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“You just don’t seem to think the times have changed …

March 4th, 2009 · 4 Comments

This clip from last week’s Senate Committee for Environment and Public Works (EPW) hearing for an Update on the Latest Global Warming Science is, well, breathtaking.

While the world is seeing real impacts (from ice retreats to changing weather patterns) from heating, which science links to CO2 (and other) emisssions. With CO2 levels soon to break 390 ppm, having not been above about 280 ppm through the development of human civilization, and increasing numbers of experts supporting Hansen’s call for action to move in the opposite direction, to below 350 ppm, William Happer, Chairman of the fossil-foolish Marshall Institute, offered the opinion that we are actually in a CO2 famine.

Senator Barbara Boxer, the committee chairperson, perhaps too admirably restrained herself, keeping from spitting her water all over the hearing table. (It seems that years serving on the Committee with Jim Inhofe (R-Exxon) creates a pretty high tolerance.)

Happer: Many people don’t realize that over geological time we’re really living in a CO2 famine. Almost never have Co2 levels been as low … 285, that’s almost unheard of, most of the time its at least 1000. .. The Earth was just fine in those times. We evolved as a species when Co2 levels were 3 or 4 times what they are now. [Interruption for a fact break: FALSE. See below.] Oceans were fine. Plants were fine. … So its baffling to me that we’re so frightened.

Boxer: This is a weird kind of place you’ve taken us to. You’re taking us back how many years to when we were fine.

Happer. About 80 million year

Boxer. I don’t know how to say this. A lot has happened since then in terms of where people are living and working. We have a society now. So, to say go back to those days, … either I’m missing something or you just don’t seem to think times have changed.

Happer: While I don’t think that the laws of nature or physics have changed. [Said snidely …] or chemistry have changed in 80 million years. 80 million years ago the Earth was a prosperous place. There is no reason to think that it will suddenly become bad now …

Wow …

I don’t simply don’t know what to say.

By the way, as highlighted by Barry Katz, Happer got basic facts wrong.

1. Pleistocene era was 1.8 million to 10,000 years ago, not 80 million years ago.
2. Pleistocene era, when the earth was much colder with more glaciers, had Co2 levels of about 200 ppm (not 1000).
3. It was the Cretaceous Period 80 million years ago, with Co2 levels “3.7 to 14.7 times the modern pre-industrial value of 285 ppm”. And, at that time: there were no ice sheets and seal levels were 120 meters higher than today.

As Barry concludes,
Perhaps Dr. Happer would prefer it that way, but I suspect most of us would not.

In his written testimony, Happer acknowledged that Global Warming is real (“We have been in a period of global warming over the past 200 years”), acknowledged that CO2 levels are increasing due to fossil fuels (sort of … “combustion has contributed to the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere”), and stated that “increasing concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere will cause the earth’s surface to warm.” Okay deniers, got this: if you cite Happer, you have totally accept these three points.

Then, Happer jumped the shark, reasserting his belief that “increase of CO2 … will be good for mankind.” He then, quite weirdly, associated concerns with Co2 levels with the temperance movement and the prohibition of alcohol.”

Happer then goes through a litany of other false, truthiness laden analogies for supporting his assertion that increased CO2 will be good for humanity. These are chatty, amusing-sounding tidbits to make fun of the concept that Co2 levels are somethign meriting concern. That amusing banter, however, misleads at its core and avoids dealing with many critical problems.

Let me give, however, one example of the myriad of issues that he did not cover: acidification of the oceans. It is fact that increasing CO2 levels increases the salt water acidity. The shifting acidity is beginning to affect the formation of shells (along with heat, for example, impacting coral reefs). How much Co2 is “enough” before we break the back of the ocean’s food chain, wrecking havoc on one of humanity’s most valuable sources of protein?

Hat tip to The Way Things Break in William Happer wants to party like it’s 79,999,999 BC and John Laumer, Treehugger, ‘CO2 Emissions, Good For Mankind’; Real Problem Is A ‘CO2 Famine’.

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Tags: climate change · Energy · Global Warming

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 William Happer | Meander // Mar 11, 2009 at 6:36 pm

    […] upon a valid argument against climate change as a serious problem were dashed. First, I found an analysis of Happer’s testimony, with some video that shows the response of the committee chair, […]

  • 2 Obstinate idiocy: C02 = Life // Mar 31, 2009 at 5:49 am

    […] community is to be emphasizing that Co2 is plant life. This has been seen in the past weeks from witnesses in Senate testimony, from Republican Congressmen in hearings, in blog posts galore, and in conservative columns and […]

  • 3 Boehner Flagrantly Flaunts ASS on Broadcast TV // Apr 19, 2009 at 10:03 pm

    […] community is to be emphasizing that Co2 is plant life. This has been seen in recent weeks from witnesses in Senate testimony, from Republican Congressmen in hearings, in blog posts galore, and in conservative columns and […]

  • 4 Whacking 16 moles … // Jan 27, 2012 at 12:11 pm

    […] letter, perhaps take a few moments with just one of the signatories: “William Happer, professor of physics, Princeton”. Share and […]