Human Events Interviews Scientist Gregory Wrightstone
His email signature has at its close the irrefutable warning of the 18th Century French philosopher and satirist Voltaire who wrote “It is dangerous to be right in matters where established men are wrong.” Few know the true import of that phrase better than geological scientist turned climate/energy myth buster Gregory Wrightstone.
Currently serving as the Executive Director of the CO2 Coalition, Wrightstone penned a consumer-friendly book back in 2017 titled “Inconvenient Facts: The Science Al Gore Doesn’t Want You to Know.” The book became an Amazon number one Best Seller in more than one category, and has enjoyed several resurgences since its original publication, including recently where it has once again attained number one status. It has just been translated into Norwegian with a Korean-language version in discussion.
Wrightstone sat down with Human Events News to discuss the current “climate” in which we have discussions about both climate and energy and to try to help sort climate “facts” from fiction.
Gregory Wrightstone has a pleasant dual manner that simultaneouslyexudes both genuine enthusiasm for his profession and a sort of peaceful calm in his tone. Said differently, he seems to both love what he does, and know what he’s doing.
Trained as a geologist who has spent more than 40 years doing research, Wrightstone speaks as though he became an accidental tourist on his way to writing a bestseller on climate. “I didn’t set out to write a book,” Wrightstone states matter of factly. “I found myself drawn to the climate change arena because as a scientist I simply knew that what I was hearing and reading couldn’t be right.”
He started out by examining the various predictions of upcoming apocalyptic events. “I would investigate each one of these predictions and then take a look at the reported underlying ‘facts’ used to support them. What I found is that in case after case the facts did not support the claims. An author would say a fact was X when really it was Y.” Driven by a scientist’s quest for truth, Wrightstone felt compelled to set the record straight.
“I wanted to write a book that appealed to everyone, not just the scientific community. My editor and I used a lot of high-resolution color graphs and images, 90 to be precise, and used them to supplement a reader-friendly text.” Wrightstone continues to be humbled by the book’s success and is gratified by its response. “I knew I had something when a gentleman was helping me set up for a lecture in West Virginia and said ‘Mr. Wrightstone, I read your book. It was the first book I have read since high school.’ That confirmed I had hit my target.”
One of the first things Wrightstone learned in his research was the myth regarding CO2 and its purported harmful effects on the earth’s environment. “I found that science supports that the world is benefiting greatly from the modest increases in CO2 levels. It is the biggest untold story of the late 20th and early 21st centuries that our air and water are getting cleaner. It is just the opposite of what we are being told.” He says that when environmental activists say “we need to do something” that something means lowering CO2. Wrightstone says that isn’t good.
“The most misrepresented ‘fact’ to the general public is the role of CO2,” Wrightstone says. “This misrepresentation is what drives the Green New Deal, stopped the Keystone Pipeline, and has curtailed the exploration and drilling for oil on federal lands.” Specifically, Wrightstone points to the fact that increased CO2 levels are very beneficial for the raising of crops. In a time when Bill Gates is worried about feeding the world, CO2 emissions should not be at the top of everyone’s list of worries.
As a more specific example, Wrightstone points to a U.N.-hyped study that cites the threat of mass extinctions due to CO2 levels changing climate and destroying natural habitats. The study predicts a million species becoming extinct over the next few decades. “I went back and used their data,” Wrightstone says. “They were using only five data points over five centuries. I went through and broke down the data decade by decade over the exact same time frame using data from their own source. To get to their one-million number, you would have to have 25,000 to 30,000 extinctions per year. Do you know what we have averaged over the past 40 years? Two extinctions per year!”
Wrightstone says the message from the study should have been “what a great job humanity is doing of protecting endangered species.” Wrightstone’s research on this topic was subsequently used in congressional hearings on the matter. “What makes no sense about this is that their solution to their false extinction forecasts is to build more wind power which destroys vast amounts of natural habitats, the very thing they are worried about disappearing.”
Wrightstone refuses to speculate as to what is driving the motives and actions of those behind the climate change movement. “I think that James Hanson’s testimony before Congress back in 1988 was possibly a crucial moment,” Wrightstone says. “The story is that they turned off the air conditioning and opened the windows during the testimony just to make the room feel uncomfortable.”
History does show that Hanson’s testimony was one of many inflection points, but Wrightstone goes no further. “I try to stay away from politics. People ask me why the politicians and others lie to us. I tell them I can’t see inside a man’s soul. It could be control, it could be taxes, it could be anti-capitalism. Whatever it is, it isn’t my field.”
When asked what the biggest misconception is within the climate conversation, Wrightstone says it is the myth that we are going through “unusual and unprecedented warming.” “It’s never been this hot,” he uses as the standard line he hears from both scientists and laypeople. “When they say that they are right, so long as they are only going back as far as 1900.” Wrightstone points to the fact that we are going through what is the fourth great warming period over the past 3,000 years.
“There have been three other warming periods we can point to and during each of them, civilizations flourished,” he says. “We know about these periods both from historical records, especially those that indicate what crops were grown in what regions, and through the use of ‘proxy data,’ things like tree rings. That sort of data is very informative, but also must be used very carefully.” The three prior periods to which Wrightstone refers are the Minoan (approx. 1500-1200 BC), Roman (approx. 250 BC to AD 450), and Medieval (approx. AD 850-1250). We now find ourselves in the fourth such period. “Before the politics of climate, these periods were known as ‘climate optima’,” Wrightstone notes. “Each of these periods were marked by great advancements and prosperity. There’s a reason the Romans wore togas. There’s a reason the Vikings could grow barley in Greenland.” Wrightstone goes on to note that following each warming period and its positive impact, came severe cooling periods that took a drastic toll on the human experience.
“This current period we are in started in the 17th century after the ‘Little Ice Age. We have been steadily warming ever since. What has followed the warm periods has always been great stretches of disease and pestilence. The lesson is that warmth is good for humans.”
When asked about the famous (or infamous in some quarters) Professor Michael Mann of Penn state and originator of the climate temperature “hockey stick” demonstrating a precipitous increase in temperatures over the past 1,000 years, Wrightstone pulls no punches. “He has used data that in many instances is difficult or impossible to verify. It seems to either have been either cherry-picked or massaged. To many of us, it reads like confirmation bias and I am addressing it in my next book. I like the way that Mark Steyn described Mann’s hockey stick by saying ‘Mann did temperature reconstruction using proxies with only two problems; the proxies and the reconstruction.’”
With so much always being reported about polar ice caps melting and the attendant dangerous rise in sea levels, HE News asked Wrightstone if people needed to fear drowning any time soon? “The best measure we have for sea levels is tidal gauges. We have several hundred years of reliable data. Since 1900 the sea level has risen approximately 7.5 inches which is less than 1/10 of an inch per year. There’s also no +acceleration evident in the rate of sea level rising. This is simply not a concern. Strategically building some small sea walls could help a few higher risk areas and would certainly make more sense than complete overhauls of our entire way of life.”
Wrightstone continued, “The talk of polar ice melting is another scare tactic. Most of the ice is floating in water. Try the experiment in a glass at home. Place some ice cubes in a glass of water and see if when they melt the water level is any higher. It won’t be. The way the water level would rise would be from land-based glaciers melting, specifically this means Greenland and Antarctica. The temperatures there are not above freezing.” He says that some glacial retreat has been underway since the mid 1800’s, but that owes to the earth’s normal warming cycles previously discussed.
Why is it that so few scientists seem to want to publicly publish the kind of data and research that Wrightstone points to so readily? He says it is a simple problem of human nature. “It takes a brave soul to stand up against peer pressure. Right now, in the scientific community those who want to stand up against the prevailing sentiments risk losing their funding, losing their livelihoods. They open themselves up to ridicule and scorn.” He also adds it isn’t easy to back away from a previously held position. “It takes real courage. Our board member, Patrick Moore had that courage. He was an original founder of Greenpeace. Michael Shellenberger is another.”
When the discussion turns from climate to energy, Wrightstone shares with us a view that certainly stands against the prevailing winds. “There are three considerations to be taken into account when it comes to examining energy sources: abundance, reliability, and affordability. So much of America would have to be altered, including our natural landscape, to accommodate widespread use of wind and solar, that such an adoption would come at an incredible cost.”
Likewise, when it comes to nuclear energy, despite its proven abundance and reliability, Wrightstone says the high regulatory costs involved in building a new facility in the United States today make it infeasible.
“If the considerations in moving to any energy source are CO2 emissions, scientists like me believe that is the wrong criteria to be applying,” says Wrightstone. “CO2 emissions have been an overall net-plus for the global community. Aggressive energy policies aimed at reducing CO2 will not pass an impartially administered cost-benefit analysis.” Regarding the use of coal, he does say that without the proper system the emissions generated from its use are “bad stuff.” He points to a clean coal facility in Alabama as an example of both what can be done and just how expensive it is to do it.
“China and India are moving in the direction of building these types of coal facilities. They see it as the key to lifting hundreds of millions out of poverty.” When you ask the geologist about the other “dirty word” in energy, fracking, he moves up to a new level of seriousness. “This process has been demonized, primarily in the U.S. but now we have extensive empirical results and none of the doomsday predictions have come true. I’m a legitimate subject matter expert on this having published peer reviewed research. Fracking has proven to be an entirely safe and cost-effective process.”
How do regular citizens without a scientific background, filter and process the overwhelming amount of climate news that is directed their way each day by politicians, activists, and the MSM? Wrightstone has a simple piece of advice. “If it comes from the MSM, doubt everything you are being told. They are typically either lying, misinterpreting, or leaving stuff out.” Said another way, in the spirit of Human Events News’ daily journalistic efforts, be an engaged skeptic.
This was first published at Human Events on March 3, 2021