Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Church of Anthropogenic Global Warming


Welcome to the Church of Anthropogenic Global Warming, with the Reverend Billy McKibben!

Hallelujah, brothers and sisters! Bang your hands together! Let me hear you say "Amen!"

In McKibben's latest sermon: Global Warming's Terrifying New Math, The Beloved and Respected Reverend Pastor attempts to quantify the imminent Apocalypse by holding up the holy relics of Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW): the sacred 2 degrees Centigrade of allowable global temperature increase; the parable of the 565 Gigatons of CO2; and the holy sacrifice on the altar of CO2: 350 ppm.

According to his bio, Bill McKibben has been an active Methodist all of his life, and he openly recruits religion and religious leaders to play vital roles in protecting the Earth. “The future of Christian environmentalism may have something significant to do with the future of the planet,” he testifies in OnEarth, the proselytizing house organ of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

In The Christian paradox: How a faithful nation gets Jesus wrong, McKibben expresses his environmental and religious frustrations with modern life:

"America is simultaneously the most professedly Christian of the developed nations and the least Christian in its behavior. At the moment the idea of Jesus has been hijacked by people with a series of causes that do not reflect his teachings. … We were trying to get politicians to understand why the Bible actually mandated protecting the world around us (Noah: the first Green), work that I think is true and vital.”

In his 2005 book: The Comforting Whirlwind : God, Job, and the Scale of Creation acclaimed environmentalist and writer Bill McKibben turns to the biblical book of Job and its awesome depiction of creation to demonstrate our need to embrace a bold new paradigm for living if we hope to reverse the current trend of ecological destruction.” Google Books

It is no surprise to see Global Warming couched in religious terms. It has all of the classical Biblical trappings: a theological morality tale complete with Heaven, Hell, the Devil, angels and cherubim, confession, sins, retribution and redemption, with final salvation to eternity.

Global warming threatens descent into an eternal hell of fire and drought for those who don’t see the light, following the dreaded Tipping Point of inevitable irreversible climate collapse. We are shown vivid revelations of the great flood, of pestilence, plagues of insects, famine, disease, social collapse, war and death. We are cautioned against the great Devil denialist whispering doubts into our ears, challenging our faith in Global Warming. We are promised redemption if we just confess our sins and promise to change our ways. The promise of a new world, with abundance for all in eternity, lies just beyond the horizon studded with wind generators and papered with solar panels.

“Bless me Father for I have sinned. It has been two weeks since my last recycling. I am guilty of the sin of impure thoughts about Styrofoam plates. I coveted my neighbors SUV.”

The Reverend McKibben speaks glowingly of colleagues who have gained the faith: “Ronald Bailey, the science writer at Reason, converted a few years ago to belief in global warming and called for a carbon tax.”

McKibben’s website for this campaign: 350.org has a page for faith-based supporters of the Global Warming campaign, with a list of 40 “resources” for religious support, stating: “Communities of faith are at the forefront of the 350 movement.” One might assume this includes economical as well as spiritual support.

Pass the Love Offering plate, brothers.

The Faith page at 350.org also states: “350 represents more than just a scientific benchmark for a safe climate – there are also deeply moral and spiritual reasons for getting the world back below 350 ppm CO2.”

It is true, and somewhat frightening to consider, that 90% of the people in the United States believe in a god, and 80% of them believe in a return of Jesus Christ to save the world. This merely demonstrates that consensus opinion does not trump scientific reality. Climate science is not about belief, it is about rational observation, testing and verification of the evidence of the parameters of natural climate variation and the extent to which human activities influence those natural changes.

The “moral and spiritual” arguments employed as the basis of the perception of Anthropogenic Global Warming are anti-scientific. It is this irrational faith-based acceptance of proselytizing AGW proponents that is the greatest threat to an understanding of natural climate variation and the role played by human action in observed climate change. It is irresponsible, misleading and ultimately demagogic to stand at the digital pulpit and wave the AGW Bible to spread fear and misunderstanding among people who have been conditioned to accept such authoritarian pronouncements without question or critical thinking. 

Climate variation is real and has consequences for the very real world we live in. We cannot accommodate to the realities of the natural world by pretending we can continue the present unsustainable course of human development by substituting solar and wind energy technologies for fossil fuel technologies. Whether or not human action can in any way change natural climate variation, it is certain that life on earth cannot withstand unlimited growth in consumption by an unlimited growth in human population in a world of finite resources. 

Looking to renewable energy resources as the savior of human civilization is as self-deceiving as praying to a god for salvation from human foibles. Couching the debate over Climate Change and Anthropogenic Global Warming in religious terms, even for the purpose of bringing religious believers into the fold, is self-defeating, because it denies rational investigation, critical thinking and self-reliant decision-making. 

If we are to find a way to accommodate climate variation, natural or human caused, it will be through rational discourse, not through blind religious acceptance and belief.