It puzzles me, if only because I am usually cheerful and optimistic, why there is such anxiety about ‘climate change’. I’ve put forward before the view that environmentalism has become a quasi-religion, and religions commonly warn us of the doom ahead if we don’t mend our ways. But that doesn’t wholly persuade me, even if it does you.

I came across a somewhat oddball contribution to my knowledge about all this on WUWT, and you can read it here. I’ve edited it slightly, and the original is rather longer. But I think what I’ve extracted is worth a read. There author is Charles Battig MD, and he has written qute a lot on subjects like this one, and you can follow his work through the WUWT link.

Forget the nuances of climate sensitivity, the mathematical sign, + or -, of cloud feedbacks, solar influences, and geological and astronomical cycles. For the public at large, a worrisome scare story will oft outdo the best efforts at logical refutation. Consider how much greater is the effort to calm a panicked theater audience once someone has falsely cried out “fire,” as the frightened mob rushes for the doors. Logical argument is trampled underfoot.

Amongst the imaginative list of climate induced impacts claimed are those detrimental to both our physical and mental health. In the spirit of post-normal science, also known as “abby-normal” science, I offer an explanation for the public’s fear of climate change … one based on our current cultural mores.

The Hollywood self-adulation and eternal youth culture is supported by a plastic surgery industry, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals … both traditional and herbal. Life-prolonged mental clarity and youthful dexterity are goals of Zen yoga. The public has become mesmerized by images of (nearly) non-ageing stars, and wants the same for itself. They might be termed the “Botox® generation.” No wrinkles, no sags with the passage of time, no physical changes as one chronologically ages. Ageing shall be free from the threat of senility. Public expectation is that one is able to “non-age” in the fulfillment of philosopher/mathematician Leibnitz’s proposition that “we live in the best of all possible worlds.” This best is now; no change needed; change is bad; change is “abby-normal.”

Juxtaposition of the two only moderately worrisome words “climate” and “change” has produced the killer app “climate change.” Of the two, change is the more emotionally charged word. The current cultural notion that traditional biological change can be altered at will is at the heart of the receptiveness of the public to concern over manmade climate change. Undesired change is experienced as bad for us as individuals, and bad for all species. If biological non-ageing can be human goal, why should the physical world not be changeless? Why must we endure climate change?

Thousands of years of climate adaptation by untold numbers of biological species is now viewed by climate alarmists as an obsolete process, as they assume that the global climate environment has reached its ultimate optimum state of “now.” Changes to this optimized “now” environment are viewed as insurmountable challenges of survival rather than part of the fabric of biological adaptation. No matter where on earth one is living, that environment is now held to the new standard of “no change.” Species extinction has become viewed as a manmade crime against mother Gaia. Weather patterns are now to remain confined to a stable narrow range of not too hot, not too cold. Not too many nor too unusual tornadoes, hurricanes, or sea level rise lest there be a hint of change.

For the “Botoxed generation,” the thing they fear is change itself. Try to change that.

Some of this argument appeals to me. Just as I think the notion of past ‘golden ages’, where things were much better then than they are now, needs a properly sceptical consideration, so do I doubt that there was a ‘climate’ anywhere that was just about right, and didn’t ever change. After a good deal of reading, it seems to me that most species on the planet, including ourselves, would find the world rather more environmentally friendly if it were a degree or two warmer — given that such warming is most likely to occur, as I understand the IPCC argument, in the temperate and polar regions. So far, the warming that may have occurred in the past fifty years seems to have been beneficial.

One thing Dr Battig didn’t say, but might have, is that the notion that ‘now’ is the most important time of all in the world’s history can be immensely appealing to those who know what we should all do in consequence — and they include people who believe that the Earth will end on October 22nd 2015, as well as the more extreme AGW scarers. I read somewhere recently, with respect to art criticism, that it is more sensible to see our time as yet another period in human history, which will be followed, in due course, by another, and that at least some of our judgments now will be viewed, even if sympathetically, with a smile.

Our judgements about the menace of global warming are likely to fall into that category, IMHO.

Join the discussion 11 Comments

  • PeterE says:

    Napoleon said that there are two levers to move men: fear and greed. If you divide the world into three types – ‘security’, ‘future’ and ‘people’ – it is the security types who fear change. The only way to dissuade them from this fear is to counter the fear with a worse fear. Thus it would be necessary to suggest that if you interfere in present arrangements by, say, erecting windmills and solar panels, going nuclear, or fracking, far worse outcomes can be expected. ‘No, no, not coal – anything but coal!’ ‘Anything but coal?’ ‘No, no, coal.’ Maybe it would work.

  • David says:

    “It puzzles me, if only because I am usually cheerful and optimistic…”

    Well it puzzles me too. Because I don’t get the feeling that you are cheerful and optimistic about the outcome of the AGW debate. And you should be.

    1. You “know” global warming is not an issue because the temperature rise has stopped etc.

    2. Carbon tax and other measures such as RET are being scaled back in Australia.

    So surely you must on the whole feel pretty pleased with how the AGW debate is going. From your perspective haven’t you pretty much won the debate?
    The only thing that could spoil it from your point of view would be if temperatures were to now rise because the warmists would come out of woodwork. But warming has stopped so that is very unlikely to happen.

    • Don Aitkin says:

      No, David. My puzzlement is about why, at a time of abundance, creativity and education, so many people have decided that the world is in danger. They ought to be more confident, it seems to me. After all, we seem to have dealt with other imagined catastrophes in the past, so why not this one?

      It is true that the excitement has diminished, especially within government. But it is the body of the population, and those committed to catastrophe, like the Greens leader, who puzzle me. It isn’t all that hard to look at the argument and the evidence.

      I will return to the logarithmic relationship of CO2 and temperature when I return home. I have been in the bush for the past week, able to post through the courtesy of those with satellite dishes, but not able to do much else. I will be back home in a further week.

      • David says:

        Hi Don
        Ok I understand what you mean. Yes I think humans have always had some attraction to” the end of world is nigh” You see it in the Bible, and other various cults. You see it is the Greens. You also see it in people like Joe Hockey who panic at the idea of zero “growth.”
        I will look forward to your post.
        Enjoy your holiday in the bush.
        David

    • Peter Kemmis says:

      David

      Around the early 2000s I was genuinely concerned about the predictions of global warming. I was running a sheep property, had been dealing with drought for some years, and things were pretty tough and dry. At the same time, based on quite some years of closeness with the natural world, and on my general knowledge of how it operated around the world, I knew how remarkably well it semed to recover – not necessarily back to just how it looked within our short lifespans, but just its capacity to bounce back. I think you may have said you do some bushwalking, so you’ll know what I mean.

      But I was somewhat worried, not to the extent that a tough drought worried me, but worried, in that inimitable phrase, for my grandchildren. It was not until about four years ago, when I had some time to start looking at the observations and argument, that I realised that there were quite insufficient grounds to be concerned about global warming, let alone anthropogenic causes. (I had always distinguished between pollution and carbon dioxide emissions, do not like our throw-away society turfing its rubbish anywhere . . all those things that I know you also oppose.)

      So I am indeed happy that we do not face this threat of catastrophic global warming, let alone human-caused. For me it’s not a case of winning the argument, over which the sceptical side is making increasing ground, and will eventually “win”. My greater concern is the apparent incapacity of many (especially those well-educated) to take note of the observations, carefully evaluate the arguments, then draw their own conclusions. We now have two generations in the Western world who have been taught much about the environment, but seen through the dark glass of man’s failures to care for it. So they were ripe to be proselytized, as they have been quite thoroughly. Interestingly, I find among the later generations of those I meet with who are not tertiary-educated, a high degree of AGW-scepticism, whereas here in Canberra, warmists predominate among the tertiary educated.

      As social beings, we rely heavily on authority. Ask the typical warmist what it would take for a change of mind, and the answer is likely to be “when the scientists tell me otherwise”. (Mind you, I did have one commenter on Skepticalscience – a misnomer if ever there was – write in response that no extra warming in the troposphere would lead to his/her change of mind. I wonder if that person is now a sceptic, because the troposphere sure is!)

      An example of dialogue with someone who relies heavily on authority, was an extensive interchange I had on Don’s site back in the third week of last May with a Glentonjelbert. I thought he was genuine, and very patient with me. Should he become a sceptic in due course, recognising the path he has travelled, he will be of great value to society because of what he has gained through that process of learning – not just about climate, but about the analysis of evidence and argument, and about his own ways of handling them.

      So what has puzzled me is the human incapacity to be more objective about climate evidence. I’ve come to the view that emotion drives us far more than we think, sometimes with good results, but in the case of climate understanding, with very poor results. And of course, climate misunderstanding is just one instance of this human failing.

      I’ll be interested in your further reflections on this issue.

      • David says:

        This is a nice post.
        I think each side of the AGW debate, can regard their own point of view as “objective” and the alternative as “emotional”. From an environmentalists perspective they may argue the need to consume is emotional. If I stole $100 from you, your emotion would be evident. 🙂
        The thing I find interesting about this debate is that each year a new average global temperature will be recorded. It will strengthen one point of view over the other.

        • Peter Kemmis says:

          OK David,

          Let me put it another way: we humans can let our present convictions about some matter prevent a careful assessment of some fresh, measured evidence. If I feel very strongly about a particular conviction, that emotion may impede my capacity to be objective. That doesn’t mean that my feelings about the issue are unreasonable, nor that the new evidence is sufficient to change the grounds of my conviction.

          So in my view it’s natural that people can feel emotion over an issue, at the same time as being quite clear about the reasons for their opinions. Emotion and judgment can co-exist. I know you don’t disagree about that, but my point is that often emotion clouds judgment. Many that I meet who are firmly convinced about human responsibility for global warming, are quite unaware of the official temperature trends up, sideways, up and sideways again, of the last 100 or so years. They are unaware of how slowly and constantly the ocean levels are actually rising. They don’t hear about that either. They have a “data-free” position. So their fallback position is “well, it’s not going to stay that way”. And when I ask why, their answer is essentially they’re relying on the authority of what they are told, the orthodox view.

          Perhaps you’re right, thinking of these different positions through the perspectives of emotion does not help. I hadn’t thought that my need for regular breakfasts was emotional, but I wonder how many breakfasts that $100 would have covered?

          Incidentally, you’ve probably noticed some conversations on sceptic blogs, about papers suggesting we’re heading for some cooler decades. I’m not sure what to think about those, but I’d prefer them to be wrong. I remember the predictions of the 1970s about cooling, and I’m glad they were wrong.

          • DaveW says:

            Hi Peter – did you ever read Eric Hoffer’s ‘The True Believer’? From what I remember about it (it has been a long time, but I’ve seen some recent discussions, so some think the book still currently useful), Hoffer’s opinion was that true believers can’t afford to hold conflicting data about their beliefs. What is important is being part of the group and holding the group’s ideas. Even the ideas aren’t that important, it is being part of the group that is important – it gives meaning to one’s life.

          • Peter Kemmis says:

            Hi DaveW

            No, I haven’t read that book, but I know something about what hold a belief system can have over oneself. I never had a ‘belief’ in AGW or non-AGW, so it was quite simple to start looking at the evidence, unimpeded by any convictions. But I had indeed suffered (and I mean suffered) from the intellectual and emotional restrictions of my religious belief, right through my teens. I think Hoffer is quite correct about not being able to recognise let alone absorb conflicting ideas about one’s beliefs. The conviction is so over-riding, that to preserve rationality (i.e. not go bananas, but not necessarily really be ‘rational’, as I prefer to use the word), one has to discard contrary evidence and opinion.

            I think that such a change of view for a believer (a change that I made about religion), occurs over some time, and at the unconscious level. The need to belong may be the unconscious driving force, but is not recognised for what it is.

            However, I consider that there are many people who are not deeply convinced about the merits of (C)AGW, but they hear nothing or little of the arguments against, and so dismiss such scepticism. They are not ‘believers’ in Hoffer’s sense, and are open to evidence – for the present, they’re agnostic. For them, the path to enlightenment is simpler. (Please forgive my poor attempt at humour.) However, evidence may need to be presented to them piecemeal, so that it can be absorbed over some time. At some point, the agnostic may realise that she or he has actually become a sceptic, and be proud of it.

            Let’s look ahead a little. I think David (unless I quite unfairly interpret his post on this topic) is thinking that the sceptic side is “winning”. Well, it’s not a football game as we all know – the important point is that we try to be ready for what might transpire, and remedy what we can that is feasible. But we don’t chase non-existent hares or scares. So what will happen to those true believers? You might take away the grounds for their theology, but you haven’t taken away their need to belong, they’re ‘raison d’etre’. What next for them? Another cause? One to slip into quietly? Some way to save face?

            As I see it, the important message for the average ‘agnostic’ is “don’t let yourself be conned again! Ever!”

          • DaveW says:

            Hi Peter,
            Yes, I wonder what will happen to its true believers if CAGW falls apart? Part of Hoffer’s hypothesis was that extreme belief systems were interchangeable and he used the example of people switching between Nazism and Communism in Germany in the 20-30’s. The way the Left latched onto (and debased) Environmentalism after the fall of the USSR would seem to be consistent with his hypothesis. Perhaps they’ll give up ‘wilding’ for a totalitarian religious state in the Middle East, but more likely try to impose one here.

  • Gus says:

    No, the public’s fear doesn’t puzzle me at all. They’ve been meticulously, systematically, Goebbels-style brainwashed to fear climate change. To undo this, one would have to broadcast, with matching methodology, the positives of climate change. For Australia, for example, it may mean more rain and the expansion of tropical north. One would have to tell people this and add that Southern hemisphere’s semi-arid environment (mostly Australia and South Africa) absorbs the whopping 60% of CO2 uptake from the atmosphere and the continent has become greener in effect. The desert has shrunk by 11% worldwide (more in Australia). We owe this to CO2 in the atmosphere. It’s the duty of tne free media to inform the population about this.
    There’ll be always corrupt media that chooses to play Goebbels over this, simply because they have enviro-fascist sympathies themselves. But theirs is not the only media in the country, not yet anyway. It falls to the other side’s media then to counter their propaganda.

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