Friday, February 17th 2012, 5:38 PM EST
In 1841 a Scottish journalist named Charles Mackay published a study of mass hysteria titled “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds.”
Mackay analyzed a wide variety of popular pathologies in his entertaining tome, including financial panics, medical quackery, alchemy, and witch crazes. He wanted to know why so many people choose to believe so much that is false and potentially deadly. His answer
“We go out of our course to make ourselves uncomfortable; the cup of life is not bitter enough to our palate, and we distill superfluous poison to put into it, or conjure up hideous things to frighten ourselves at, which would never exist if we did not make them.”
I could not help but think of global warming as I was re-reading Mackay’s words. He would have recognized it as kin to his own numerous and insidious subjects—superstition masked as science; Western guilt over having conquered the world manifesting itself as hatred for the technologies that made it possible; apocalyptic yearning in the guise of political enlightenment.
In fact, global warming is the most widespread mass hysteria in our species’ history. The fever that these legions of warmists warn of does not grip the globe, but rather their own brains and blinkered imaginations.
And like every mass delusion, there is danger – danger that Man will be convinced by these climate cultists to turn his back on the very political, economic, and scientific institutions that made him so powerful, so wealthy, so healthy.
Will the fever break before this happens?
I think so.
I think the fever is breaking, as more and more scientists come forward to admit their doubts about the global warming paradigm.
Just last September, Ivar Giaever, a Nobel Prize winning physicist, resigned from the American Physical Society (APS) over that organization’s climate change orthodoxy.
In his resignation letter to APS, Giaever lambasted the society’s public stance that global warming is an incontrovertible fact:
“In the APS it is ok to discuss whether the mass of the proton changes over time and how a multi-universe behaves, but the evidence of global warming is incontrovertible? The claim (how can you measure the average temperature of the whole earth for a whole year?) is that the temperature has changed from ~288.0 to ~288.8 degree Kelvin in about 150 years, which (if true) means to me is that the temperature has been amazingly stable, and both human health and happiness have definitely improved in this ‘warming’ period.”
And recently in the Wall Street Journal 16 prominent scientists, including physicists, meteorologists and climatologists, came forward to express solidarity with Giaever, writing:
“…large numbers of scientists, many very prominent, share the opinions of Dr. Giaever. And the number of scientific “heretics” is growing with each passing year. The reason is a collection of stubborn scientific facts. Perhaps the most inconvenient fact is the lack of global warming for well over 10 years now. This is known to the warming establishment, as one can see from the 2009 “Climategate” email of climate scientist Kevin Trenberth: ‘The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t.’”
So why do so many still cling to the hope of climate change catastrophe? The scientists offer their own view in the Journal:
“Alarmism over climate is of great benefit to many, providing government funding for academic research and a reason for government bureaucracies to grow.”
Fortunately this strange fever is breaking, and voters are becoming ever more suspicious of government-mandated schemes to control their “carbon emissions,” which is just a bureaucrat’s way of curbing productivity, and therefore liberty.
In centuries hence the global warming boogeyman will be seen for exactly what it is – The Great Delusion. Future generations will wonder how so many people could have believed something so suicidally ridiculous.
Unless they read Charles Mackay’s wonderful book.
Matt Patterson is the Warren Brookes Fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute and senior editor at the Capital Research Center. He can be reached at Mpatterson.firstname.lastname@example.org.
H/T John O'Sullivan