Global Warming's Doomsday Prophets

Global Warming's Doomsday Prophets

By Rich Lowry - December 8, 2009

The phrase "doomsday cult" entered our collective vocabulary after John Lofland published his 1966 study, "Doomsday Cult: A Study of Conversion, Proselytization, and Maintenance of Faith." Lofland wrote about the Unification Church. His subject could almost as easily have been the Church of Warmism.

Its college of cardinals has gathered in Copenhagen amid professions of an imminent global apocalypse that allow no room for doubt or deviation. "The clock has ticked down to zero," declared U.N. climate chief Yvo de Boer. Yes, the end is nigh, just as surely as when the Millerites gathered on Oct. 22, 1844, to witness the Second Coming, only to comfort themselves at the end of the night, "Well, maybe next year."

Copenhagen's opening session featured a video of children pleading, "Please help save the world." Had these precocious kids carefully reviewed the costs and benefits of a large-scale global carbon-rationing scheme? Of course not. They were props in the climate confab's effort to propagandize itself, in the kind of closed loop always welcomed by true believers.

This doctrinaire impulse jumps off the page of the recently disclosed e-mails from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, an outfit at the heart of climate science. MIT's Michael Schrage says the e-mails reveal "malice, mischief and Machiavellian maneuverings." George Monbiot, a leading journalistic promoter of climate alarmism, wrote after the release, "I was too trusting of some of those who provided the evidence I championed."

At Copenhagen, they'll have none of it. "It's clearly an illegal attempt to create confusion," U.N. IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri said of the hack - or leak - of the e-mails, capturing the deeply illiberal temper of the defenders of the warmist faith.

In a vintage statement of classical liberalism, John Stuart Mill wrote, "Since the general or prevailing opinion on any subject is rarely or never the whole truth, it is only by the collision of adverse opinions that the remainder of the truth has any chance of being supplied."

In the climate debate, the self-professed advocates of "science" have done everything they can to silence adverse opinions, declaring important questions about the history and future of the climate "settled" even though they are shot through with uncertainty. The same people who tend to put "Question Authority" bumper stickers on their cars have made "skeptics" and "doubters" dirty words in the climate debate.

It's the vastness of the project "to transform the way we run the planet," in the words of the Associated Press, that makes the slightest questioning impermissible. Emissions in a developed country like the U.S., we're told, have to be 80 percent beneath 1990 levels by 2050 to avoid catastrophe. On a per capita basis, Steve Hayward of the American Enterprise Institute writes, emissions were probably never that low, "even back in colonial days when the only fuel we burned was wood. The only nations in the world today that emit at this low level are all poor developing nations, such as Belize, Mauritius, Jordan, Haiti, and Somalia."

Imprudent on its face, this scheme becomes lunacy if its premises aren't utterly unassailable. But the CRU e-mails reveal the inherent uncertainty of the science - or art - of climate reconstruction that gave us the controversial "hockey stick" graph showing essentially flat temperatures stretching back centuries until the 1990s, when they dramatically spiked upward toward a predicted apocalypse.

Polling shows the American public less alarmed about global warming despite the perpetual hectoring about impending doom. Not to worry. The Obama administration is preparing to take a pass on the inconvenient business of convincing elected representatives to implement costly measures to suppress carbon emissions and instead do it through fiat at the Environmental Protection Agency.

When the world is about to end, the rigors of democratic persuasion are as unwelcome as skepticism and caution. "I have such doubts!" Sister Aloysius declares at the end of the aptly named play Doubt. For defenders of the climate faith, that's strictly forbidden.

Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review.

© 2009 by King Features Syndicate

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