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Controversial Climate Change Skeptic Leaves White House

Photo of William Happer, who resigned Friday from his position as director of emerging technologies for the National Security Council.
Gage Skidmore
William Happer, emeritus professor of physics at Princeton University, served as the director of emerging technologies for the National Security Council until he resigned Sept. 13, 2019.

A prominent climate change denier resigned from the White House Friday after he was blocked from establishing a committee questioning the findings of the most recent national climate assessment. 

"After distinguished public service on the National Security Council staff for the past year, Dr. William Happer is returning to academia," a White House spokesperson said. "We wish him well and thank him for his tireless efforts to ensure that the Trump Administration's policies and decision-making were based on transparent and defensible science."

Happer, an emeritus professor of physics at Princeton University, joined the National Security Council as director of emerging technologies in September 2018 and has long decried the established science behind global warming. 

“The demonization of carbon dioxide is just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler,” he said during a 2014 interview with CNBC. “Carbon dioxide is actually a benefit to the world and so were the Jews.” 

Happer’s attempts to assemble a panel to investigate the widely established science behind climate change and its risks to national security were thwartedby senior White House officials, according to reports by Bloomberg and E&E News, the environmental and energy news service. The officials reportedly were concerned about the public perception ahead of Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign. 

Nancy Huntly, executive director of the Ecology Center at Utah State University, helped co-author the national climate assessment and said there isn’t any room for denying concrete science in today’s world. 

“Whatever people say, we will continue to try and work together to understand and solve these problems,” she said.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.

Nate Hegyi is the Utah reporter for the Mountain West News Bureau, based at KUER. He covers federal land management agencies, indigenous issues, and the environment. Before arriving in Salt Lake City, Nate worked at Yellowstone Public Radio, Montana Public Radio, and was an intern with NPR's Morning Edition. He received a master's in journalism from the University of Montana.
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