He won a Nobel Prize. Then he started denying climate change.
with research by Vanessa Montalbano Good morning and welcome to The Climate 202! Today we have a scheduling update: The newsletter will publish from Monday through Wednesday next week before taking Thanksgiving off. Well be back in your inbox on Monday. Not a subscriber? Sign up for The Climate 202 to get scoops and sharp analysis in your inbox each morning. In todays edition, well cover a California utilitys responsibility for a deadly wildfire, New Yorks lawsuit against Pepsi over plastic pollution, and the European Unions move to limit methane emissions from oil and gas imports. But first: BALTIMORE During a fiery news conference at the Four Seasons hotel here Tuesday, speakers denounced climate change as a hoax perpetrated by a global cabal including the United Nations , the World Economic Forum and many leaders of the Catholic Church . It might have seemed like a fringe event, except for one speakers credentials. John F. Clauser had shared the Nobel Prize in physics last year before declaring Tuesday that there is no climate crisis a claim that contradicts the overwhelming scientific consensus. The event showcased the remarkable shift that Clauser, 80, has undergone since winning one of the worlds most prestigious awards for his groundbreaking experiments with light particles in the 1970s. His recent denial of global warming has alarmed top climate scientists, who warn that he is using his stature to mislead the public about a planetary emergency. Clauser, who has a booming voice and white hair he often leaves uncombed, has brushed off these concerns. He contends that skepticism is a key part of the scientific process. There was overwhelming consensus that what I was doing was pointless in the 70s, he said in an interview after the news conference. It took 50 years for my work to win the prize. Thats how long it takes for opinions to change. Tuesdays event was organized by the Deposit of Faith Coalition , a group of more than a dozen Catholic organizations that argues those pushing the anti-God and anti-family climate agenda need to be called out and exposed, according to its website . Clauser, who is an atheist, needed some convincing to be the keynote speaker, a coalition spokesman acknowledged. The other speakers included Marc Morano , a former Republican congressional staffer who runs a website that rejects mainstream climate science, and Alex Newman , a journalist for right-wing media outlets who has called for exposing the climate scam. Both men directed jabs at former vice president Al Gore and his 2006 documentary about the dangers of climate change. Clauser, who wore a gray blazer with black jeans and Teva sandals, appeared buoyant as he took the stage. He cycled through a PowerPoint presentation that began with the exclamation: Great news! There is no climate crisis! Much as it may upset many people, my message is the planet is not in peril, Clauser told an audience of about a dozen people in the hotel conference room and others watching online. I call myself a climate denier, he added. Ive been told thats not politically correct. So I guess Im a climate crisis d-word person. Clauser bragged that he met privately with President Biden in the Oval Office last year, when the 2022 Nobel Prize winners were invited to the White House . He said he criticized Bidens climate and energy policies, to which he said the president replied: Sounds like right-wing science. The Washington Post could not confirm this account; a White House spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The vast majority of climate scientists agree that global warming will have catastrophic consequences for current and future generations. They warn that heat waves, famines and infectious diseases could claim millions of additional lives by centurys end if humanity does not rapidly reduce emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. The influence of climate deniers has waned over the past several decades, as the science has become clearer and the effects of global warming have become starker. But some vocal skeptics including several prominent physicists have persisted. Clauser, who has never published a peer-reviewed paper on climate change, has homed in on one message in particular: The Earths temperature is primarily determined by cloud cover, not carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels. He has concluded that clouds have a net cooling effect on the planet, so there is no climate crisis. Michael Mann , a professor of earth science at the University of Pennsylvania , said this argument is pure garbage and pseudoscience. The best available evidence shows that clouds actually have a net warming effect, Mann said in an email. In physics, we call that a sign error its the sort of error a freshman is embarrassed to be caught having made, he said. But Anton Zeilinger , an Austrian physicist who shared the Nobel Prize with Clauser last year, said in an interview that he has very high respect for his scientific rigor, although he cautioned that he is not an expert on climate science. It has happened in science that the majority was dead wrong, said Zeilinger, a professor of physics emeritus at the University of Vienna . I have no idea if that is the case here, but science has to be open to debate. Click here to read our full story about Clauser. One of Californias largest utilities is responsible for a wildfire that killed two people last year, according to a report from the states Department of Forestry & Fire Protection obtained by The Washington Post, we report with our colleague Brianna Sacks . Southern California Edison has previously denied any allegations of its involvement in the Fairview Fire , which burned across more than 28,000 acres and destroyed dozens of structures while displacing tens of thousands of residents. But the report, which has not yet been made public, determined that because of a sag in one of the utilitys electrical lines, the wire came into contact with a communications line below it and caused sparks, igniting vegetation nearby. The Cal Fire report said the utilitys power lines wrongly remained energized that day, despite the presence of strong winds and extreme heat conditions ripe for an inferno. David Eisenhauer , a utility spokesman, said yesterday that the company cooperated with Cal Fire during its review of the fire, and were examining their latest report. The findings come amid a lawsuit against the utility alleging it failed to properly manage its infrastructure and landscaping to ensure wildfire mitigation, putting residents at increased risk. The civil case is set to go to trial next September. New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) yesterday sued PepsiCo , accusing the snack and soda giant of polluting the Buffalo River with plastic packaging from its products, The Posts Dino Grandoni reports. The lawsuit alleges that this plastic pollution has caused a public nuisance, threatening both human health and wildlife. It also claims that Pepsi misled the public about the effectiveness of its recycling efforts and failed to warn consumers about the potential health and environmental risks of plastic packaging. New York is one of the first states to target a major plastic producer in court. PepsiCo is the worlds second biggest plastic polluter, according to the environmental group Break Free From Plastic . All New Yorkers have a basic right to clean water, yet PepsiCos irresponsible packaging and marketing endanger Buffalos water supply, environment and public health, James said in a statement on the suit, which comes as diplomats meet in Kenya to hammer out a global treaty on plastic pollution. In its own statement, Pepsi said it is serious about plastic reduction and effective recycling, and has been transparent in our journey to reduce use of plastic and accelerate new packaging innovation. The company has also said it aims to have its packaging be recyclable, compostable, biodegradable, or reusable by 2025. The European Union yesterday reached a deal on a law that would limit methane emissions from oil and gas imports starting in 2030, Kate Abnett reports for Reuters . The deal, which comes after overnight negotiations among members of the 27-nation bloc, is likely to hit major gas suppliers including the United States, Algeria and Russia. Methane is the second-largest contributor to climate change after carbon dioxide, and has a far greater warming effect than CO2 over a 20-year period. Finally, the E.U. tackles the second most important greenhouse gas with ambitious measures, said Jutta Paulus , the E.U. Parliaments co-lead negotiator, adding that the law will have repercussions worldwide. The European Commission still has to set the laws exact methane emissions limit. But Paulus told reporters that importers will face fines if they buy from foreign suppliers that dont comply with the limit. Meanwhile, the United States and more than a dozen countries and groups yesterday announced an international working group that will develop a framework on measuring methane emissions across the natural gas supply chain, Reuterss Timothy Gardner reports. Some climate activists have slammed the effort to certify gas with lower methane emissions, calling it an example of greenwashing a fossil fuel. Thanks for reading!