IT has been a tough year for the high priests of global warming in the US. First, NASA had to correct its earlier claim that the hottest year on record in the contiguous US had been 1998, which seemed to prove that global warming was on the march. It was actually 1934. Then it turned out the world's oceans have been growing steadily cooler, not hotter, since 2003. Meanwhile, the winter of 2007 was the coldest in the US in decades, after Al Gore warned us that we were about to see the end of winter as we know it.
In a May issue of Nature, evidence about falling global temperatures forced German climatologists to conclude that the transformation of our planet into a permanent sauna is taking a decade-long hiatus, at least. Then this month came former greenhouse gas alarmist David Evans's article in The Australian, stating that since 1999 evidence has been accumulating that man-made carbon emissions can't be the cause of global warming. By now that evidence, Evans said, has become pretty conclusive.
Yet believers in man-made global warming demand more and more money to combat climate change and still more drastic changes in our economic output and lifestyle.
The reason is that precisely that they are believers, not scientists. No amount of empirical evidence will overturn what has become not a scientific theory but a form of religion.
But what kind of religion? More than 200 years ago, Scottish Enlightenment philosopher David Hume put his finger on the process. His essay, Of Superstition and Enthusiasm, describes how even in civilised societies the mind of man is subject to certain unaccountable terrors and apprehensions when real worries are missing.
As these enemies are entirely invisible and unknown, like today's greenhouse gases, people try to propitiate them by ceremonies, observations, mortifications, sacrifices such as Earth Day and banning plastic bags and petrol-driven lawnmowers.
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