Editorial Extremism at the Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal is one of nation's leading sources for business and economic news, but its editorial page has long been out to lunch on climate change. Even for the WSJ, however, the Op-Ed piece titled "No Need to Panic About Global Warming," signed by 16 scientists, was a new low.

The Journal has been at this kind of thing for so long it’s tempting to ignore this latest error-filled, misleading screed. But WSJ readers are influential, and to the uninitiated the piece appears to be persuasive, in no small part because a cadre of important-sounding scientists are saying so.

That’s why it’s important that a group of prominent climate scientists pushed back so hard that the Journal felt compelled to publish their letter. Among other things, they point out that while most of the scientists who signed on to the op-ed are accomplished in their field, for most of them that field is not climate science.

The vast majority of scientists who do study climate-- ninety-seven percent -- agree that global warming is real and is primarily caused by humans, according to a 2010 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. Asking the opinion of other researchers, writes climate scientist Kevin Trenberth, one of several whose work was misrepresented in the op-ed, is akin to consulting a dentist about your heart problem.

Trenberth's argument begs the question: Would the Wall Street Journal publish a dentist's opinions on cardiovascular disease?

Of course not.

Would the Wall Street Journal publish an Op-Ed submission on the realities of climate change, and the need for action, signed by 255 members of the National Academy of Sciences?

No, it turns out.

The paper had a chance to do just that in 2010, and turned it down, choosing instead to publish a less-credentialed piece that fit nicely with the editorial board's extremist agenda. Science, one of the world's leading scientific journals, published the NAS scientists' essay instead.

As this is not the first time the Journal has published inaccurate, misleading editorials on climate science. What is it exactly that its editorial board fears about climate change? Perhaps we should look, as its op-ed writers suggest, at cui bono. Who benefits if we delay action to combat global warming?

Not people with asthma, who would suffer more bad air days in a warmer climate. Not people who live in flood-prone and coastal areas, who risk life, limb and property in the more frequent and intense storms and flooding caused by global warming. Not farmers and ranchers who are struggling to deal with year-long droughts, another consequence of global warming. Not the construction workers who could be building a 21st century transportation and clean energy infrastructure that helps break our dependence on oil. Not car manufacturers, who stand to pull in $300 billion in revenues from new fuel efficiency standards.

The Journal’s editors may well fear that any action to respond to climate change is a step along the path to socialism, but life-saving standards to prevent polluters from imposing costs on society that they don’t pay for improve markets rather than being inconsistent with capitalism. In fact, the only party to benefit from the Journal's work to discredit climate science is the fossil fuel industry.

Readers can continue to count on the Journal to deliver market news based on hard data, but when it comes to editorial page beware that what you are likely to find is pure ideology.