If you're not familiar with Happer, you should listen to this 31-minute 5-weeks-old interview. He's an important guy in a coalition of friends of CO2 (I've never memorized the exact name, maybe just the CO2 Coalition), has been famous in science for figuring out how to suppress the sodium-line-based twinkling in the telescopes by lasers, and was interested in the environmental and climatological issues since his service in the DOE under Bush Sr. See also this written interview via WUWT and Climate Depot's useful collection of hyperlinks about Happer.
Happer likes to think and talk about the benefits of CO2. We live in a CO2 famine, many plants would really appreciate if we could triple the CO2 concentration, carbon footprint is the footprint of life, and so on. In the video interview embedded above, he actually discussed the composition of our bodies (oxygen, carbon, where they are, what they roughly do), the atmosphere (nitrogen, oxygen, water vapor, argon...) and many other things related to science. Well, at this level, they're mostly things that kids should have learned at the basic school (Happer knows those things much much more deeply) but it's still a more intelligent discussion than almost every discussion of related science in the mainstream media.
The video continues with a rather detailed history of the CO2 concentrations, arguments to think that the increase is mostly from the fossil fuels burning (one-half of that carbon gets somewhere, probably mostly the ocean or forests), including the fraction of carbon-13.
The host also asked about Happer's reaction to the demonization of skeptics. Happer mentioned that he sometimes gets mail that threatens not just him but his family including grandchildren. He's just a bit nervous because of that but it won't make him stop speaking. Happer points out that some people imagine that science is religion in which you sign to some beliefs and defend them. Well, science is something different. Happer also says that religion results from the people's desire to be something more than a temporary appearance. He says that witch hunts were driven by Harvard's graduates etc. ;-) There's some talk about ancestors. Happer's mother was a physician dealing with radiation sickness and helping the Manhattan project etc. Lots of the interview is about Einstein, the beauty and importance of science etc.
An extended trailer for (to be released in April) Ron Howard's National Geographic film "Genius" about Einstein which was filmed (only?) in Czechia. I believe that I know e.g. the street where the cute boy-scientist wants Einstein's autograph on the Nazi flag but I can't figure out where it is. However, I do know that most of the "Switzerland" will take place in Loket=Elbow near Carlsbad (with a castle unknown to tourists but known to viewers of Bond movie Casino Royale; see a behind the Genius scenes Loket video), except for the school at Aarau which will be moved to the Strašnice school in Prague. :-) Also featured will be university places here in Pilsen and in Brno, Czech ministries of transportation (compare the parade at 1:46 with this) and (adjacent) agriculture, the Rudolphinum gallery and concert hall, the Teplá monastery's library, and last as well as least, at the Na Smetance basic school. ;-) For a strange reason, I know the building of that basic school in Prague rather well.
The Washington Post story about the Trump-Happer meeting was written by Chris Mooney, the anti-Republican activist pretending to be an amateur scientist (although he only has a B.A. in English from Yale). I am annoyed by the WaPo's inability – or lack of desire – to eliminate loud and arrogant know-nothings like Mooney.
Mooney summarizes Happer's views with some mild hostility and suggests that he could get a job in the Trump's DOE. But the point where things start to get amazing is the paragraph where Mooney places himself above Happer in the scientific hierarchy:
Happer is not wrong that carbon dioxide appears to bolster plant growth — the greening up of the Arctic has, indeed, been observed. But that comes with many other consequences, including melting of glaciers and thawing of permafrost, which can emit still more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.The arrogance of the stupidity displayed by this paragraph reaches comical proportions. Mooney, have you forgotten that you're just a šitty B.A. in English while William Happer is the real deal? And the extremist WaPo commenters question whether Happer has the expertise to talk about the greenhouse effect which fundamentally boils down to the absorption of some radiation by gas atoms. Are you serious? Take e.g. this Happer-Walker 1997 paper. It has the absorption of electromagnetic radiation by gas atoms in the first sentence, the root of "absorption" appears 17 times in the paper, and the paper has 981 citations by now. How many climate alarmists have written a paper about absorption of radiation by gas atoms that has one thousands citations? Do you have such a paper, Mooney? All of it is so insane.
Despite the proclamations to the contrary (i.e. Mooney's lies), Happer – and others – explicitly mention that the CO2 also plays role in other effects such as the greenhouse effect. But the question which of those – direct benefits of the "higher concentration of food for plants" or indirect effects on us and ecosystems through the greenhouse effect and the climate – has an extremely clear answer.
If anyone is at least slightly rational, he knows that. Compare the changes of "CO2 as food" and "temperature change due to CO2" since the industrial revolution. The CO2 has increased by 40%. This allowed the plants to grow 20% larger or easier – the yields are some 20% different. It's not good just for the plants but for everyone who eats them or who eats the eaters etc. – it's ultimately all animals and humans who benefit, too.
On the other hand, the warming caused by the extra CO2 may be comparable to 1 °C measured by the thermometers – we're generous about the temperature change as well as about the assumption that all the change was due to the higher CO2 levels.
What makes a bigger impact: a 20% or 40% increase of your (plant's) "income", or a change of some hard to identify average by 1 °C? You know the answer, don't you? The 1 °C temperature difference is the difference between Boston and Providence, or whatever. Two nearby cities. There is no real difference. The difference between crop yields and "quality of life" dependent on the climate is surely smaller than 20% let alone 40% (and I generously overlook that the correct sign obviously says that "warmer is better"). The effect of higher CO2 as the "plant food" on the ecosystems is greater than the greenhouse effect by orders of magnitude – but it's still small enough that we usually ignore it.
(Long-term planners shouldn't ignore it. If the CO2 dropped to 280 ppm again tomorrow, the crop yields could drop by those 20% again and 20% of the world population which means e.g. all Muslims in the world could get a bit hungry or some major adjustments to what we grow and eat would have to be made. It's the decrease of CO2 in the future which may be a problem, not the increase of CO2!)
Mr Mooney, you don't have any credentials to write newspapers articles judging whether Happer is right or wrong. You're just a stupid scumbag. Things are also annoying when Mooney writes:
Happer is an eminent physicist who held prominent positions at the Department of Energy, as well as at his university, and has 200 scientific publications to his name. But in 2009 testimony, he went even further in countering the scientific consensus on climate change...Happer has 200 papers and a real scientist "but" he counters the alarmist consensus on global warming? The word "but" is absolutely demagogic. Every scientist who is both competent and honest is countering the alarmist propaganda. And what about the comment that a Kraken wrote a "rebuttal" of a text by Happer? Surely when alarmist screeds are being debunked by climate realists, this fact is being hidden from readers of the Washington Post.
The Washington Post has become a cesspool. But let's hope that the relevant events will be taking place elsewhere and wise folks like Will Happer will affect these events.