Climate Change Weekly #459: Remembering Jay Lehr – Scholar, Truth Seeker, Friend, Eternal Optimist

Published January 20, 2023



  • Jay Lehr, Ph.D.: RIP—H. Sterling Burnett
  • Podcast of the Week: Socialism Will Not Win Despite the Current Energy/Supply Crises (Guest: Jay Lehr)
  • A Tremendous Loss to Mankind—James Taylor
  • The Amazing Accomplishments of Jay Lehr—Joe Bast
  • Jay Lehr, Superman—Tom Harris
  • We Will Win: to My Friend Jay Lehr—Rafaella Nascimento
  • Video: The Heartland Institute presents the Dauntless Purveyor of Climate Truth Award to Jay Lehr at ICCC13 in 2019
  • Video: Jay Lehr on getting rid of the U.S. EPA
  • Video: Jay Lehr – The Other Side of the Global Warming Story
  • Climate Comedy
  • Recommended Sites

Jay Lehr, R.I.P.

jay lehr conference

Last Thursday I received and unexpected call from Jim Lakely, vice president of The Heartland Institute, informing me that Jay Lehr, longtime Heartland Institute science director, had passed away. I was taken aback at the unwelcome news, unable to speak for a moment. Many of us, myself included, are still recovering from the news. As noted in last week’s CCW, Jay’s work and friendship touched many lives, so this week’s edition is devoted to remembrances of him. Separate remembrances from several of Jay’s colleagues and friends follows my comments.

Jay Lehr, 86, of Ostrander, Ohio passed away Tuesday, January 10, 2023, at Grady Memorial Hospital. Born September 11, 1936, in Bayonne, New Jersey, he was the son of the late Martin Moses and Rebecca (Dreznick) Lehr. On July 7, 1991, he married Janet Kingery at the Wyman Woods Park and they shared 31 wonderful years together.

Jay was an internationally renowned speaker, scientist, and author who testified before Congress on dozens of occasions on environmental issues and consulted with nearly every agency of the national government, as well as many foreign countries.

Jay was a leading authority on groundwater hydrology. After graduating from Princeton University at the age of 20 with a degree in Geological Engineering, he went on to receive the nation’s first Ph.D. in Groundwater Hydrology from The University of Arizona.

Jay was a professor of Hydrogeology at The Ohio State University in the 1960s and an adjunct professor for many more years. He spent 25 years as Executive Director of the National Ground Water Association. He then spent 25 years as Senior Scientist for The Heartland Institute. Most recently, Jay was Senior Policy Advisor for the International Climate Science Coalition. Jay was passionate about educating others on the science behind the fallacy of man-made climate change.

Jay was the author of more than 1,000 magazine and journal articles and 36 books. He was editor of Rational Readings on Environmental Concerns; McGraw-Hill’s Handbook on Environmental Science, Health and Technology (2000); the six-volume Water Encyclopedia (Wiley Interscience, 2005); and Wiley Interscience’s Nuclear Energy Encyclopedia: Science, Technology, and Applications (2011).

Jay was the author of numerous publications for Heartland during his years as Science Director, testifying before Congress, state legislatures, and at administrative hearings hundreds of times. Among the most influential papers he produced for The Heartland Institute was one arguing that the U.S. EPA had long surpassed its usefulness and exceeded its authority, and should be replaced as a regulatory body by a committee composed of state Environmental Protection Agencies. While the EPA still exists, in 2016, Jay’s plan influenced the 2016 Republican Party Platform, which included provisions:

to shift responsibility for environmental regulation from the federal bureaucracy to the states and to transform the EPA into an independent bipartisan commission, similar to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, with structural safeguards against politicized science. We will strictly limit congressional delegation of rule-making authority, and require that citizens be compensated for regulatory takings.

Jay was an enthusiastic proponent of these provisions, seeing them as a stepping stone to the ultimate goal of ending the EPA as we know it.

Lehr spoke in front of thousands of audiences on topics ranging from global warming and biotechnology to business management and health and physical fitness, always receiving high scores for entertaining and energizing even the largest audiences. Jay always showed up to his global warming presentations with business cards, on the back of which were a list of 10 climate myths, and a carbon dioxide (CO2) reader, to show students, teachers, and whoever else composed his audience that CO2 is not a pollutant, or dangerous at any levels they are likely to encounter. Indeed, the readings of his CO2 reader showed audience members they lived their daily lives in environments where CO2 levels are much higher than climate scolds say are deadly to life on earth.

Jay was a participant in every International Climate Conference hosted by The Heartland Institute, and was awarded the “Dauntless Purveyor of Truth Award,” at the 13th International Conference on Climate Change in 2019. No person was ever more deserving of that award. One can view his acceptance of the award and many of his other insightful presentations here.

With his workload, it is hard to fathom how Jay found time to pursue so many extracurricular passions, but he did. Jay was known as the “Father of Western Lacrosse.” He was assistant lacrosse coach at The Ohio State University in the ’60s. He loved playing club lacrosse, hockey and men’s hardball. He founded the Columbus Metros semi-pro football team. He was an avid skydiver, 10-time Ironman finisher, and multiple marathon finisher.

Jay was a proud Princeton alum (class of ’57). He was known throughout the Princeton community for his participation in the “Princeton P-rade,” where he walked the parade route on his hands for 20 years, then completed the route annually on his unicycle for another 20 years. Jay was also known for his love of skydiving, having completed 1,481 successful jumps, always with exact precision in hitting his target, “Earth.” Indeed, Jay was featured in Parachutist, the magazine of the U.S. Parachute Association, in March 2010, for setting a new world record, having jumped from an airplane each and every month for 32 years.

Jay was the most optimistic and energetic person you will ever meet. He always inspired others to reach their highest potential. He adored his wife, Janet, and cherished doing everything together, from traveling to biking to watching Hallmark movies. Every day was Christmas Eve to Jay. In addition to Janet, he is survived by his daughters, Leslie (John Truby) Lehr and Tracy (Mike) de Martino; stepchildren, Tonia (Richard) Birt and Tom (Colleen) Kingery; grandchildren, Juliette, Caty Joy, Marie Claire, Josilynn, Spencer, Emily, Abigail, and Landon.

That’s the official stuff. All of it true.

Now for a few personal impressions. Jay was the most extreme climate skeptic I have ever known (truly sad to write that in the past tense). I heard him say on more than one occasion it was impossible that human greenhouse gas emissions were causing climate change. He thought the physics just didn’t add up.

I don’t recall ever speaking with Jay about religion, but I do know he lived his life in a way every Christian should aspire to. He lacked ego, he was exceedingly kind, he continually pursued new knowledge, and he was an eternal optimist.

Some personal recollections highlight his lack of ego and gracious embrace of criticism. I was fortunate to have edited a number of Jay’s book reviews for Environment & Climate News, his op-eds, and the quotes he provided for stories.

I have known many scholars to take every word they write as gold, with no room for improvement or leeway for alteration. They fight almost any edit to their work. Jay was not one of those writers.

In his writings, Jay wasn’t always the clearest communicator, at least not for lay audiences without a background in higher math, physics, or other scientific disciplines. Sometimes, it wasn’t clear, even to me, what exactly Jay was saying. On those occasions, rather than going back and forth with edits and corrections over multiple emails, I would call Jay directly, and he’d take whatever time it took to hash through my lack of clarity. The conversation typically proceeded in the form of a Socratic dialogue, with me asking questions about what exactly Jay was trying to communicate, asking for further clarification, sometimes offering corrections or my gloss on what he wanted to say, and finally honing in on language that clearly and simply communicated the complex idea Jay had crammed into a few jargon-laden sentences. At the end, I would write out what I understood he wanted to communicate, to which Jay would invariably say, “That’s fabulous, that’s exactly what I intended to say, Sterling, you made it so much clearer.”

I was always humbled by him saying so. Usually, my confusion wasn’t so great as to merit a phone call; often, I just thought Jay’s writing or quotes could be simpler, more direct, and more focused. On those occasions, when I edited his articles or quotes, I would always run my rewrite by Jay for approval. Jay consistently told me I didn’t need to do so, that he trusted me, and was confident if I thought a change was needed for clarity or style, he was sure it was true. I never took Jay up on that offer, thinking it improper to put my take on his words in his mouth. Jay was always effusive in his praise of my edits and rewrites.

No one has ever accused me of being an optimist, but Jay remained one until his final days. For instance, in the last podcast I conducted with Jay, he explained that, despite my gloomy prognosis, Socialism Will Not Win Despite the Current Energy/Supply Crises. I left this conversation more hopeful than when it began, but then that was true of almost every conversation or exchange I ever had with Jay.

I was truly looking forward to dining and speaking with Jay at Heartland’s forthcoming climate conference in Orlando. I always sought him out at these conferences. Now there is a hole in my schedule as well as my heart.

SOURCE: Tribute ArchiveThe Heartland Institute


The Climate Change Weekly Newsletter has been moved to Please check there for future updates!