This week, after a six-year absence, Al Gore was greeted more like a liberal folk hero on Capitol Hill than a former vice president. His newfound fame, provided in part by two Oscar awards, helped persuade Senate Environment and Public Works chair Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) to relax the rules on his global warming testimony. Unlike others called to testify, Gore was not required to submit his planned testimony 48 hours in advance. Instead Boxer waived the rule, giving Gore preferential treatment and allowing committee members only a few hours to prepare for the hearing.

During the session, Gore's "Chicken Little" scenarios were met with skepticism, particularly from Senate Republicans like Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) who said he, like many scientists, believed the dire global warming projections were a "hoax." On the House side, the former vice president was called a prophet by some Democratic members but his revelations were challenged by others. Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) cited 600,000-year-old scientific evidence that Gore's carbon dioxide claims are false.

When Gore introduced a 10-point plan to make the environment a U.S. priority, conservatives argued that taking the steps he proposed would stifle the economy and harm the family. Mr. Gore is not the first prophet of doom. Not unlike 19th century political economist Thomas Malthus, who urged drastic steps to limit population growth because of the scarcity of resources, the proposed cure is more intrusive government. In time Malthus was proved wrong, but his heirs love on.