Global warming (aka “climate change”) has become a religious mantra, a call for action in a crusade against larger evils we have perpetrated against nature, a punishment for our sins. Author Michael Crichton articulated the essence of this creed in a 2003 speech in which he observed:
There’s an initial Eden, a paradise, a state of grace and unity with Nature; there’s a fall from grace into a state of pollution as a result from eating from the tree of knowledge; and as a result of our actions, there is a judgment day coming for all of us. We are energy sinners, doomed to die, unless we seek salvation, which is now called sustainability. Sustainability is salvation in the church of the environment, just as organic food is its communion, that pesticide-free wafer that the right people with the right beliefs imbibe.
Let’s recognize that Crichton was not arguing against the importance of living more environmentally responsible lives that apply resources in sustainable ways, or against the central role that religion plays in guiding most of us, whether we subscribe to a particular orthodoxy or not. But that idyllic view of an Eden in the “good old days” before industrialization and modern technology wrecked everything warrants some objective reflection.
Realities going back a few hundred years and more reveal a different picture; one displaying widespread poverty, starvation, disease and hardship. Yes, throughout human history, people have had to adapt to climate changes – some long, some severe, and many unpredictable. They have blamed themselves for bad seasons, believing they had invoked the displeasure of the gods through a large variety of offenses.
High priests of doom told them so, extracting oaths of fealty and offerings of penance for promised interventions on their behalf. In this regard, at least for some, it seems little has changed. That penance today comes at a very high cost…our present and future national economy.
Nobel Physics laureate Ivar Giaever has called global warming a “new religion.” Its temple is built on grounds of faith rather than scientific foundations. Climate change is not Mother Nature’s retribution for human audacity to multiply and survive, any more than a tornado that destroys a particular church is God’s retribution for belonging to the “wrong” congregation” Get over it! It’s not all about us!
Climate changes and shorter-term weather events are the way nature balances itself, move heat and moisture around, and provide motivations for species to evolve. CO2 is a small but nonetheless important part of the system. Without it life would not exist at all. No polar bears, no penguins, no coral reefs – and certainly no rain forests that directly breathe in lots of the stuff. Don’t call it “pollution.” At least show it a little respect!
Global warming has been effectively marketed by doom-speakers because it provides really exciting visual impressions: icebergs calving, polar bears exhausted from swimming, and such. Endless “authorities’ will back up these images with scary prophesies regarding just how bad things are likely to get based upon speculative theories and unproven computer models offered as articles of faith.
Religious history is replete with stories of floods, from Noah to Gilgamesh. But melting and freezing patterns are far too complex and regional to be predicted by models. In addition, accurate satellite records only recently became available. It’s also important to note that higher and lower atmospheric CO2 concentration trends have tended to follow, not lead, temperature changes which have occurred for a large variety and combination of natural reasons.
Knee-jerk responses to alarmist forecasts make for great media, but do so at the expense of good science. If claims that continuous Greenland melting accelerations were correct, even at previously measured advancing rates (and precluding intervention of another potentially overdue Ice Age), it would take thousands of years to significantly affect sea levels.
Anyone with even a modicum of knowledge about climate history recognizes that the Arctic experiences substantial climate swings about every 60-70 years due to entirely natural ocean oscillation cycles. It was very much warmer 1,000 years ago when Eric the Red and his band of Icelandic Viking settlers raised livestock on Greenland’s coastal grasslands. I certainly didn’t see any sheep or goats during my year there in 1959-60 as a military air traffic controller when temperatures reached 60 degrees below zero.
A study presented in the July 2008 issue of the journal Science notes that Greenland’s melt rate may have been recently decreasing once again when viewed over a long timescale. This research, led by Dr. Roderick S. W. van de Wal of the Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research in Utrecht, was based upon 17 years of satellite measurements. It concluded that speedups in melting rates are strictly short-term, transient phenomena, occurring primarily during summer months.
Al Gore and other perhaps less divinely inspired modern-day Noahs continue to speak out about an imminent threat of floods posed by rising ocean levels resulting from melting ocean and glacier ice. The “Goracle” carried out his prophetic ministry at the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Summit, declaring an impending Arctic disaster.
Citing “new research” undertaken at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, Gore told attendees, “These figures are fresh. Some of the models suggest to Dr. [Wieslaw] Maslowski that there is a 75% chance the entire north polar ice cap, during the summer months, could be completely ice-free within five to seven years…It is hard to capture the astonishment that the experts in the science of ice saw when they saw this.”
Scientists were, in fact, astonished by Gore’s statements. One was none other than Dr. Maslowski himself, who responded, “It’s unclear how the figure was arrived at. I would never try to estimate likelihood at anything as exact as this.” Gore’s office later admitted that the 75% figure was one used by Dr. Maslowski as a “ballpark figure” several years ago in a conversation with Gore.
Global warming zealots have launched an aggressive jihad against those they brand as “deniers”, often asserting presumed fossil energy affiliations to those who don’t buy into their hysterical pronouncements. Another tactic is to conflate rejection of unfounded human-caused climate crisis alarmism with an absurd denial that climate changes regularly occur, or that human activities may have some influence (however incalculably minuscule, either with respect to warming or cooling, those effects may be). They would also have us believe that periods of global warming are assuredly “bad”, and have even caused recent global cooling! In other words, all climate change is bad.
In the church of climate change, most or all unfortunate events that occur are attributable to human causation. Eco-elitists seize upon this dogma to argue that economic growth, promulgated by spurious corporate interests, is the enemy of the environment.
They overlook the fact that that economic progress yields technological innovation and prosperity essential to support more resourceful, cleaner and healthier lifestyles. A return to small, self-sufficient, agrarian communal societies of our ancestors is no longer practical or desirable, either for us or other creatures that share and depend upon common ecosystems.
Whether or not we subscribe to a particular orthodoxy, religion plays a vital, if not central role in most of our lives, guiding us to believe we are all part of something much larger than ourselves. It provides age-old lessons that teach us the importance of taking responsibility for our actions, constantly motivating us to do better. Faith in those universal principles binds us together as stable, functioning societies.
Science also has a vital, but very different role. When purported “scientific experts” emulate spiritual prophets they overstep their bounds, and we can no longer trust them.
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