Testimony before the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee on February 25, 2009
Many quotable passages are contained in Professor Happer's testimony, but I'll only insert one below and suggest you read all of it (9 pages) for yourself.
I have long been bothered by the fanatical rantings by people like McKibben (not a scientist, but a self-proclaimed activist) scholar-in-residence in environmental studies at Middlebury College, Hansen, a physicist at NASA, and Gore, a fear mongering politician without scientific credentials.
What most disturbs me recently is the claim that carbon dioxide is a pollutant. It is certainly not a pollutant; it is an essential gaseous compound that supports life. Those who claim it as a pollutant are wrong. Happer speaks to this in his testimony. Too much oxygen or too much nitrogen have negative effects on humanity; if carbon dioxide is a pollutant, so are the other gases. Thus the argument for CO2 as a pollutant is bogus and nonsense, created by those who would regulate its generation into the atmosphere.
In closing, let me say again that we should provide adequate support to the many brilliant scientists, some at my own institution of Princeton University, who are trying to better understand the earth's climate, now, in the past, and what it may be in the future.
I regret that the climate-change issue has become confused with serious problems like secure energy supplies, protecting our environment, and figuring out where future generations will get energy supplies after we have burned all the fossil fuel we can find.
We should not confuse these laudable goals with hysterics about carbon footprints. For example, when weighing pluses and minuses of the continued or increased use of coal, the negative issue should not be increased atmospheric CO2, which is probably good for mankind.
We should focus on real issues like damage to the land and waterways by strip mining, inadequate remediation, hazards to miners, the release of real pollutants and poisons like mercury, other heavy metals, organic carcinogens, etc.
Life is about making decisions and decisions are about trade-offs. The Congress can choose to promote investment in technology that addresses real problems and scientific research that will let us cope with real problems more efficiently.
Or they can act on unreasonable fears and suppress energy use, economic growth and the benefits that come from the creation of national wealth.
Dr. William Happer is the director of the Happer Lab of Atomic Physics at Princeton University.