Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) is by far the best known climate change alarmist today, having way surpassed Al Gore for that title. Gore is now something of a has-been in the fame department. On the other side, Will Happer is far and away the best known skeptic (not counting President Trump, who is not an active skeptic).

The contrast between these two icons — AOC and Happer — is remarkably telling when it comes to the climate change debate in America. Each is ideal in their way. Let’s consider this a bit.

As a member of Congress, AOC is in a position of political power. As a National Security Council staffer, Happer has considerable influence but no actual power. In the same way, alarmists control many political institutions, while skeptics are outside voices of reason.

AOC has a basic degree in economics, while Happer was a named chair in physics at Princeton. His field is radiation physics, which is central to the climate change scientific issue. (It is laughable in this context that alarmists criticize Happer supposed lack of scientific knowledge.)

More broadly, alarmists are focused on economic measures like carbon taxes and the subsidized or forced use of renewables. They claim there are no outstanding scientific issues. In contrast, skeptics like Happer (and me) are all over the science. We argue that the science is far from settled and what science we have strongly suggests that no serious problem exists. I repeat, there is no problem to be solved, other than alarmism itself.

Moving on, to my knowledge, AOC has never held an executive position. Happer headed up the Energy Department’s Office of Science, which is the world’s largest funder of physical science research, spending billions a year.  In that position he made the final decision on massive research proposals. This is precisely the evaluation role that skeptics are playing in the climate change debate, except here the proposals are for massive social change based on questionable scientific evidence.

AOC is wildly exaggerating the IPCC findings. The IPCC merely made two (questionable) claims. First, that there would be more damage with 2.0 degrees of warming than with 1.5 degrees. This follows immediately from the alarmist belief that any warming is damaging. Second, they said that holding warming to 1.5 degrees would require drastic immediate action, especially dramatically cutting our CO2 emissions (at a stupendous cost).

The IPCC said nothing about 2 degrees of warming being catastrophic. In fact it is still the target of the Paris Accord. In reality the IPCC report was merely part of an internal UN dispute over what the Paris Accord target should be.

But AOC and the other radical alarmists have spun the relatively mild IPCC report into some sort of doomsday scenario. They are claiming that 1.5 degrees is the threshold to catastrophe, which has no scientific basis whatsoever. Even the children are marching for alarmism, oblivious to the scientific debate.

Happer on the other hand argues that the world is actually CO2 starved and there is no threat from increasing it. In this regard he is the perfect person to balance the debate with the alarmists.

Last, but by no means least, AOC wants to radically restructure the American economic and social system. This is the fundamental issue with climate change alarmism. It is radical revolution based on wildly strong scientific claims, which are therefore subject to careful questioning.

Happer has no such grand goals. He merely wants the federal government to conduct a proper assessment of the scientific claims of the alarmists, in its own national security reports. Happer is calm and reasonable, which is precisely what is called for at this point in time. He was a member of the JASON group, which specialized in national security assessments.

Unfortunately, AOC style alarmism is deeply embedded in the federal government, including in the science agencies and the Office of Science and Technology Policy. It will take a degree of courage on the President’s part to accept Happer’s proposal for a serious assessment of alarmism’s scientific claims.

But the Democrats, not just AOC, are making climate alarmism a major political issue. The House has even established a “Climate Crisis” committee. The proposed Happer committee might well be the perfect response.

In any case, the stark contrast between Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Will Happer says a great deal about the state of the climate change debate. It is radical versus reason.

Major decisions loom before us. Let’s make them wisely.


  • David Wojick, Ph.D. is an independent analyst working at the intersection of science, technology and policy. For origins see For over 100 prior articles for CFACT see Available for confidential research and consulting.