Carbon week: The church of climatism
Written by: Nigel Lawson
Climate scientists and their hangers-on have become the high priests of a new age of unreason
How is it that much of the Western world, and Europe in particular, has succumbed to the self-harming collective madness that is the climate change orthodoxy? It is difficult to escape the conclusion that climate change orthodoxy has in effect become a substitute religion, attended by all the intolerant zealotry that has so often marred religion in the past, and in some places still does so today.
Throughout the Western world, the two creeds that used to vie for popular support – Christianity and the atheistic belief system of Communism – are each clearly in decline. Yet people still feel the need both for the comfort and for the transcendent values that religion can provide. It is the quasi-religion of green alarmism and global salvationism, of which the climate change dogma is the prime example, that has filled the vacuum, with reasoned questioning of its mantras regarded as little short of sacrilege.
Just as the eco-fiscal community was gearing up to capitalize on the new papal crusade against carbon, along comes Pope Francis with an encyclical that rejects one of the core tenets of eco-fiscalism: carbon trading.
The parallel goes deeper. Throughout the ages the weather has been an important part of the religious narrative. In primitive societies it was customary for extreme weather events to be explained as punishment from the gods for the sins of the people; and there is no shortage of this theme in the Bible, either – particularly, but not exclusively, in the Old Testament. The contemporary version is that, as a result of heedless industrialization within a framework of materialistic capitalism, we have directly (albeit not deliberately) perverted the weather, and will duly receive our comeuppance.
There is another aspect, too, which may account for the appeal of this so-called explanation. Throughout the ages, something deep in man’s psyche has made him receptive to apocalyptic warnings that the end of the world is nigh. And almost all of us, whether we like it or not, are imbued with feelings of guilt and a sense of sin. How much less uncomfortable it is, how much more convenient, to divert attention away from our individual sins and reasons to feel guilty, and to sublimate them in collective guilt and collective sin.
Why does this matter? It matters, and matters a great deal, on two quite separate grounds. The first is that it has gone a long way towards ushering in a new age of unreason. It is a cruel irony that, while it was science which, more than anything else, was able by its great achievements to establish the age of reason, it is all too many climate scientists and their hangers-on who have become the high priests of a new age of unreason.
But what moves me most is that the policies invoked in its name are grossly immoral. We have, in the UK, devised the most blatant transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich – and I am slightly surprised that it is so strongly supported by those who consider themselves to be the tribunes of the people and politically on the Left. I refer to our system of heavily subsidizing wealthy landlords to have wind farms on their land, so that the poor can be supplied with one of the most expensive forms of electricity known to man.
More serious morally, because it is on a much larger scale, is the perverse intergenerational transfer of wealth implied by orthodox climate change policies. It is not much in dispute that future generations – those yet unborn – will be far wealthier than those – ourselves, our children, and for many of us our grandchildren – alive today. This is the inevitable consequence of the projected economic growth which, on a “business as usual” basis, drives the increased carbon emissions that in turn determine the projected future warming. It is surely perverse to abandon what is far and away the cheapest source of energy in order that future generations avoid any disadvantages that any warming might bring: this simply impoverishes those alive today in order to ensure that future generations, who will be signally better off regardless of what happens today, are better off still.
However, the greatest immorality of all concerns those in the developing world. It is excellent that, in so many parts of the developing world – the so-called emerging economies – economic growth is now firmly on the march, as they belatedly put in place the sort of economic policy framework that brought prosperity to the Western world. Inevitably, they already account for, and will increasingly account for, the lion’s share of global emissions.
Throughout the ages the weather has been an important part of the religious narrative.
But, despite their success, there are still hundreds of millions of people in these countries in dire poverty, suffering all the ills that this brings, in terms of malnutrition, preventable disease, and premature death. Asking these countries to abandon the cheapest available sources of energy is, at the very least, asking them to delay the conquest of malnutrition, to perpetuate the incidence of preventable disease, and to increase the number of premature deaths.
Global warming orthodoxy is not merely irrational. It is wicked.
Nigel Lawson, former UK finance minister under Margaret Thatcher, is chair of the Global Warming Policy Foundation. He speaks at Moses Znaimer’s Ideacity in Toronto Friday.