Peter H. Gleick, 'genius'

In a hilarious claim, Gleick proves once again his genius label is eclipsed by his own dogma.

A couple of days ago I got pulled into the Twitter feed of Dr. Peter Gleick, we’ll get to that shortly. You know him, he’s the guy from the Pacific Institute who posed as a board member for Heartland so he could steal documents. The plan was so badly conceived that it quickly unraveled, partly because of a ridiculous fake document that many say Gleick authored to get the media interested in the story of what he found. But, it was laughably transparent, and Gleick’s tendentious forgery was characterized by Megan McArdle of the Atlantic as reading “like it was written from the secret villain lair in a Batman comic. By an intern.”

One of the things I dislike about Dr. Peter Gleick (besides the fact that he’s a thief) is his condescending attitude towards others that he considers intellectually inferior. Part of this has to do with him being labeled a ‘genius’ with a MacArthur Fellow “Genius Award” in 2003. One of the problems of being labeled a genius is the ego boost that it conveys, and that ego boost tends to set the stage for epic cartoon like failures much like we used to see in the classic Warner Brothers cartoon where Wile. E. Coyote presents his card:


This week, we had another episode where Peter H. Gleick, GENIUS was on display in full public view. This is what got it started:


The picture linked in his tweet is from this Mother Nature News article:



I took one look at that photo and the 110°F temperature, and my bullshit detector alarm went off. My next thought was “how could Gleick be so dumb as to fall for this?”. I mean GMAFB, if it was air temperature doing it, all parts of the stoplight would show a nearly equal melting effect, and not be lopsided. Surely geniuses like Gleick understand the basic of thermodynamics enough to get this? Apparently not.

I immediately replied to Gleick and explained how this just wasn’t possible:


And after waiting, I got no reply from Gleick…

I suppose that’s normal, after all, we can’t have a ‘stupid denier’ schooling a ‘genius’ on how the physical world works, can we?

This isn’t the first time a global warming activist has fallen for a photo of something melting in the street, and immediately pouncing on “global warming” as the cause. Last year it was Al Gore and Bill McKibben:


Note the street lamps are only melted on one side. Why? Because it was a dumpster fire that did the work, not the natural air temperature.


Picture provided by KFOR-TV via Inhofe’s Press Office you can see the street lamp next to the burning dumpster:

Senator Inhofe had a field day with this witless assertion by Gore and McKibben, and you can read it about it here:

So when I saw Gleick was pushing a similar photo from Kuwait, it was deja vu all over again.

I noted in my tweets back to Gleick that either solar reflection or fire might be at work due to the lopsidedness of the melting. That explanation apparently flew right over Gleck’s head, and I wasn’t going to waste any more time with him waiting for him to acknowledge me.

Sure enough, later I learned it was just as I posited. Barry Woods found a news article on the incident and left a comment on the MNN story, the only comment, and a comment that apparently they have not heeded since the ridiculous story is still there.

Barry Woods wrote:


Here’s the story from


Jo Nova found this photo:


Yep, just like last year with Gore and McKibben, a fire, not global warming, melted a street fixture. We can forgive Al and Bill, because they’ve demonstrated time and again that they are dumber than lampposts when it comes to understanding how the physical world actually works.

But a McArthur “genius” like Gleick should know better. He should have been able to pick up on the same physical clues us “stupid deniers” did.

But alas, just like our Wile E. Coyote, Genius, his intellect is eclipsed by his dogma, and he gets run over by physical reality.


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I live in Phoenix, and I’ve never seen a traffic light melt. It really does say something if ONE set of traffic lights melt in a city and you can use that as a reason to claim global warming when they say one single weather event can’t be blamed on global warming. I beginning to think the genius just has a lot of hot air himself and probably shouldn’t take temperature readings.

Ahh. A genius, or flash-in-the-pan? Either way, Dr Gleick is a legend in his own mind. My, but PhD’s are cheap, nowadays.

Theo Goodwin

Imagine all the time wasted by Al, Peter, and similar folk. Al sits down at his computer, accidentally turn it off, and calls the computer repairman.

Ashby Manson

Didn’t his brother write one of the first great books about the emerging field of Chaos theory? Had large sections about the unpredictability of weather. I wonder whether Peter’s trying to prove something to James.


I particularly enjoyed his attempted backtrack, forty minutes after the initial post, when someone on-side had presumably had a quiet word. Air temperature might have, after all, only been a contributing factor. Although still, apparently, a factor.
And then the followup tweets blustering that “it was all a metaphor”. Yes Peter, I’m sure it was.

In light of Gleick’s puerile, pusillanimous performances, it kinda makes one wonder what exactly those who determine who might be deserving of the MacArthur “Genius Award” might have been thinking (or smoking?!) when they bestowed it on Gleick.

Tom J

Until I saw the burning car picture my first thought was that that traffic light melted from the voluminously carbonated hot exhaust of Air Force One since it might have flown over Kuwait for the Prez’s trip to Africa. Silly me.

Gerald Kelleher

I have found,through careful consideration,that the main cause of this debacle where a majority believe humans can control a complex system like planetary climate is the quality of responses to that pernicious assertion.It is not possible to restore stability to climate research based on contending with people who would literally become ill before they would change their conclusions and it for this reason that people here are more accountable for the material they are responsible for.
The talk of atypical weather conditions has now turned into ‘unprecedented climate extremes’ signifying a lowering of standards to the point that the normal terminology such as ‘climate’ has become rabid in the hands of modelers –
Until climate is determined astronomically in that inclination determines what sort of climate a planet has within a spectrum of 0 degrees (equatorial climate) to 90 degrees inclination (polar climate) the likelihood is that awful terminology like ‘climate extremes’ will gain traction.In short,the problem is the inability to raise the standard of discussion rather than dealing with people who will look for every chance to demonstrate their conclusions are right –
” I know; such men do not deduce their conclusion from its premises or
establish it by reason, but they accommodate (I should have said
discommode and distort) the premises and reasons to a conclusion which
for them is already established and nailed down. No good can come of
dealing with such people, especially to the extent that their company
may be not only unpleasant but dangerous.” Galileo


He wears his stupidity with pride.
According to Peter Gleick, Donna Laframboise’s book “The Delinquent Teenager” is a pack of lies (even though she has carefully documented her sources to show that every statement in the book is entirely factual).
According to Peter Gleick, Michael Mann is “a world class scientist”.
It really is really quite amazing that he has not retracted these statements after hundreds of comments by people who point out that he has his facts completely wrong.
It is really incredible that he is still invited as a guest speaker when any self respecting conference organizer can easily confirm with google that Peter Gleick is not only a THIEF but a LIAR.


“And then the followup tweets blustering that “it was all a metaphor”. Yes Peter, I’m sure it was.”
So the IPCC reports are all a metaphor?


Peter H. Gleick – ‘genius’ … no! Legend in his own mind … yes!


Someone should calculate how much atmospheric CO2 it would require to melt traffic lights. My extensive research on Wikipedia using the example of Venus yields a figure of 965,000ppm.
So some way yet to go.

Perhaps Gleick will point out that something must have made the car catch fire, and that’s probably AGW.

Marvelous effort from Glieck. Puts his previous efforts into even greater context. I tried arguing with a troll on Weatherzone about his criminal activities and his only come back was that he wasn’t charged with a crime so it didn’t happen.
I often wonder where we would be if the inflated egos that run the whole cAGW meme had employed a couple of professional spin doctors at the very start and where would we now be? Thankfully they didn’t or we would be in a much worse position now.

Latimer Alder

Would a traffic authority really be so stupid as to erect traffic lights from a black material that melts at only 50C?

Latimer Alder

The ‘genius’ awarders probably confused him with brother James. Which doesn’t say much about their abilities either……


Is that person still chairman of the committee for scientific integrity?

Lil Fella from OZ

Earlier this year it was 47c in NSW, Australia, and the bitumen was going liquid. One day only!
All the plastic I encountered that day hadn’t melted. I am amazed how well cars perform in this heat.


“Someone should calculate how much atmospheric CO2 it would require to melt traffic lights. My extensive research on Wikipedia using the example of Venus yields a figure of 965,000ppm.
So some way yet to go.”
Don’t agree. I think what you really need is a denser atmosphere and very dry air, moist air leads to clods and rain that hinders further warming. The dry adiabat is 9,78 °C/km. so for every km you added with dry air over the surface in a dry place you would get a 10 deg C increase?


@ Ashby Manson
Well spotted. He is indeed brother to James, a noted science writer with a string of excellent books behind him, among them “Chaos – Making A New Science” and, fittingly, “Genius – Richard Feynman And Modern Physics”.
Oh, the irony is almost too delicious!
You could very well be on to something with your thoughts about sibling rivalry.

Needs your vote – bottom right of page.


Yeah, yeah, ok, but why did the car catch on fire, people?! It’s loaded with carbon.


AB says:
July 3, 2013 at 10:07 pm
Needs your vote – bottom right of page.
Classic warmist propaganda poll. Split the NO votes into two options so that they can claim YES gets the most votes – when the majority vote NO.

brian boru

I would tend to steer away from using traffic lights as a proxy temperature record anyway. Too many confounding factors.

Janice Moore

LOL, here’s how it came about that big brother James, naively showed Peter the dunce how to create a fake fire effect. [for his next CAGW scam — watch for it next week: spontaneously combusting dog dishes]
Petie: [scowl] Oooo, James! I — just — CAN’T — DO — IT! [throws his attempt at fake fire down on floor and stomps on it]
James: Hey, hey, little brother, give me that… [bends down and picks up pieces]…. you know…. I can fix this…. . Ah, now, Petie, don’t cry. We’ll get you some fake fire I no time. [hands Petie a Kleenex]
Petie: B-b-but, can you, uh, you know, make it work so I can leave it … if….. if I need to…… uh… to go to the bathroom all of a sudden?
James: [smiling] Of course! Okay, now, let’s see here… [works at project in garage at work bench while Petie goes inside and plays video games]
Okay. Peter? Come on out here and look at what I did.
[Note: James calls Peter “Warren” by mistake because James is tired and a guy at work named Warren has been a real pain lately.]

Rick Bradford

The committee who awarded Gleick a genius award were probably helpless on laughing gas at the time.


The absurdity of all this is ridiculous. Even their precious CFLs get about 110 F…just try touching one after it’s been on for a few minutes. Even my new Cree LEDs (which I really like) get warm to the touch…almost assuredly 110 F or warmer–and the cooling fins get much hotter. So I wouldn’t be surprised if the local temperature of stop lights using traditional incandescent bulbs gets well over 110 F even in 70 F weather. Even LED stop light bulbs would be significantly warmer than air temperature unless the AC/DC conversion was done away from the light itself. At least for the incandescent bulbs, the temperature of the closest plastic to the bulb is probably not terribly dependent on the air temperature. Heck, the wind velocity might have as much if not more of an effect on its temperature than the air temp.

Lew Skannen

Can we expect to read about Manns Paleo-traffic light reconstruction?

GLEICK IS A GENIUS…among his peers, that is. Look at him, think what the average IQ of an alarmist has to be… 😉


“AB says:
July 3, 2013 at 10:07 pm”
From the article you link to;
“From 1971 to 2010, global temperatures rose by an average rate of 0.17 degrees Celsius per decade. But going back to 1880, the average increase was .062 per cent degrees Celsius per decade.”
A rise of .062 per cent degrees Celsius per decade since 1880?? Ok, lets assume they actually mean .062C per decade, that’s .0062C per year. An annual global average with an accuracy to 2 10 thousands of a degree? Really? Laughable!

Janice Moore

Lew Skannon at 10:59PM — LOL.
I hope we will be reading before long about Plaintiff Mann’s LOSING the argument against the defense’s Motion to Dismiss (a Civil Rule 12(b)(6) motion) in his utterly frivolous lawsuit against N.R.O., Mark Steyn, et. al.. [Even if Mann wins on that (so case not dismissed), he will certainly LOSE AT TRIAL, that rotten, lying, piece of slug bait).]

Bill H

Makes you wonder just what he would do for a Klondike bar… doesn’t it..

Janice Moore

God, bless America, my home sweet home.

John Trigge (in Oz)

The pro-AGW crowd should beware of Gleiks bearing gifts.
There always seems to be a downside to accepting anything he offers.

Bill H

omnologos says:
July 3, 2013 at 11:00 pm
GLEICK IS A GENIUS…among his peers, that is. Look at him, think what the average IQ of an alarmist has to be… 😉
GENIUS + 110
is my guess

Janice Moore

Bill H., LOL, ….. Steal it, of course! #[:)]


A naturally skeptical and intelligent person would ask the following questions:
What type of material was the traffic signal housing made of? Typically they are either aluminum or polycarbonate. What is the melting point of each of those materials? Aluminum: about 1200 degrees F. Polycarbonate: 300 degrees F. (working temperature -40 F to 240 F). Hello, McFly!

“A few compliant third-rate scientists were catapulted blinking mole-like out of obscurity and up into that media firmament of stardom. ”
Gleick aspires to 3rd rate …

Bill Jamison

It really is mind blowing that some alarmists fall for this kind of stuff. Well maybe it shouldn’t be surprising since it fits their beliefs and therefore they *want* it to be true.
But it would be incredibly silly and quite dumb of the Kuwait government to install traffic lights that melt at 110F when the temperature can reach 120F+ (50C) according to the Kuwait government website.
And they wonder why they have a credibility problem…

StuartMcL says:
July 3, 2013 at 10:22 pm
AB says:
July 3, 2013 at 10:07 pm
Needs your vote – bottom right of page.
Classic warmist propaganda poll. Split the NO votes into two options so that they can claim YES gets the most votes – when the majority vote NO.
Exactly, keep voting folks!
As for the article, What Patrick says is right on the money.

Berényi Péter

What’s the fuss? Meltdown was still caused by burning fossil fuels (along with car), was not it?
/sarc off


Could not agree more – some of my friends drive graders and direct traffic and even they know that the melting point of the plastics used in traffic lights is considerably greater than any possible natural ambient temperature – at least here on earth. Not least because they need to be able to withstand the heat generated by the globes (bulbs).
This sort of arrant nonsense severely discredits the AGW cause.


Genius indeed, but hey how did the dumpster and car burst into flames. Maybe that was because of Global Warming!

Anders Valland

I wonder what model they used to conclude Gleick is a genius?

Gary Hladik

Giving the guy his due, Peter Gleick is something of a comedic genius…


Note how the thermal damage is more to one side than the other. This is clearly a consequence of a badly sited traffic-light.
We shouldn’t be too harsh on Prof Gleick; he’s not the first academic to be fooled by the UHI (Urban Hazard Indicator) effect!

Brian Epps

And remember…genius spelled backwards is jackass.

Aidan Donnelly

I am still confused as to how the alarmist crowd can get away with continually ‘denying’ evolution.
More particularly the one part of Darwin’s theory that is (almost) universally accepted and completely non-controversial. I refer of course to Natural Selection which we can see all around us.
Natural Selection is how a species adapts (or doesn’t) to thrive in an ecological niche – some of which are so extreme that a plant removed from one (say a cactus) is swapped with one from another (a Mangrove Tree), neither will survive.
It appears to be incontrovertible that plants thrive with much higher Co2 rates than have been naturally present for many years and also animals and humans also.
So for them to say higher amounts are harmful, while most plants are still limited by Co2 much lower than optimum is their Achilles Heel, yet nobody seems to be making much noise about it.


This was the most hilariously written article that I’be had the pleasure reading! Love the relation to the most idiot of cartoon characters. It usually just gets me madder than hell that these self-proclaimed “geniuses” think were so stupid – to beleive their own nonsense, no bullcrap! Like the rest of the Gov. thinks we don’t stuff and Snowden spilled all the beans! REALLY? If it weren’t so serious for this poor Guy, it would be laughable. Geez.

Phil Ford

I think the point is that although Gleick is clearly a buffoon, he is also a dangerous buffoon – and a very useful idiot for the climate evangelists – a man who finds himself (despite himself) lauded and celebrated within their incestuous, self-congratulatory cliques. This gives him license to strut and preen before policy-makers and thus permits bad law based on falsehood, shonky science and political agenda to be enacted on the ‘advice’ of individuals such as Gleick and his ilk.
The man is a public menace, but like so many of his CAGW fellow-travelers, all with their snouts in the trough of public finance, he will continue to be rewarded for his bad behaviour until the vicious circle of wilful pro-CAGW disinformation and spin is finally broken.