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I’m an avowed skeptic on anthropogenic climate change. Sure, humans might be responsible for some negligible shift in global temperatures. But these feeble contributions pale in comparison to those caused by the sun (e.g., changes in solar radiation) and earth (e.g., volcanic activity, weather patterns). I also believe that the climate is supposed to vary over time; this is to be expected, not feared.
While it’s easy for me to poke fun at environmental alarmism by the left, many smart, well-meaning people are caught up in the panic. Some cynical players are whipping up the hysteria to make money or expand political power. However, many activists and those who fund them seemingly have good intentions.
How did these people arrive at such a different conclusion? While we can debate the scientific evidence and criticize a sensationalist media, there is a deeper cultural phenomenon at work. Much eco-alarmism has to do with religious belief.
Over the last century and a half, Western beliefs have changed drastically. While many people more or less followed the faith of their fathers, some turned to other beliefs while others stopped believing altogether. Even traditional religions have been significantly impacted by these trends.
Nature abhors a vacuum and where one religious belief fades, another often assumes its place. As the famously skeptical author Michael Crichton said, “if you suppress [religion] in one form, it merely re-emerges in another form… you still have to believe in something that gives meaning to your life, and shapes your sense of the world.”
For many, environmentalism is their religion. They present the religious concept of Eden, where ancient societies supposedly lived in harmony with nature. The fall from grace occurred most strikingly with the industrial revolution, in which man belched evil into our skies and waters. Every sin requires punishment: rising temperatures and superstorms are sent to lead us to repentance.
And if we don’t repent, the prophets warn of ecological Armageddon. Conveniently, carbon credits work like the selling of Reformation-era indulgences, allowing righteous jet-setters to purchase a clean conscience. And if you doubt the high priests of climate change, your heresy will be publically condemned followed by a swift excommunication.
These religious aspects make it that much tougher to hold a rational discussion with a believer in apocalyptic climate change. Instead of thoughtfully listening to rational points, the eco-puritan will often shout down the skeptic with a modern spin on “burn the witch!”
Thankfully, the Constitution prevents our government from forcing us to follow their choice of religion. We don’t need to attend a state church or bow to a golden statue of Al Gore wielding a hockey stick.
But this also means we shouldn’t be compelled to tithe to the government’s New Green Church. And for that, let every taxpayer say “Amen.”
Follow Jon on Twitter at @ExJon.