Skip to comments.‘A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Climate Apocalypse’
Posted on 12/01/2011 6:00:23 AM PST by IbJensen
Actually, a couple of funny things happened to global warmings Vatican, as Bret Stephens notes in a must-read Wall Street Journal essay: ClimateGate and the worlds financial meltdown:
The U.S., Russia, Japan, Canada and the EU have all but confirmed they wont be signing on to a new Kyoto. The Chinese and Indians wont make a move unless the West does. The notion that rich (or formerly rich) countries are going to ship $100 billion every year to the Micronesias of the world is risible, especially after theyve spent it all on Greece.
Cap and trade is a dead letter in the U.S. Even Europe is having second thoughts about carbon-reduction targets that are decimating the continents heavy industries and cost an estimated $67 billion a year. Green technologies have all proved expensive, environmentally hazardous and wildly unpopular duds.
All this has been enough to put the Durban political agenda on hold for the time being. But religions dont die, and often thrive, when put to the political sidelines. A religion, when not physically extinguished, only dies when it loses faith in itself.
Thats where the Climategate emails come in. First released on the eve of the Copenhagen climate summit two years ago and recently updated by a fresh batch, the hide the decline emails were an endless source of fun and lurid fascination for those of us who had never been convinced by the global-warming thesis in the first place.
But the real reason they mattered is that they introduced a note of caution into an enterprise whose motivating appeal resided in its increasingly frantic forecasts of catastrophe. Papers were withdrawn; source material re-examined. The Himalayan glaciers, it turned out, werent going to melt in 30 years. Nobody can say for sure how high the seas are likely to riseif much at all. Greenland isnt turning green. Florida isnt going anywhere.
The reply global warming alarmists have made to these disclosures is that they did nothing to change the underlying science, and only improved it in particulars. So what to make of the U.N.s latest supposedly authoritative report on extreme weather events, which is tinged with admissions of doubt and uncertainty? Oddly, the report has left climate activists stuttering with rage at what they call its watered down predictions. If nothing else, they understand that any belief system, particularly ones as young as global warming, cannot easily survive more than a few ounces of self-doubt.
Jonah Goldbergs Liberal Fascism is ultimately about the various strains of what Richard Pipes has called heresies of socialism building and rebuilding counter religions to the wests Judeo-Christian traditions. As Jonah wrote:
The notion that communism and Nazism are polar opposites stems from the deeper truth that they are in fact kindred spirits. Or, as Richard Pipes has written, Bolshevism and Fascism were heresies of socialism. Both ideologies are reactionary in the sense that they try to re-create tribal impulses. Communists champion class, Nazis race, fascists the nation. All such ideologieswe can call them totalitarian for nowattract the same types of people.
Today, we often use the word holistic as a kinder, gentler substitute for totalitarianism particularly since the left has made not just the personal political, but everything a person does, says, eats, wears, buys, etc. And global warming is nothing if not a mechanism to politicize those aspects of an individuals life, as well as shared experiences such as work, housing, transportation, and everything else. And in that sense, it really is a substitute religion or a core component of an larger substitute religion, which has long been a goal of the left as both Jonahs quote above highlights, and as Umberto Eco wrote in 2005:
The ideologies such as communism that promised to supplant religion have failed in spectacular and very public fashion. So were all still looking for something that will reconcile each of us to the inevitability of our own death.
G K Chesterton is often credited with observing: When a man ceases to believe in God, he doesnt believe in nothing. He believes in anything. Whoever said it he was right. We are supposed to live in a sceptical age. In fact, we live in an age of outrageous credulity.
The death of God, or at least the dying of the Christian God, has been accompanied by the birth of a plethora of new idols. They have multiplied like bacteria on the corpse of the Christian Church from strange pagan cults and sects to the silly, sub-Christian superstitions of The Da Vinci Code.
And this has been a leitmotif of the last 100 years or so, as well explore right after the page break.
Because neither of my flights back home on Monday after visiting relatives for Thanksgiving had Wi-Fi, I ended up rereading big swatches of the Kindle version of Paul Johnsons Modern Times on my Galaxy Tab. Modern Times begins famously with Johnsons brilliant moral relativity opening:
At the beginning of the 1920s the belief began to circulate, for the first time at a popular level, that there were no longer any absolutes: of time and space, of good and evil, of knowledge, above all of value. Mistakenly but perhaps inevitably, relativity became confused with relativism.
No one was more distressed than Einstein by this public misapprehension. He was bewildered by the relentless publicity and error which his work seemed to promote. He wrote to his colleague Max Born on 9 September 1920: Like the man in the fairy-tale who turned everything he touched into gold, so with me everything turns into a fuss in the newspapers. Einstein was not a practicing Jew, but he acknowledged a God. He believed passionately in absolute standards of right and wrong.
He lived to see moral relativism, to him a disease, become a social pandemic, just as he lived to see his fatal equation bring into existence nuclear warfare. There were times, he said at the end of his life, when he wished he had been a simple watchmaker.
The public response to relativity was one of the principal formative influences on the course of twentieth-century history. It formed a knife, inadvertently wielded by its author, to help cut society adrift from its traditional moorings in the faith and morals of Judeo-Christian culture.
Those sorts of observations are peppered throughout the book. I was struck yesterday by this juxtaposition a third of the way through Johnsons book, around the time he describes Hitler gearing up for World War II:
Race-poisoning was a comparatively common obsession in the time of Hitlers youth, rather as ecological poisoning became an obsession of many in the 1970s and 1980s. The notion of ubiquitous poisoning appealed strongly to the same type of person who accepted conspiracy theories as the machinery of public events. As with the later ecologists, they thought the race-poison was spreading fast, that total disaster was imminent, and that it would take a long time to reverse even if the right policies were adopted promptly.
Substitute religions often end up embracing a form of doomsday eschatology, which can be a useful way of both increasing their self-importance and speeding up their goals, which also dovetails well with one of my favorite passages from Progressives Against Progress by Fred Siegel in City Journal:
If one were to pick a point at which liberalisms extraordinary reversal began, it might be the celebration of the first Earth Day, in April 1970. Some 20 million Americans at 2,000 college campuses and 10,000 elementary and secondary schools took part in what was the largest nationwide demonstration ever held in the United States. The event brought together disparate conservationist, antinuclear, and back-to-the-land groups into what became the church of environmentalism, complete with warnings of hellfire and damnation. Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, the founder of Earth Day, invoked responsible scientists to warn that accelerating rates of air pollution could become so serious by the 1980s that many people may be forced on the worst days to wear breathing helmets to survive outdoors. It has also been predicted that in 20 years man will live in domed cities.
Thanks in part to Earth Days minions, progress, as liberals had once understood the term, started to be reviled as reactionary. In its place, Nature was totemized as the basis of the authenticity that technology and affluence had bleached out of existence. It was only by rolling in the mud of primitive practices that modern man could remove the stain of sinful science and materialism. In the words of Joni Mitchells celebrated song Woodstock: We are stardust / We are golden / And we got to get ourselves back to the garden.
* * * * *
Crankery, in short, became respectable. In 1972, Sir John Maddox, editor of the British journal Nature, noted that though it had once been usual to see maniacs wearing sandwich boards that proclaimed the imminent end of the Earth, they had been replaced by a growing number of frenzied activists and politicized scientists making precisely the same claim. In the years since then, liberalism has seen recurring waves of such end-of-days hysteria. These waves have shared not only a common pattern but often the same cast of characters. Strangely, the promised despoliations are most likely to be presented as imminent when Republicans are in the White House. In each case, liberals have argued that the threat of catastrophe can be averted only through drastic actions in which the ordinary political mechanisms of democracy are suspended and power is turned over to a body of experts and supermen.
Back in the early 1970s, it was overpopulation that was about to destroy the Earth. In his 1968 book The Population Bomb, Paul Ehrlich, who has been involved in all three waves, warned that the battle to feed all of humanity is over on our crowded planet. He predicted mass starvation and called for compulsory sterilization to curb population growth, even comparing unplanned births with cancer: A cancer is an uncontrolled multiplication of cells; the population explosion is an uncontrolled multiplication of people. An advocate of abortion on demand, Ehrlich wanted to ban photos of large, happy families from newspapers and magazines, and he called for new, heavy taxes on baby carriages and the like. He proposed a federal Department of Population and Environment that would regulate both procreation and the economy. But the population bomb, fear of which peaked during Richard Nixons presidency, never detonated. Population in much of the world actually declined in the 1970s, and the green revolution, based on biologically modified foods, produced a sharp increase in crop productivity.
PJMs Zombie noted in 2009 that Ehrlichs ideas were embraced by men such as John Holdren, now President Obamas Science Czar, whos also now very much on the apocalyptic warming bandwagon or rocket, in Holdrens case. And apocalyptic warming brings us back to Bret Stephens for his conclusion:
Great religions are wise enough to avoid marking down the exact date when the world comes to an end. Not so for the foolish religions. Expect Mayan cosmology to take a hit to its reputation when the world doesnt end on Dec. 21, 2012. Expect likewise when global warming turns out to be neither catastrophic nor irreversible come 2017.
Actually more than a few doomsday countdowns will have expired by then such as this one. Since the early 1970s, whenever environmentalists are in the spotlight, they feel compelled to say We only have [fill in the blank] years to save the Earth. Or to put it another way: Earth survives; ManBearPig hardest hit.
This happens to all multimillionaires who sign on to Marxist logic. All Marxists are crazy.
That is being too kind. They remain expensive - in spite of federal subsidies (your money and mine). Environmentally hazardous doesn't even begin to cut it - consider what to do with all the Prius batteries (ie. chemical cocktails) and CFLs (have you read the recommended cleanup procedure if one breaks?). Unpopular? Hey, how are those lo-flow toilets working out? Like your lo-flow shower head? Like seeing the landscape covered in solar panels and the horizon marred by windmills? (full disclosure, I do think LED technology and lights are pretty cool, no pun intended)
The man-caused GW scam is just the basis. The whole "green" industry is just a collection of offshoots from it.
Superb essay. Thanks for posting.
BUMP so I can reread later.
Yes! Environmentalism is simply a new religion. People will always find something equivalent to religion when they renounce religion. At least most people who are religious in the traditional way recognize that they are in a belief system and that others are steeped in belief systems that are as valid to them. However people in environmentalism or other such political substitutes are oblivious to this and tend to become fanatical. I especially have noticed what the author pointed out in this part:
... the left has made not just the personal political, but everything a person does, says, eats, wears, buys, etc.
Leftist movements are always driven by envy, primarily visible size envy. They hate large cars and trucks, large families, large houses. Hate develops from envy which develops from vanity, so really all leftism is vanity. Instead of a self-esteem movement churning out more damaged leftists we really need a humility movement to address the root cause of envy. Humility is a virtue, inflated self-esteem is a vice.