Monday, October 24, 2011

Global Warming Alarmism as a Religious Movement

Michael Barone has a very good article at Real Clear Politics on the religious character of the global warming movement entitled: "Cult of Global Warming Losing Influence".

Religious faith is a source of strength in many people's lives. But religious faith when taken too far can prove ludicrous -- or disastrous. . . .

They have an unshakeable faith that manmade carbon emissions will produce a hotter climate, causing multiple natural disasters. Their insistence that we can be absolutely certain this will come to pass is based not on science -- which is never fully settled, witness the recent experiments that may undermine Albert Einstein's theory of relativity -- but on something very much like religious faith.

All the trappings of religion are there. Original sin: Mankind is responsible for these prophesied disasters, especially those slobs who live on suburban cul-de-sacs and drive their SUVs to strip malls and tacky chain restaurants.

The need for atonement and repentance: We must impose a carbon tax or cap-and-trade system, which will increase the cost of everything and stunt economic growth.

Ritual, from the annual Earth Day to weekly recycling.

Indulgences, like those Martin Luther railed against: private jet-fliers like Al Gore and sitcom heiress Laurie David can buy carbon offsets to compensate for their carbon-emitting sins.

Corporate elitists, like General Electric's Jeff Immelt, profess to share this faith, just as cynical Venetian merchants and prim Victorian bankers gave lip service to the religious enthusiasms of their days. Bad for business not to. And if you're clever, you can figure out how to make money off it.

Believers in this religion have flocked to conferences in Rio de Janeiro, Kyoto and Copenhagen, just as Catholic bishops flocked to councils in Constance, Ferrara and Trent, to codify dogma and set new rules.

But like the Millerites, the global warming clergy has preached apocalyptic doom -- and is now facing an increasingly skeptical public. The idea that we can be so completely certain of climate change 70 to 90 years hence that we must inflict serious economic damage on ourselves in the meantime seems increasingly absurd.

If carbon emissions were the only thing affecting climate, the global-warming alarmists would be right. But it's obvious that climate is affected by many things, many not yet fully understood, and implausible that SUVs will affect it more than variations in the enormous energy produced by the sun.

Skeptics are often denounced as anti-science, but it is not anti-science to be skeptical. The heart of the scientific method is skepticism; without it science could not progress. Skeptics are not saying that there is no global warming; obviously, global warming has been going on since the last ice age. And skeptics do not deny that human activity affects the environment, though to what degree is less clear.

What skeptics are saying is a bit more complicated than a sound bite or slogan. They are saying is that there is no way to be sure that we know exactly how the climate will change in the future because we do not understand clearly enough all the factors that influence climate change. Given the limits of science at the moment, it makes more sense to keep researching and put money into mitigating the effects of climate change as necessary, rather than seriously harming our economy in an attempt to reduce human effects on climate that may or may not be decisive for climate.

Barone puts this well:

In recent years, we have seen how negative to 2 percent growth hurts many, many people, as compared to what happens with 3 to 7 percent growth. So we're much less willing to adopt policies that will slow down growth not just for a few years but for the indefinite future.

Media, university and corporate elites still profess belief in global warming alarmism, but moves toward policies limiting carbon emissions have fizzled out, here and abroad. It looks like we'll dodge the fate of the Millerites, the children's crusaders and the Mahdi's cavalrymen.

If we have protesters in the streets because of the recent recession, imagine an economic slowdown worse than what we have experienced being made permanent by deliberate government policy - and then imagine the anger.

No wonder governments have seen fit to back off the extreme measures being pushed by the environmentalist movement.

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