The Climate Trap

The Climate Trap

People are suckers for a horror story

The Wall Street Journal 5 June 2018 included a short article on climate change, and how interest in that subject has faded. This fluctuating attitude toward climate change is a classic illustration of the ‘Issue Attention Cycle’ written by political scientist Anthony Downs in 1972, which characterizes the rise and fall of hysteria about things of this sort.

Climate change followed the exact same trajectory as those other made-up or grossly exaggerated tragedies. People said in deadly earnest that the earth would be a frozen snowball before the turn of the 21st-century.  And then, abruptly, we were all going to fry instead as the CO2 – or was it water vapor? No, no, it was the lack of argon in the atmosphere – that spelled doom for all inhabitants of our incredibly fragile planet.

It isn’t that we don’t care.  It isn’t that climate won’t change – it most certainly will, that’s what climates do.  It is that the usual suspects screaming the usual incitements to panic were doing their usual damage to our national psyche by raising alarm for an issue over which we had no control, as they’ve been doing for decades over any issues ready to hand no matter how trivial or far-fetched.

And at the same time, the usual malefactors were beating a path to the bank with the money they had grabbed from all those whose care went as deep as their pocketbooks. That is what this hysteria has become, as all the previous ones also did: a gigantic money grab.

It’s a principle tried-and-true. Some obscure Greek philosopher probably wrote about it, and if we were to unearth his writings, they would probably say “Watch out for that man among you who yells loudest about [insert clichéd concern] for he is full of garbanzo bean curd.  And grab your wallet.”

Al Gore is a high priest of that temple; Henry David Thoreau and Theodore Roosevelt are historic members still held in high esteem. The reputations that these people had, themselves, overshadow the more pedestrian efforts of many of their acolytes. John Muir was instrumental in getting the land which was designated Yosemite National Park, but Barack Obama abused the powers of his office to designate millions of acres of Utah and Nevadaas national forests, a ploy to keep petroleum exploration off the land.

From Wikipedia:

Global cooling was a conjecture during the 1970s of imminent cooling of the Earth’s surface and atmosphere culminating in a period of extensive glaciation…

As this writer remembers it, during the 1970s there was vast concern about the trend since the 1940s of temperatures on earth dropping precipitously. The big concern was that we all would freeze to death and starve along the way as global vegetation died out from the eternal winners forecast. Add to that the Arab Oil Embargo of 1973 and 1978 and there was mounting hysteria across the US.

These articles appeared in publications of the day:

“U.S. Scientist Sees New Ice Age Coming”  Washington Post, July 9, 1971

“Another Ice Age?”  Time magazine,  June 24, 1974

“Scientists Ask Why World Climate Is Changing:  Major Cooling May Be Ahead.”  New York Times, May 21, 1975

“Climate experts believe the next ice age is on its way.” – Leonard Nimoy, 1978

Well, Mr. Spock said so: we can take that to the bank and get our future in Federation Credits.

And there was a movie on a totally unrelated subject with a similar result.  As the New York Times gushed:

“The Day After,” ABC’s much-discussed vision of nuclear Armageddon, is no longer only a television film, of course; it has become an event, a rally and a controversy, much of it orchestrated.

… Much of it orchestrated! In the heart of the furor, at the time of the absolute maximum level of hype, the New York Times of all entities saw through all of the blather and called into question the origins of the national fascination with a ‘nuclear winter.’

The Grey Lady was a different paper then. The ownership was the Sulzberger family, represented by “Punch” Sulzberger who was a solid news man and ran a tight ship.

Things have changed. Arthur Sulzberger has now taken the helm, and the Times is now a mere opinion rag whose editorial policy runs to the far left, automatically giving short shrift to anything Republican or conservative.

So, the Times was a harbinger of all the hoopla about climate change, and along with its editorial change came a sea-change in the national mood. In approximately eight years all of the dread surrounding global cooling dissipated. The mind boggles to consider how easily the misconceptions that had been held since World War II were replaced by new misconceptions of a totally opposite nature.  Perhaps there was simply more opportunity for bilking the public when they think of a steamy sweaty future then of one where a heavier coat is all you need?

We try to illustrate our articles if possible, but in searching for meaningful photographs of global warming, we obtained precisely 0. The content that we did find from CBS News was laughably inappropriate to a world supposedly getting warmer, where the seas would rise and plant life would grow lush. It seems that in the midst of this humid tropical nightmare, there would be pathetic looking children starving, trees bursting into flames – all that rain must make them prone to fire, and the receding shorelines of lakes and the oceans leaving expensive houses high and dry.  Weren’t the oceans supposed to rise? It makes us long for the days of Mr. “Fake but Accurate” Dan Rather.

With a new fear came a new set of demons: Evil Oil, Nuclear Armageddon, Choking Coal. Burning fuels was at the root of the problem. Fuel= Heat. Simple equation, simple solution – get rid of the fuel, get rid of the heat.

The left has been on the warpath about fossil fuels for decades. Coal is nasty and smelly, heating oil is too. Nuclear plants produce nuclear waste which can only be stored away in that mountain that Harry Reid won’t let us use in Nevada. Nuclear plants do something to the environment, don’t they? Or they’re just dangerous. Look at 3 Mile Island!

Yes, let’s look at 3 Mile Island. From the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s report entitled “Backgrounder on the 3 Mile Island Accident”:

The Three Mile Island Unit 2 (TMI-2) reactor, near Middletown, Pa., partially melted down on March 28, 1979. This was the most serious accident in U.S. commercial nuclear power plant operating history, although its small radioactive releases had no detectable health effects on plant workers or the public. Its aftermath brought about sweeping changes involving emergency response planning, reactor operator training, human factors engineering, radiation protection, and many other areas of nuclear power plant operations. It also caused the NRC to tighten and heighten its regulatory oversight. All of these changes significantly enhanced U.S. reactor safety. [emphasis added]

In other words, nothing happened. There was an accident, and in theory it could have been serious, but safeguards put into place at the Three Mile Island Plant worked in spite of all the worst efforts of the incompetent management of the plant. The result was simply the deactivation of the plant and the removal of its nuclear fuel.

The NRC report took over a decade to produce. It was a fiasco of major proportion, leading to hysterical fright of nuclear power that is still in existence today.

Japan, where there really have been nuclear disasters – Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and more recently, Fukushima – routinely handles the potential problems of nuclear plants with detached aplomb. They have learned to live with it and not be obsessed.

The left has a penchant for seizing upon some characteristic of an offending but otherwise beneficent technology and making that into the greatest evil since Beelzebub rose from hell. The mischaracterization of Three Mile Island as a study in everything that is wrong with nuclear power has been successfully marketed and maintained as the definitive study of nuclear evils.

In the world of reality, where we need energy sources aplenty, there have been, recently, people wondering out loud the verboten topic, “What’s wrong with nuclear power?” What, exactly, is wrong with nuclear power? Japan, France and many other European countries produce their share, but the largest nuclear producer is the US.

We only hear about nuclear energy when there’s a problem, and there usually are not problems. Nuclear plants do not fit into the narrative of the left that makes fossil fueled energy the demon. So, they make up other things about it and use an ‘almost accident’ nearly 40 years ago to spark opposition to a technology that others around the world are using successfully.


Is the globe warming? Maybe. Is it dangerous to our future? Maybe. Is it warming because we burn fossil fuels? Maybe. Will switching to solar energy completely solve our problem? No. How about wind energy? No. How about solar and wind? No.

The amount of solar, wind, and hydroelectric (all-renewables) energy in use right now in the United States is about 18% as of early in 2018, this according to Forbes magazine. That 18% number is growing, quickly, but it has a long way to go before it supplants our traditional sources. And the percentage of energy available from those two sources on a cloudy, still day is7% – the hydroelectric component – and always will be unless more dams are built.  Because of this, the productivity numbers used for aged solar and wind facilities are at best optimistic and at worst utter lies.

As we contend with Global Wa – oops – Climate Change, we must remain cognizant of the fact: that if the oceans rise to a point where only the tip of Liberty’s torch remains dry as Al Gore tried to warn us, we will experience the horrors of vast fertile plains populated with the proverbial fruit in quantities that would make a Florida grove owner blanche with envy.  Of course the Democrats would figure out a new way to tax our emerging excesses.

This, however, is a future that we do not control, filtered by people whose imaginations are uncontrollable. Doomsayers will see a time of gloom, and the rest of us will go about our daily lives, coping as we must with the change as it comes. We do have time: after all, Al Gore’s sea rise would take centuries or at least a century if they ever come to pass. Lady Liberty can be moved to safe ground if that is necessary, and the swelling oceans will render great increases in property values along certain coasts.

The Left decided with the help of the mainstream media that, since Global Warming had become a joke, its name had to be changed. After all, the way something is retained in the mind is by its name and, if a name becomes embarrassing, use the Soviet method and change it!

So they did. There was no reason to draw attention to the fact that weather is always changing; every TV and radio station tells us that hourly.  But it is still all about the money – even the Communists are in it for the money.

It doesn’t matter what you call it.  Global Cooling, Nuclear Winter, Global Warming – all these buzzwords are merely the strident mantras of the left that call to mind all those things that they need us to give up – namely, the energy that drives modern society and provides the maximum individual freedom to the ordinary person ever seen in the history of the world.

Instead, the warmist left is running into the old theme that dates back to the days of Aesop’s story, “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” It isn’t that people don’t care, just that they’ve heard enough and are sick of it.

Chances are that, like Three Mile Island, it’s all Shakespearean: Much Ado About Nothing.  Humanity can handle whatever changes come, as we’ve handled the Ice Age, the Black Plague, and Britney Spears: suffering for a time, but bigger, better, and stronger afterwards.  If we don’t lose our nerve.

The Sea Is Rising

The Sea Is Rising, but Not Because of Climate Change

There is nothing we can do about it, except to build dikes and sea walls a little bit higher.

Ice crevasses near the coast of West Antarctica.
Ice crevasses near the coast of West Antarctica. PHOTO: MARIO TAMA/GETTY IMAGES

Of all known and imagined consequences of climate change, many people fear sea-level rise most. But efforts to determine what causes seas to rise are marred by poor data and disagreements about methodology. The noted oceanographer Walter Munk referred to sea-level rise as an “enigma”; it has also been called a riddle and a puzzle.

It is generally thought that sea-level rise accelerates mainly by thermal expansion of sea water, the so-called steric component. But by studying a very short time interval, it is possible to sidestep most of the complications, like “isostatic adjustment” of the shoreline (as continents rise after the overlying ice has melted) and “subsidence” of the shoreline (as ground water and minerals are extracted).

I chose to assess the sea-level trend from 1915-45, when a genuine, independently confirmed warming of approximately 0.5 degree Celsius occurred. I note particularly that sea-level rise is not affected by the warming; it continues at the same rate, 1.8 millimeters a year, according to a 1990 review by Andrew S. Trupin and John Wahr. I therefore conclude—contrary to the general wisdom—that the temperature of sea water has no direct effect on sea-level rise. That means neither does the atmospheric content of carbon dioxide.

This conclusion is worth highlighting: It shows that sea-level rise does not depend on the use of fossil fuels. The evidence should allay fear that the release of additional CO2 will increase sea-level rise.

But there is also good data showing sea levels are in fact rising at an accelerating rate. The trend has been measured by a network of tidal gauges, many of which have been collecting data for over a century.

The cause of the trend is a puzzle. Physics demands that water expand as its temperature increases. But to keep the rate of rise constant, as observed, expansion of sea water evidently must be offset by something else. What could that be? I conclude that it must be ice accumulation, through evaporation of ocean water, and subsequent precipitation turning into ice. Evidence suggests that accumulation of ice on the Antarctic continent has been offsetting the steric effect for at least several centuries.

It is difficult to explain why evaporation of seawater produces approximately 100% cancellation of expansion. My method of analysis considers two related physical phenomena: thermal expansion of water and evaporation of water molecules. But if evaporation offsets thermal expansion, the net effect is of course close to zero. What then is the real cause of sea-level rise of 1 to 2 millimeters a year?

Melting of glaciers and ice sheets adds water to the ocean and causes sea levels to rise. (Recall though that the melting of floating sea ice adds no water to the oceans, and hence does not affect the sea level.) After the rapid melting away of northern ice sheets, the slow melting of Antarctic ice at the periphery of the continent may be the main cause of current sea-level rise.

All this, because it is much warmer now than 12,000 years ago, at the end of the most recent glaciation. Yet there is little heat available in the Antarctic to support melting.

We can see melting happening right now at the Ross Ice Shelf of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Geologists have tracked Ross’s slow disappearance, and glaciologist Robert Bindschadler predicts the ice shelf will melt completely within about 7,000 years, gradually raising the sea level as it goes.

Of course, a lot can happen in 7,000 years. The onset of a new glaciation could cause the sea level to stop rising. It could even fall 400 feet, to the level at the last glaciation maximum 18,000 years ago.

Currently, sea-level rise does not seem to depend on ocean temperature, and certainly not on CO2. We can expect the sea to continue rising at about the present rate for the foreseeable future. By 2100 the seas will rise another 6 inches or so—a far cry from Al Gore’s alarming numbers. There is nothing we can do about rising sea levels in the meantime. We’d better build dikes and sea walls a little bit higher.

Mr. Singer is a professor emeritus of environmental science at the University of Virginia. He founded the Science and Environmental Policy Project and the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change.

Appeared in the May 16, 2018, print edition.


Scott Rasmussen’s Number of the Day


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By Scott Rasmussen

August 21, 2017: Twenty-eight percent (28%) of Americans think that climate scientists understand the causes of global climate change “very well.” A Pew Research study found that only 19% believe that the climate scientists have a very good understanding of the best ways to address the issue.[1]

In general, the study found that Americans trust climate scientists more than politicians on the topic. Two-thirds (67%) believe scientists should play a major role in addressing policy issues on the matter. Most (56%) also believe that energy industry leaders (56%) and the general public (56%) should have a major say in such policy topics.

The Pew study, however, also found that people believe there are differences of opinion among the climate scientists. Only 27% believe that there is a consensus on the issue and that just about all climate scientists believe human behavior is mostly responsible for global climate change. Another 35% think more than half hold this view.

The survey also explored the degree of trust and confidence in those researching climate science. Thirty-six percent (36%) believe that, most of the time, scientists’ research findings are motivated by a desire to advance their own careers. Only 32% say that they mostly rely on the best scientific evidence. Twenty-seven percent (27%) believe that political views of the scientists generally influence their work.

Liberal Democrats tend to express high levels of confidence in the climate scientists and their motives. Conservative Republicans are often quite skeptical. Most other Americans have mixed views.

Research findings influenced by… Percentage responding “most of the time”
Desire to advance their own career 36%
Best available scientific evidence 32%
Personal political leanings 27%
Desire to help the industries they work with or for 26%
Concern for best interests of the public 23%

Most Americans (55%) believe that new technology will probably solve most of the problems from climate change.

Al Gore’s Climate Sequel

Al Gore’s Climate Sequel Misses a Few Inconvenient Facts

Eleven years after his first climate-change film, he’s still trying to scare you into saving the world.

Al Gore in Washington, July 20.
Al Gore in Washington, July 20. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

They say the sequel is always worse than the original, but Al Gore’s first film set the bar pretty low. Eleven years ago, “An Inconvenient Truth” hyped global warming by relying more on scare tactics than science. This weekend Mr. Gore is back with “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power.” If the trailer is any indication, it promises to be more of the same.

The former vice president has a poor record. Over the past 11 years Mr. Gore has suggested that global warming had caused an increase in tornadoes, that Mount Kilimanjaro’s glacier would disappear by 2016, and that the Arctic summers could be ice-free as soon as 2014. These predictions and claims all proved wrong.

“An Inconvenient Truth” promoted the frightening narrative that higher temperatures mean more extreme weather, especially hurricanes. The movie poster showed a hurricane emerging from a smokestack. Mr. Gore appears to double down on this by declaring in the new film’s trailer: “Storms get stronger and more destructive. Watch the water splash off the city. This is global warming.”

This is misleading. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—in its Fifth Assessment Report, published in 2013—found “low confidence” of increased hurricane activity to date because of global warming. Storms are causing more damage, but primarily because more wealthy people choose to live on the coast, not because of rising temperatures.

Even if tropical storms strengthen by 2100, their relative cost likely will decrease. In a 2012 article for the journal Nature Climate Change, researchers showed that hurricane damage now costs 0.04% of global gross domestic product. If climate change makes hurricanes stronger, absolute costs will double by 2100. But the world will also be much wealthier and less vulnerable, so the total damage is estimated at only 0.02% of global GDP.

In the trailer, Mr. Gore addresses “the most criticized scene” of his previous documentary, which suggested that “the combination of sea-level rise and storm surge would flood the 9/11 Memorial site.” Then viewers are shown footage of Manhattan taking on water in 2012 after superstorm Sandy, apparently vindicating Mr. Gore’s claims. Never mind that what he actually predicted was flooding caused by melting ice in Greenland.

More important is that Mr. Gore’s prescriptions—for New York and the globe—won’t work. He claims the answer to warming lies in agreements to cut carbon that would cost trillions of dollars. That would not have stopped Sandy. What New York really needs is better infrastructure: sea walls, storm doors for the subway, porous pavement. These fixes could cost around $100 million a year, a bargain compared with the price of international climate treaties.

Mr. Gore helped negotiate the first major global agreement on climate, the Kyoto Protocol. It did nothing to reduce emissions (and therefore to rein in temperatures), according to a March 2017 article in the Journal of Environmental Economics and Management. Undaunted, Mr. Gore still endorses the same solution, and the new documentary depicts him roaming the halls of the Paris climate conference.

By 2030 the Paris climate accord will cost the world up to $2 trillion a year, mostly in lost economic growth, according to the best peer-reviewed energy-economic models. It will remain that expensive for the rest of the century. This would make it the most expensive treaty in history.

And for what? Just ahead of the Paris conference, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change estimated that if every country fulfills every promised Paris carbon cut between 2016 and 2030, carbon dioxide emissions will drop by only 60 gigatons over that time frame. To keep the temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius, the world must reduce such emissions nearly 6,000 gigatons over this century, according to the IPCC. A “successful” Paris agreement wouldn’t even come close to solving the problem.

Mr. Gore argues that the Paris approach pushes nations and businesses toward green energy. Perhaps, but the global economy is far from ready to replace fossil fuels with solar and wind. The International Energy Agency, in its 2016 World Energy Outlook, found that 0.6% of the world’s energy is supplied by solar and wind. Even with the Paris accord fully implemented, that number would rise only to 3% in a quarter-century.

In part because of activists like Mr. Gore, the world remains focused on subsidizing inefficient, unreliable technology, rather than investing in research to push down the price of green energy. Real progress in Paris could be found on the sidelines, where philanthropist Bill Gates and others, including political leaders, agreed to increase spending on research and development. This is an important start, but much more funding is needed.

Mr. Gore declares in his new film that “it is right to save humanity.” No argument here. But is using scare tactics really the best way to go about it?

Mr. Lomborg is the president of the Copenhagen Consensus Center and the author of “The Skeptical Environmentalist” and “Cool It.”

Wrong predictions

An Earth Day Education

An Earth Day Education

Somehow life keeps getting better.

A man walks past a mural on Friday in Philadelphia.

A man walks past a mural on Friday in Philadelphia. PHOTO: MATT ROURKE/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Just in time for Saturday’s Earth Day forecasts of environmental apocalypse, economist Mark Perry provides a helpful reminder of the accuracy of previous eco-prophecies. Specifically, he notes “18 spectacularly wrong predictions” made around the time of the first Earth Day in 1970.

Inconvenient Weather Fact for Earth Day: US is in the longest strong hurricane drought (11+ years) in history 

Photo published for 18 spectacularly wrong predictions made around the time of first Earth Day in 1970, expect more...

18 spectacularly wrong predictions made around the time of first Earth Day in 1970, expect more…

In the May 2000 issue of Reason Magazine, award-winning science correspondent Ronald Bailey wrote an excellent article titled “Earth Day, Then and Now” to

Perhaps because earlier predictions of catastrophe were off target, it’s clear that in 2017 many of Earth’s inhabitants are still not persuaded that their planet is doomed. But Earth Day Network President Kathleen Rogers may have a solution for this. She writes for CNN today about her organization’s “campaign to bring climate and environmental literacy to the world.”

Ms. Brown explains: “Climate literacy is now recognized universally as the engine for driving individual behavioral change, building consumer support for a green economy, creating green technologies and jobs, and promoting policy reforms at all levels of government. Recognizing the importance of an educated global population, the authors of the Paris Climate Agreement put climate education at its heart, calling on national governments to cooperate in taking measures to enhance climate education, training and access to information.”

This column would like to do its part by sharing a valuable history lesson, thanks to Mr. Perry and also to my onetime colleague Ronald Bailey, who in a 2000 piece for Reason magazine looked back at the first Earth Day. Here’s what Mr. Bailey wrote on the 30th anniversary of that landmark eco-happening:

Imminent global famine caused by the explosion of the “population bomb” was the big issue on Earth Day 1970. Then–and now–the most prominent prophet of population doom was Stanford University biologist Paul Ehrlich. Dubbed “ecology’s angry lobbyist” by Life magazine, the gloomy Ehrlich was quoted everywhere. “Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make,” he confidently declared in an interview with then-radical journalist Peter Collier in the April 1970 Mademoiselle. “The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years.”

“Most of the people who are going to die in the greatest cataclysm in the history of man have already been born,” wrote Ehrlich in an essay titled “Eco-Catastrophe!,” which ran in the special Earth Day issue of the radical magazine Ramparts. “By…[1975] some experts feel that food shortages will have escalated the present level of world hunger and starvation into famines of unbelievable proportions. Other experts, more optimistic, think the ultimate food-population collision will not occur until the decade of the 1980s.” Ehrlich sketched out his most alarmist scenario for the Earth Day issue of The Progressive, assuring readers that between 1980 and 1989, some 4 billion people, including 65 million Americans, would perish in the “Great Die-Off.”

Readers old enough to remember the 1980s should be forgiven if they can’t quite seem to recall a famine wiping out most of the world’s population. As Mr. Bailey noted in assessing the accuracy of Mr. Ehrlich’s predictions:

Time has not been gentle with these prophecies. It’s absolutely true that far too many people remain poor and hungry in the world–800 million people are still malnourished and nearly 1.2 billion live on less than a dollar a day–but we have not seen mass starvation around the world in the past three decades. Where we have seen famines, such as in Somalia and Ethiopia, they are invariably the result of war and political instability. Indeed, far from turning brown, the Green Revolution has never been so verdant. Food production has handily outpaced population growth and food today is cheaper and more abundant than ever before. Since 1970, the amount of food per person globally has increased by 26 percent, and as the International Food Policy Research Institute reported in October 1999, “World market prices for wheat, maize, and rice, adjusted for inflation, are the lowest they have been in the last century.”

Since Mr. Bailey wrote those words in 2000, anyone still waiting for the Great Die-Off to begin has been continually disappointed. In fact, the fifteen years after 2000 could reasonably be called the “Great Live-On.” According to the World Health Organization, “Global average life expectancy increased by 5 years between 2000 and 2015, the fastest increase since the 1960s.” Increases in life expectancy were greatest in Africa, adds the WHO, thanks in large part to “expanded access to antiretrovirals for treatment of HIV.” In other words, the products of advanced industrialized societies were not destroying life, but saving it.

Back in 2000, Mr. Bailey did make a few predictions of his own regarding the celebration of Earth Day in 2030. He predicted better diets and longer lives for people world-wide, as well as another interesting forecast: “There will be a disproportionately influential group of doomsters predicting that the future–and the present–never looked so bleak.”


Milankovitch Cycles and Glaciation

The episodic nature of the Earth’s glacial and interglacial periods within the present Ice Age (the last couple of million years) have been caused primarily by cyclical changes in the Earth’s circumnavigation of the Sun. Variations in the Earth’s eccentricity, axial tilt, and precession comprise the three dominant cycles, collectively known as the Milankovitch Cycles for Milutin Milankovitch, the Serbian astronomer and mathematician who is generally credited with calculating their magnitude. Taken in unison, variations in these three cycles creates alterations in the seasonality of solar radiation reaching the Earth’s surface. These times of increased or decreased solar radiation directly influence the Earth’s climate system, thus impacting the advance and retreat of Earth’s glaciers.

It is of primary importance to explain that climate change, and subsequent periods of glaciation, resulting from the following three variables is not due to the total amount of solar energy reaching Earth. The three Milankovitch Cycles impact the seasonality and location of solar energy around the Earth, thus impacting contrasts between the seasons.


The first of the three Milankovitch Cycles is the Earth’s eccentricity. Eccentricity is, simply, the shape of the Earth’s orbit around the Sun. This constantly fluctuating, orbital shape ranges between more and less elliptical (0 to 5% ellipticity) on a cycle of about 100,000 years. These oscillations, from more elliptic to less elliptic, are of prime importance to glaciation in that it alters the distance from the Earth to the Sun, thus changing the distance the Sun’s short wave radiation must travel to reach Earth, subsequently reducing or increasing the amount of radiation received at the Earth’s surface in different seasons.

Today a difference of only about 3 percent occurs between aphelion (farthest point) and perihelion (closest point). This 3 percent difference in distance means that Earth experiences a 6 percent increase in received solar energy in January than in July. This 6 percent range of variability is not always the case, however. When the Earth’s orbit is most elliptical the amount of solar energy received at the perihelion would be in the range of 20 to 30 percent more than at aphelion. Most certainly these continually altering amounts of received solar energy around the globe result in prominent changes in the Earth’s climate and glacial regimes. At present the orbital eccentricity is nearly at the minimum of its cycle.

Axial Tilt

Axial tilt, the second of the three Milankovitch Cycles, is the inclination of the Earth’s axis in relation to its plane of orbit around the Sun. Oscillations in the degree of Earth’s axial tilt occur on a periodicity of 41,000 years from 21.5 to 24.5 degrees.

Today the Earth’s axial tilt is about 23.5 degrees, which largely accounts for our seasons. Because of the periodic variations of this angle the severity of the Earth’s seasons changes. With less axial tilt the Sun’s solar radiation is more evenly distributed between winter and summer. However, less tilt also increases the difference in radiation receipts between the equatorial and polar regions.

One hypothesis for Earth’s reaction to a smaller degree of axial tilt is that it would promote the growth of ice sheets. This response would be due to a warmer winter, in which warmer air would be able to hold more moisture, and subsequently produce a greater amount of snowfall. In addition, summer temperatures would be cooler, resulting in less melting of the winter’s accumulation. At present, axial tilt is in the middle of its range.


The third and final of the Milankovitch Cycles is Earth’s precession. Precession is the Earth’s slow wobble as it spins on axis. This wobbling of the Earth on its axis can be likened to a top running down, and beginning to wobble back and forth on its axis. The precession of Earth wobbles from pointing at Polaris (North Star) to pointing at the star Vega. When this shift to the axis pointing at Vega occurs, Vega would then be considered the North Star. This top-like wobble, or precession, has a periodicity of 23,000 years.

Due to this wobble a climatically significant alteration must take place. When the axis is tilted towards Vega the positions of the Northern Hemisphere winter and summer solstices will coincide with the aphelion and perihelion, respectively. This means that the Northern Hemisphere will experience winter when the Earth is furthest from the Sun and summer when the Earth is closest to the Sun. This coincidence will result in greater seasonal contrasts. At present, the Earth is at perihelion very close to the winter solstice.


Climateers Can’t Handle the Truth

Dec. 27, 2016 6:46 p.m. ET

Congrats are due for the term “climate denialist,” which in 2016 migrated from Paul Krugman’s column to the news pages of the New York Times.

On Dec. 7, the term ascended to a place of ultimate honor when it figured in the headline, “Trump Picks Scott Pruitt, Climate Change Denialist, to Lead E.P.A.”

Unfortunately, never to be explained is precisely which climate propositions one must deny in order to qualify as a denialist. In zinging Mr. Pruitt, currently Oklahoma’s attorney general, the Times rests its unspoken case on a quote from an article this year in National Review, in which he and a coauthor wrote: “Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind.”

But this statement is plainly true. No climate scientist would dispute it. Through all five “assessment reports” of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—sharer of Al Gore’s Nobel prize—the central puzzle has been “climate sensitivity,” aka the “degree and extent” of human impact on climate.

Greenpeace adopts the same National Review article to attack Mr. Pruitt, lying that he and a coauthor “claimed the science of climate change is ‘far from settled.’”

The science is not settled (science never is), but this is not what Mr. Pruitt was referring to. His plain, unmistakable words refer to a “major policy debate” that is “far from settled”—a statement that indisputably applies even among ardent believers in climate doom. Witness the battle between wings of the environmental movement over the role of nuclear power. Witness veteran campaigner James Hansen’s dismissal of the Paris agreement, which other climate campaigners celebrate, as “worthless words.”

These lies about what Mr. Pruitt wrote in a widely available article aren’t the lies of authors carried away by enthusiasm for their cause. They are the lies of people who know their employers and audiences are beyond caring.

Which brings us a two-part article in the New York Review of Books by representatives of the Rockefeller family charity, desperately trying to make the world care about their fantasy that Exxon is somehow a decisive player in the policy debate—Exxon, not voters who oppose higher energy taxes; Exxon, not the governments that control 80% of the world’s fossil fuel reserves and show no tendency to forgo the money available from them.

The Rockefeller family’s charitable attachment to the climate cause is understandable, though. Their money might instead be used to bring clean water to poor villages, immunize kids against disease, or improve education. But such programs can be evaluated and found wanting due to fraud or incompetence, whereas climate change is a cause to which money can safely be devoted to no effect whatsoever without fear of criticism.
Twenty years before his successor became Mr. Trump’s nominee to be secretary of state, Exxon’s then-CEO Lee Raymond gave a much vilified speech in China—a much misrepresented speech, too.

He did not say humans were not influencing climate, but the degree was highly uncertain, and future warming was not a “rock-solid certainty,” he said.

He could not have known he was speaking near the peak of an observed warming trend, and that relatively little or no warming would be recorded over the next 20 years.

He said poor countries would and should choose economic growth over suppressing fossil fuel use. They did, and some one billion fewer people today are living in extreme poverty (as defined by the World Bank).

He said fossil energy would continue to fuel economic prosperity, though consumption growth would moderate with increased efficiency, and as poor countries devoted a share of their increasing wealth to environmental improvement. He was right.

He predicted that technology would open up new reserves to fuel the global economy, though he didn’t mention and perhaps didn’t know about fracking.

All in all, it was a performance, in many fewer words, far more cogent than the Rockefeller pieces, notable mainly for their childishness about both climate science and climate politics.

Donald Trump, our new president-elect, has been tagged for indiscriminately referring to climate change as a hoax. Here’s what he actually said at a campaign rally in South Carolina one year ago about climate advocacy: “It’s a money-making industry, OK? It’s a hoax, a lot of it.”

This statement, with its clearly framed qualifications, is true and accurate in every detail. It’s a statement of basic truth that can be embraced, and increasingly should be, by exactly those people most concerned about man-made climate change.

Yet it won’t be, for reasons demonstrated by the New York Times’ adoption of the term climate denialist, whose deliberately non-discriminating function we now take care to state precisely: It enables a kind of journalism that is unable—incapacitates itself—to stumble on truths that would be inconvenient to climate religion.



My Unhappy Life as a Climate Heretic
My research was attacked by thought police in journalism, activist groups funded by billionaires and even the White House.

Dec. 2, 2016 7:05 p.m. ET
Much to my surprise, I showed up in the WikiLeaks releases before the election. In a 2014 email, a staffer at the Center for American Progress, founded by John Podesta in 2003, took credit for a campaign to have me eliminated as a writer for Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight website. In the email, the editor of the think tank’s climate blog bragged to one of its billionaire donors, Tom Steyer: “I think it’s fair [to] say that, without Climate Progress, Pielke would still be writing on climate change for 538.”

WikiLeaks provides a window into a world I’ve seen up close for decades: the debate over what to do about climate change, and the role of science in that argument. Although it is too soon to tell how the Trump administration will engage the scientific community, my long experience shows what can happen when politicians and media turn against inconvenient research—which we’ve seen under Republican and Democratic presidents.

I understand why Mr. Podesta—most recently Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman—wanted to drive me out of the climate-change discussion. When substantively countering an academic’s research proves difficult, other techniques are needed to banish it. That is how politics sometimes works, and professors need to understand this if we want to participate in that arena.

More troubling is the degree to which journalists and other academics joined the campaign against me. What sort of responsibility do scientists and the media have to defend the ability to share research, on any subject, that might be inconvenient to political interests—even our own?

I believe climate change is real and that human emissions of greenhouse gases risk justifying action, including a carbon tax. But my research led me to a conclusion that many climate campaigners find unacceptable: There is scant evidence to indicate that hurricanes, floods, tornadoes or drought have become more frequent or intense in the U.S. or globally. In fact we are in an era of good fortune when it comes to extreme weather. This is a topic I’ve studied and published on as much as anyone over two decades. My conclusion might be wrong, but I think I’ve earned the right to share this research without risk to my career.

Instead, my research was under constant attack for years by activists, journalists and politicians. In 2011 writers in the journal Foreign Policy signaled that some accused me of being a “climate-change denier.” I earned the title, the authors explained, by “questioning certain graphs presented in IPCC reports.” That an academic who raised questions about the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in an area of his expertise was tarred as a denier reveals the groupthink at work.

Yet I was right to question the IPCC’s 2007 report, which included a graph purporting to show that disaster costs were rising due to global temperature increases. The graph was later revealed to have been based on invented and inaccurate information, as I documented in my book “The Climate Fix.” The insurance industry scientist Robert-Muir Wood of Risk Management Solutions had smuggled the graph into the IPCC report. He explained in a public debate with me in London in 2010 that he had included the graph and misreferenced it because he expected future research to show a relationship between increasing disaster costs and rising temperatures.

When his research was eventually published in 2008, well after the IPCC report, it concluded the opposite: “We find insufficient evidence to claim a statistical relationship between global temperature increase and normalized catastrophe losses.” Whoops.

The IPCC never acknowledged the snafu, but subsequent reports got the science right: There is not a strong basis for connecting weather disasters with human-caused climate change.
Yes, storms and other extremes still occur, with devastating human consequences, but history shows they could be far worse. No Category 3, 4 or 5 hurricane has made landfall in the U.S. since Hurricane Wilma in 2005, by far the longest such period on record. This means that cumulative economic damage from hurricanes over the past decade is some $70 billion less than the long-term average would lead us to expect, based on my research with colleagues. This is good news, and it should be OK to say so. Yet in today’s hyper-partisan climate debate, every instance of extreme weather becomes a political talking point.

For a time I called out politicians and reporters who went beyond what science can support, but some journalists won’t hear of this. In 2011 and 2012, I pointed out on my blog and social media that the lead climate reporter at the New York Times,Justin Gillis, had mischaracterized the relationship of climate change and food shortages, and the relationship of climate change and disasters. His reporting wasn’t consistent with most expert views, or the evidence. In response he promptly blocked me from his Twitter feed. Other reporters did the same.

In August this year on Twitter, I criticized poor reporting on the website Mashable about a supposed coming hurricane apocalypse—including a bad misquote of me in the cartoon role of climate skeptic. (The misquote was later removed.) The publication’s lead science editor, Andrew Freedman, helpfully explained via Twitter that this sort of behavior “is why you’re on many reporters’ ‘do not call’ lists despite your expertise.”

I didn’t know reporters had such lists. But I get it. No one likes being told that he misreported scientific research, especially on climate change. Some believe that connecting extreme weather with greenhouse gases helps to advance the cause of climate policy. Plus, bad news gets clicks.

Yet more is going on here than thin-skinned reporters responding petulantly to a vocal professor. In 2015 I was quoted in the Los Angeles Times, by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Paige St. John, making the rather obvious point that politicians use the weather-of-the-moment to make the case for action on climate change, even if the scientific basis is thin or contested.

Ms. St. John was pilloried by her peers in the media. Shortly thereafter, she emailed me what she had learned: “You should come with a warning label: Quoting Roger Pielke will bring a hailstorm down on your work from the London Guardian, Mother Jones, and Media Matters.”

Or look at the journalists who helped push me out of FiveThirtyEight. My first article there, in 2014, was based on the consensus of the IPCC and peer-reviewed research. I pointed out that the global cost of disasters was increasing at a rate slower than GDP growth, which is very good news. Disasters still occur, but their economic and human effect is smaller than in the past. It’s not terribly complicated.

That article prompted an intense media campaign to have me fired. Writers at Slate, Salon, the New Republic, the New York Times, the Guardian and others piled on.

In March of 2014, FiveThirtyEight editor Mike Wilson demoted me from staff writer to freelancer. A few months later I chose to leave the site after it became clear it wouldn’t publish me. The mob celebrated., founded by former Center for American Progress staffer Brad Johnson, and advised by Penn State’s Michael Mann, called my departure a “victory for climate truth.” The Center for American Progress promised its donor Mr. Steyer more of the same.

Yet the climate thought police still weren’t done. In 2013 committees in the House and Senate invited me to a several hearings to summarize the science on disasters and climate change. As a professor at a public university, I was happy to do so. My testimony was strong, and it was well aligned with the conclusions of the IPCC and the U.S. government’s climate-science program. Those conclusions indicate no overall increasing trend in hurricanes, floods, tornadoes or droughts—in the U.S. or globally.

In early 2014, not long after I appeared before Congress, President Obama’s science adviser John Holdren testified before the same Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. He was asked about his public statements that appeared to contradict the scientific consensus on extreme weather events that I had earlier presented. Mr. Holdren responded with the all-too-common approach of attacking the messenger, telling the senators incorrectly that my views were “not representative of the mainstream scientific opinion.” Mr. Holdren followed up by posting a strange essay, of nearly 3,000 words, on the White House website under the heading, “An Analysis of Statements by Roger Pielke Jr.,” where it remains today.

I suppose it is a distinction of a sort to be singled out in this manner by the president’s science adviser. Yet Mr. Holdren’s screed reads more like a dashed-off blog post from the nutty wings of the online climate debate, chock-full of errors and misstatements.

But when the White House puts a target on your back on its website, people notice. Almost a year later Mr. Holdren’s missive was the basis for an investigation of me by Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva, the ranking Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee. Rep. Grijalva explained in a letter to my university’s president that I was being investigated because Mr. Holdren had “highlighted what he believes were serious misstatements by Prof. Pielke of the scientific consensus on climate change.” He made the letter public.

The “investigation” turned out to be a farce. In the letter, Rep. Grijalva suggested that I—and six other academics with apparently heretical views—might be on the payroll of Exxon Mobil (or perhaps the Illuminati, I forget). He asked for records detailing my research funding, emails and so on. After some well-deserved criticism from the American Meteorological Society and the American Geophysical Union, Rep. Grijalva deleted the letter from his website. The University of Colorado complied with Rep. Grijalva’s request and responded that I have never received funding from fossil-fuel companies. My heretical views can be traced to research support from the U.S. government.

But the damage to my reputation had been done, and perhaps that was the point. Studying and engaging on climate change had become decidedly less fun. So I started researching and teaching other topics and have found the change in direction refreshing. Don’t worry about me: I have tenure and supportive campus leaders and regents. No one is trying to get me fired for my new scholarly pursuits.

But the lesson is that a lone academic is no match for billionaires, well-funded advocacy groups, the media, Congress and the White House. If academics—in any subject—are to play a meaningful role in public debate, the country will have to do a better job supporting good-faith researchers, even when their results are unwelcome. This goes for Republicans and Democrats alike, and to the administration of President-elect Trump.

Academics and the media in particular should support viewpoint diversity instead of serving as the handmaidens of political expediency by trying to exclude voices or damage reputations and careers. If academics and the media won’t support open debate, who will?

Mr. Pielke is a professor and director of the Sports Governance Center at the University of Colorado, Boulder. His most recent book is “The Edge: The Wars Against Cheating and Corruption in the Cutthroat World of Elite Sports” (Roaring Forties Press, 2016).


Obama’s Climate Policy Is a Hot Mess

The president hails the Paris Agreement again—even though it will solve nothing and cost trillions.



June 30, 2016 7:06 p.m. ET

When President Obama flew to Ottawa, Canada, on Wednesday to meet with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, promoting their climate-change policies was near the top of the agenda. “The Paris Agreement was a turning point for our planet,” the leaders’ joint statement said, referring to the climate pact signed with fanfare in April by nearly 200 nations. “North America has the capacity, resources and the moral imperative to show strong leadership building on the Paris Agreement and promoting its early entry into force.”

Attracting rather less attention than the Ottawa meeting was a June 22 hearing on Capitol Hill. Testifying before the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthyextolled the Paris Agreement as an “incredible achievement.” But when repeatedly asked, she wouldn’t explain exactly how much this treaty would actually cut global temperatures.

The Paris Agreement will cost a fortune but do little to reduce global warming. In a peer-reviewed article published in Global Policy this year, I looked at the widely hailed major policies that Paris Agreement signatories pledged to undertake and found that they will have a negligible temperature impact. I used the same climate-prediction model that the United Nations uses.

First, consider the Obama administration’s signature climate policy, the Clean Power Plan. The U.N.’s model shows that it will accomplish almost nothing. Even if the policy withstands current legal challenges and its cuts are totally implemented—not for the 14 years that the Paris agreement lasts, but for the rest of the century—the Clean Power Plan would reduce temperatures by 0.023 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100.

President Obama has made grander promises of future carbon cuts, beyond the plan’s sweeping restrictions on the power industry, but these are only vaguely outlined now. In the unlikely event that all of these extra cuts also happen, and are adhered to throughout the rest of the century, the combined reduction in temperatures would be 0.057 degrees. In other words, if the U.S. delivers for the whole century on the very ambitious Obama rhetoric, it would postpone global warming by about eight months at the end of the century.

Or consider the Paris Agreement promises from the entire world using the reduction estimate from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the organization responsible for the Paris summit. The U.N.’s model reveals a temperature reduction by the end of the century of only 0.08 degrees Fahrenheit. If we generously assume that the promised cuts for 2030 are not only met (which itself would be a U.N. first), but sustained throughout the rest of the century, temperatures in 2100 would drop by 0.3 degrees—the equivalent of postponing warming by less than four years at the end of the century. A cut of 0.3 degrees matches the finding of a Massachusetts Institute of Technology analysis of the Paris Agreement last year.

The costs of the Paris climate pact are likely to run to $1 trillion to $2 trillion annually throughout the rest of the century, using the best estimates from the Stanford Energy Modeling Forum and the Asia Modeling Exercise. Spending more than $100 trillion for such a feeble temperature reduction by the end of the century does not make sense.

Some Paris Agreement supporters defend it by claiming that its real impact on temperatures will be much more significant than the U.N. model predicts. This requires some mental gymnastics and heroic assumptions. The group doing climate modeling for the U.S. State Department assumes that without the Paris Agreement emissions would be much higher than under any realistic scenario. With such an unrealistically pessimistic baseline, they can then magically show that the agreement will cut temperatures by 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit—with about 1.5 degrees of the drop coming from a reduction of these fantasy carbon emissions.

The Climate Action Tracker, widely cited by Paris Agreement fans, predicts a temperature reduction of 1.6 degrees by the end of the century. But that model is based heavily on the assumption that even stronger climate policies will be adopted in the future—98% of the assumed reductions come after the current Paris Agreement promises to expire in 2030.

Even this wishful thinking won’t achieve anything close to the 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) reduction that has become the arbitrary but widely adopted benchmark for what will be essential to avoid the worst effects of global warming.

The Paris Agreement is the wrong solution to a real problem. We should focus more on green-energy research and development, like that promoted by Bill Gates and the Breakthrough Coalition. Mr. Gates has announced that private investors are committing $7 billion for clean energy R&D, while the White House will double its annual $5 billion green innovation fund. Sadly, this sorely needed investment is a fraction of the cost of the same administration’s misguided carbon-cut policies.

Instead of rhetoric and ever-larger subsidies of today’s inefficient green technologies, those who want to combat climate change should focus on dramatically boosting innovation to drive down the cost of future green energy.

The U.S. has already shown the way. With its relentless pursuit of fracking driving down the cost of natural gas, America has made a momentous switch from coal to gas that has done more to drive down carbon-dioxide emissions than any recent climate policy. Turns out that those who gathered in Paris, France, could learn a little from Paris, Texas.

Mr. Lomborg, president of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, is the author of “Cool It” (Knopf, 2007) and “Smartest Targets for the World” (Copenhagen Consensus, 2015).


Trump Makes Sense on Energy

From the mouth of The Donald comes wisdom on America’s climate dissonance.

After delivering an energy-policy speech in Bismarck, N.D., May 26. ENLARGE
After delivering an energy-policy speech in Bismarck, N.D., May 26. PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS


May 31, 2016 6:33 p.m. ET

Political markets are weird: They cry out for something and yet politicians, with their enslavement to conventional wisdom and careerist caution, are unwilling to supply it.

Then along comes Donald Trump.

Mr. Trump, in his set-piece energy speech on Thursday, did something that might outlast his presidential hopes. In his anti-intellectual way, he made an intellectual contribution. For decades, poorly justified scientific fears of future warming have hovered as an incubus over U.S. energy development. These fears, you’ll notice, have not actually blocked much of anything: Fracking happened. The U.S. continues to export coal to China. But these fears fill America’s leadership class with guilt and cognitive dissonance.

Give Mr. Trump credit for trying to break the spell.

Opinion Journal Video

Business World Columnist Holman Jenkins Jr. on the presumptive Republican nominee’s plan to unleash American energy markets. Photo credit: Getty Images.

In a speech the media has done its best to ignore or debunk, he said, “From an environmental standpoint, my priorities are very simple: clean air and clean water.” With these words, he relegated back to the land of abstraction the abstraction known as climate change.

His was a model political speech, one that Hillary Clinton might learn from. It set an agenda, with a minimum of windy rationalization, that voters can assess. Mr. Trump, as all politicians do, offered a prayer to the false deity of energy independence but he also offered a perfectly serviceable vision of Americans freely competing in global energy markets based on our own natural and (note) renewable resources and technology.

Mr. Trump hit the climate moment squarely.

By now, it should be obvious that a succession of “fraudulent” (to borrow a word used by out-of-school climate activist James Hansen) agreements like Kyoto, Copenhagen and Paris are not paving the way for a non-fraudulent agreement to impose costly climate actions the public would never support.

The climate policy that actually gets enacted by now has a track record: It consists of ludicrous gestures and policies of cost-without-benefit like Tesla subsidies, whose driving force is the desire of influential pre-Trumpian elites for handouts.

As for the $100 billion spent on climate research, it has yielded one certainty: A human impact is hard to disentangle from a welter of natural variables.

What’s more, science can’t deny its nature forever. New information, based on actually measuring and understanding things like temperatures, emissions and cloud formation, is increasingly rewriting our hazy understanding of atmospheric processes. This data suggests our computer models have overstated the warming risk.

Also ripe to be revisited are the “business as usual” scenarios presumed by the climate alarmists, in which patterns of energy production and consumption don’t change in the absence of heroic government central planning efforts.

The emergence of fracking, which has played the major role in upending the U.S. coal industry, was not the product of climate policy.

The rise of the lithium-ion battery and explosion of battery-powered devices in our lives, of which even Tesla is but a flamboyant and overrated derivative, was not the product of climate policy.

Climate movement types, meanwhile, have increasingly turned to vilifying nonbelievers as a substitute for dealing sensibly with a possible human impact on climate. A minority movement is on its way to becoming a cult, increasingly anti-science. Know them by their talk of “saving” the planet: Even under the worst scenarios, global warming does not endanger the planet. It poses an inconvenience to human communities that have become accustomed to stacking their wealth at the water’s edge.

Perhaps it took Donald Trump fully to exploit the fish-in-a-barrel vulnerability of Democrats on climate. Democrats love citing a pending climate catastrophe but want to live in the land of the real politically, never taking ownership of policies actually commensurate with the alleged crisis. Al Gore, when he was running for president in 2000, wanted Bill Clinton to open the strategic reserve to keep gas prices low.

In his speech, Mr. Trump tweaked Hillary Clinton for promoting U.S fracking technology to China as secretary of state, then proposing to regulate fracking out of existence at home. He tweaked President Obama for seeking to block Canada’s energy exports by killing the Keystone pipeline even while enabling Iran to open its spigots.

Mr. Obama, proving again that he makes a better representative of the countries he visits than the one he comes from, said from Japan on Thursday that foreign leaders are “rattled” by the rise of Donald Trump.

Good grief. What endorsement could carry less weight with the American people? These are the same foreign leaders who’ve been marching America’s major allies into permanent decline, not least with massive renewable-energy subsidies that have produced no benefit for their societies. If anything survives as a monument to the great Trump boom of 2016, let’s hope it’s a turn toward realism on energy and climate.


Plenty of Political Climate Change

Sen. Whitehouse used to pretend he opposed jailing dissenters.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse in March 2015.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse in March 2015. PHOTO: MARK WILSON/GETTY
March 15, 2016 7:13 p.m. ET

Sheldon Whitehouse took to the Senate floor last fall to assail our coverage of his climate agenda. We had criticized his plan to use the RICO law, created to prosecute mobsters, against people who disagree with him about global warming. We also criticized George Mason University’s Jagadish Shukla, who wrote to Attorney General Loretta Lynch and other federal officials urging them to follow the Senator’s advice. New developments aren’t helping the credibility of Messrs. Shukla and Whitehouse.

In October Mr. Whitehouse denied that the RICO litigation threat—with its potential for treble damages—was intended to shut down scientific debate. The Rhode Island Democrat claimed he wants civil rather than criminal prosecutions of climate dissenters. As if bringing financial ruin on defendants accused of independent thought isn’t bad enough.

But now it looks like the campaign to silence climate dissidents could move beyond a potential civil case—and we’re not hearing a peep from Mr. Whitehouse. Attorney General Lynch told the Senate last week that her department had referred a request to prosecute climate dissent to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Specifically, it was referred to the FBI’s criminal investigative division. A Justice official says on background that this is “not an indication or recommendation of whether a matter merits investigation, but is simply a referral to an appropriate investigative authority at the Department.”

Even as Sen. Whitehouse questioned Ms. Lynch on this very matter at the hearing, he uttered no criticism. His spokesman says the Senator still doesn’t favor criminal investigations and that Mr. Whitehouse thought the FBI referral “appeared unusual for the pursuit of a civil investigation.” But if Justice does throw people in jail for scientific skepticism, the message seems to be: Don’t count on Mr. Whitehouse to defend your liberty.

While the FBI ponders whether to slap the cuffs on people who don’t believe in U.N. climate models, scientists who agree with Mr. Whitehouse are thriving beyond the dreams of most academic researchers.

Check out Mr. Shukla, who egged on Ms. Lynch in the pursuit of climate skeptics. We noted recently the House Science Committee report that the George Mason professor had appeared to violate university policy in raking in more than $511,000 in combined compensation in 2014 from the school and his tax-exempt outfit, the Institute of Global Environment and Society. His wife collected another $166,000 that year to serve as the IGES business manager, and their daughter has been listed as an employee.

We’ve reviewed a 2012 memo from Mr. Shukla’s lawyer to IGES trustees saying that in some cases he would be entitled to fly business class and to bring his wife on trips, and also to have a leased car with a monthly payment not to exceed $600. IGES has been funded almost entirely by taxpayers. Many young scientists would be thrilled to win a federal grant even a fraction of the Shukla family haul. Mr. Shukla did not respond to requests for comment.

We understand why Messrs. Whitehouse and Shukla want to use the power of government to stifle their scientific and political opponents. But it’s harder to understand why George Mason wants to be associated with this sort of taxpayer fleecing and the silencing of academic dissent.