year events in consecutive years. As anecdotal as that is, it suggests to me that there is something very serious starting to happen. Published research backs that position up. And the science suggests this is going to get worse.

    To pull back on topic, it's this that I find unconscionable that people with the educational background to know better - people such as Dr Happer - are leveling such a litany of demonstrably inaccurate statements at the climate science community. It boggles the mind.
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  39. Whether Dr Cadbury is real (in various senses) or not, he is playing silly games with SkS readers here. A genuine person, a genuine "friend of Happer's", stung perhaps by the criticism of this post, might indeed turn up to see what's up with that. But having turned up, presumably for the first time, he would quickly discover that this is a site devoted to dispelling the bad science that Happer has represented. He might then click on "Arguments" or "Resources" - could read that all his myths have been presented before and dispelled by actual scientists. Could then, if he thought there was still some great truth revealed only to Happer and himself, come back to test us with this great undiscovered truth.

    Given someone who is clearly too lazy to do that, and I can't see it happening, there isn't a lot of point in doing a rehash of all the skeptic arguments on this site for Dr Cadbury.
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  40. Dr. Jay Cadbury@33
    "I don't understand how plants would ultimately suffer with elevated co2 levels because they were huge in the time of the dinosaurs with high co2 levels."

    Perhaps you should try researching the subject instead of commenting on it in ignorance.

    @sphaerica
    I think Dr J is baiting SkS
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  41. Jay Cadbury

    "I think what got lost in the article is that Happer is a true environmentalist and believes we should be focusing on some other problems in the environment."

    If Happer was in this article simply arguing distribution of resources between different environmental issues, this thread would not exist.

    Instead, Happer went on a Gish Gallop of major proportions - stacks of errors, untruths, flat out lies, ad hominem arguments, etc. With his background, this is inexcusable behavior as a scientist, and I (and a number of other people) are quite reasonably wondering as to his motivations.

    Given his position as Chairman of the George Marshall Institute, a "non-profit" industry and right-wing advocate group, it's reasonable to conclude that this is an advocacy paper, not a scientific one. Happer's Princeton credentials therefore represent an Appeal to Authority in this case, a misuse of his position at the university. If presented in honesty, it should have been given a disclaimer to that extent.
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  42. I don't know Happer, but a good friend of mine is a colleague of his, at another university.

    Happer is well-enough versed in climate science to know how the enhanced greenhouse effect works, as he gave a talk in which he discussed it; correctly giving the detailed explanation instead of the high-school level summary that is usually given.

    Therefore, it is all the more shameful that he pretends to think that the reason that climate scientists think AGW is happening just because things are warming up. He knows better; he's pretending to be stupid to please his audience.

    This is what is known as "lacking intellectual integrity." It's a pity that education and professorial status don't protect you from this; it also takes a kind of moral backbone.

    If he really does need a review of why climate scientists think what they think, he should check out Stuart Weart's site on the American Institute of Physics website, The Discovery of Global Warming:
    http://www.aip.org/history/climate/index.htm

    Or maybe he should just think about his grandchildren, if he has any; and take seriously the concept that they will have to live in the ACTUAL world of the future - not just the one that he tells stories about. Maybe that will encourage him to apply his technical talents to understanding, and not obfuscating.
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  43. I think Happer's position at the George C Marshall Institute pretty much says it all...
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  44. 43 - Rob
    Not quite all... I hadn't realised he was a member of "Jason"... Again, one should consult ones copy of Merchants of Doubt; Jason's principle role is military advisory, it's mostly physicists (not a bad thing, IMHO) and also advised the DoE on Climate / CO2 in the late 70s...

    So he fits the MoD profile very well: right wing, defense oriented, highly legitimate as a scientist, using delay and doubt tactics... Exxon money...
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  45. @Dr Jay Cadbury,#7

    Your shocking misstatements about climate science (without citing any references at all, just like Happer) are so far off the point that they lead me to believe you are having us on.

    If Professor Happer is your advisor on climate science, then you need to get a new one.
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  46. Les... Yeah, I was just looking at the JASON connection. There was one climate related paper published in 1990 titled Detecting the greenhouse signal (May 1990; JSR-89-330). That research would have been done when he was there.
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  47. DB/Paul Barry, note that "Jay Cadbury, phD" denies that he is NOT the same "Jay Cadbury, phD" that posts on other climate sites eg, the thread from here and comments that follow.
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    Moderator Response: (DB) Interested in buying a bridge?
  48. Cadbury #7 says

    Furthermore, Happer was fired by Al Gore as director of energy research, which just further proves the point that global warming began and is still a political movement.

    Spot on. That political movement brilliantly orchestrated since Tyndall and Arrhenius. Must be quite a secret brotherhood. I bet we could trace some ancestor of Al Gore back then, plotting to achieve... something, a century or two later.
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  49. This is a perfect example of how denialists like to twist things to suit their purposes, and how wrong they get it:

    ".....But correlation is not causation. Roosters crow every morning at sunrise, but that does not mean the rooster caused the sun to rise....."

    But in this case, correlation IS causation, except Happer twisted backwards. The roosters crowing did not cause the sun to rise, BUT... the sun rising DID cause the roosters to crow.
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  50. Co2 is not a pollutant. Its a banana. And any government that wants to tax Co2 is obviously a banan republic.
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