Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Distinguished physicist William Happer: CO2 is a nonproblem

A letter to the editor of the Wall Street Journal from distinguished Professor of Physics at Princeton University William Happer is published today in which he states, "Even if we could hold CO2 levels fixed, the climate would continue to change because of other influences. In a time of serious world problems, wasteful expenditures justified by nonproblems like CO2 make no sense."

Anne Jolis's "The Other Climate Theory" (op-ed, Sept. 7) is a welcome message of realism on climate. Painful changes in the U.S. economy are being justified by the mantra that the earth's climate is dictated by CO2 in the atmosphere; elaborate computer models assert that doubling CO2 concentrations will warm the earth by an intolerable three or four degrees Celsius, or even more. This is contrary to straightforward theoretical estimates and empirical observations, indicating that the direct warming potential of CO2 is only about one degree Celsius, which would most likely be a benefit to world. The recent European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) experiments, discussed by Ms. Jolis, support extensive observational evidence that cosmic rays reaching the earth's surface have a large influence on climate.

Additional important climate drivers include complicated fluctuations of major oceanic currents and volcanic eruptions. Even if we could hold CO2 levels fixed, the climate would continue to change because of other influences. In a time of serious world problems, wasteful expenditures justified by nonproblems like CO2 make no sense.

William Happer
Professor of Physics
Princeton University
Princeton, N.J.

Other Letters to the Editor published in the print edition of today's WSJ:

It is important for readers to understand that the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), as well as many other organizations invested in the idea that humans are the major cause of late 20th-century climate change, have never been seriously interested in pursuing natural causes of climate change. Since inception, the IPCC has been nearly totally preoccupied with trying to make the case for strong anthropogenic global warming (AGW), primarily via CO2 emissions. This has led to biases and distortions of the scientific process, and the "tribal behavior" by climate scientists that we have seen in a variety of contexts, e.g., the Climategate emails and IPCC report "errors."

The real scientific climate debate has been taken up by the so-called skeptics as they have searched to understand the underlying causes of climate change, including both natural and anthropogenic sources. In fact, there are not one but two roughly defined schools of thought. All agree that AGW is far smaller than the IPCC claims, and there exists a substantial body of empirical evidence to support this. However, one school holds that the predominate influences arise from astronomical sources, such as the cosmic-ray mechanism. The other school believes that the earth is quite capable of changing its climate quickly and significantly via its own unforced chaotic variations.

This debate among skeptics has proceeded under the media's radar screen.

Roger W. Cohen, Ph.D.
La Jolla, Calif.

Climate science has not yet established how much clouds impact climate—there is even debate about whether clouds warm or cool the earth—or to what extent clouds have fluctuated over the last, you pick it, 20, 50, 100, 1,000 years, or the specific ways in which clouds interact with solar input (i.e., how much they reflect back into space).

It is all but acknowledged (climate scientists on the global-warming government-funding bandwagon have a hard time acknowledging anything that could undermine their beliefs) that because of these uncertainties about clouds, all climate models do a terrible job modeling how clouds impact climate. Change the assumptions about the amount of clouds or how they impact global temperatures by more than 1% and you can completely explain all global warming (and cooling).

Politicians who believe that the more government can control what we do in our daily lives, the better those daily lives will be, see man-made global warming as the ultimate tool for such control. Thus, they are more than happy to fund scientists who support that viewpoint. Let's see how robust the funding for the CERN CLOUD experiment is going forward.

John P. Miller, Ph.D.
Portola Valley, Calif.

The cosmic-ray theory is also discussed in the landmark book "Heaven and Earth—Global Warming, the Missing Science" (2009) by Prof. Ian Plimer of the University of Adelaide, Australia. Prof. Plimer's work was so profound as to become the primary enabler for the recent defeat of a climate-change bill in the Australian legislature.

It is long past time for the EPA's management to follow the strong recommendation of its own National Center for Environmental Economics scientists who, in a very comprehensive internal report to management (March 2009), were highly critical of claims regarding the worth of the IPCC climate models. Their urgent, but ignored, plea was for the EPA to undertake its own independent assessment of whether or not human activity influences climate.

Chuck Wilkerson
El Segundo, Calif.


  1. There is/was an unspoken covenant between Lay-people and the practitioners of Science on Society’s behalf. The Scientists dispassionately compiles and distills the data, & Society charts how Humanity integrates that knowledge into the fabric of our lives.

    Stepping away from the climate issue, and just looking at the actions & behavior of those the public would normally trust, what I see instead is the entire issue that's encapsulated by Collectivist & Socio-Political agendas, these powerful elements have sized upon warming hysteria as a way/method to sequester more than just our Carbon Footprints!

  2. Tell me what temperature averages prove besides nothing. This is especially the case since the globe is divided into grids, most of which temperatures are guesses. This is the GIGO principle: garbage in, garbage out.