The Pope’s Shiny New Encylical

Well, it is a religious issue. And only that.

Back in 2008, Ian McFadyen wrote on Quadrant about Our New Established Religion. Here are a few excerpts:

As magic evolved into religion and shamans into priests, natural catastrophes were linked less to the capriciousness of the gods and more to the observance, or lack thereof, of divine commandments. Droughts, hurricanes and floods were characterised as punishments for human immorality.

Then, almost overnight, the belief that natural phenomena were the result of sorcery or divine punishment crumbled with the advent of the scientific revolution. In little more than 400 years—an extraordinarily brief time in the total span of civilisation—the old beliefs in spirits, possessions, spells, curses, hexes, charms and God’s wrath, were replaced by medicine, chemistry, mathematics, biology, geology and physics. …

But the old narratives were only biding their time, waiting for their moment to re-emerge, patiently weaving the new threads of science into their tapestry.


The turning point came in the 1990s, when an obscure and tentative theory from the earlier part of the century was suddenly claimed to be turning into a reality. The theory was that an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases could lead to a rise in atmospheric temperature—the Greenhouse Effect. Burning wood for cooking and coal for power generation was known to release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, so scientists began looking at meteorological records and, lo and behold! they found a slight increase in average temperatures worldwide—between 0.4° and 0.8 of a degree — over the twentieth century. This half-a-degree increase was scarcely statistically significant—it was smaller than the errors inherent in sampling the data, in addition to which the methods of collecting the data changed over the period—but it was enough to get the ball rolling.

Symbolism and Ritual. Religion relies heavily on ceremonies which have no measurable result but provide emotional gratification, unify the religious community and reinforce belief.

Damnation and Redemption. Environmentalists preach that people can only prevent global catastrophe by changing their behaviour. Given that there is at least some likelihood that the industrial nations will not reduce emissions in any substantial way, there is presumably some likelihood that a warmer earth is inevitable, regardless of all efforts to prevent it.

The Persecution of Heretics. There are of course a large number of scientists—senior scientists at professorial levels—who insist that the climate change panic is irrational and unscientific. These scientists’ dissenting opinions are rarely published and, when they are, go unheeded by governments and the press. … Scientific sceptics are now being labelled as “climate change deniers” by zealots and are rapidly being accorded the same status as Holocaust deniers with similar threats of ostracism and career curtailment. There have even been calls to prosecute and jail people who deny the “reality” of climate change.

The Creation of Demons. Christianity has Satan and his minions; Environmentalism has the oil companies and the coal miners. … The power of the fossil fuel demons is vast and they are always working to undermine the saintly work of the Environmentalists.

Creationism. In order to illustrate a decline or decay in the world it is first necessary to explain how the world “ought” to be. In the Judeo-Christian mythology the perfect uncorrupted world was the Garden of Eden. For Environmentalists it was the world prior to European exploration.

The Creation of a Priesthood. Scientists, so long under a cloud because of their association with bombs, herbicides and insecticides, have redeemed themselves by alerting us to the damage that we (strangely not they) have inflicted on the globe. In the climate change crisis they have emerged, for once, as the good guys in the eyes of the new Green middle class. … scientists are now seen as the revealers of truth, the interpreters of opaque data and trusted authorities on the interpretation of complex systems. They are even accorded the power of prophesy as they confidently predict the climate fifty, even a hundred years in the future.

McFadyen concluded:

Environmentalism has, in a mere fifty years, attained the hegemony, political influence and moral authority formerly accorded to the church. We have come the full circle to a pre-Enlightenment society, ruled by an officially sanctioned religion that is as dogmatic, inquisitorial and eschatological as medieval Christianity, where environmental scientists are the clergy, Green is the colour of purity and the central icon is not Jesus suffering on a cross but the image of a tortured planet dying for our sins.

Follow the link to the original article for intellectual fulfillment.

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