Mark Steyn turns his gimlet eye and rich prose on the climate change furor. After noting that the Left's fear of nuclear annihilation vanished about the time Reagan left the White House and North Korea got the bomb, he discusses the rich nuances of the current climate change debate on the Left:
Environmentalism doesn't need the support of the church, it's a church in itself — and furthermore, one explicitly at odds with Christianity: God sent His son to Earth as a man, not as a three-toed tree sloth or an Antarctic krill. An environmentalist can believe man is no more than a co-equal planet dweller with millions of other species, and that he's taking up more than his fair share and needs to reduce both his profile and his numbers. But that's profoundly hostile to Christianity.
Oh, and here's my favorite — Dr. Sue Blackmore looking on the bright side in Britain's Guardian:
"In all probability billions of people are going to die in the next few decades. Our poor, abused planet cannot take much more. . . . If we decide to put the planet first, then we ourselves are the pathogen. So we should let as many people die as possible, so that other species may live, and accept the destruction of civilization and of everything we have achieved.
"Finally, we might decide that civilization itself is worth preserving. In that case we have to work out what to save and which people would be needed in a drastically reduced population — weighing the value of scientists and musicians against that of politicians, for example."
Hmm. On the one hand, Dr. Sue Blackmore and the bloke from Coldplay. On the other, Dick Cheney. I think we can all agree which people would be "needed" — Al Gore, the guy from the New Yorker, perhaps Scarlett Johansson in a fur-trimmed bikini paddling a dugout canoe through a waterlogged Manhattan foraging for floating curly endives from once-fashionable eateries.
The inconvenient truth, though, as Steyn points out, is that the earth's temperature has been fluctuating a lot since we've had the capacity to measure it:
From 1940 to 1970, there was very slight global cooling. That's why the doom-mongers decided the big bucks were in the new-ice-age blockbusters.
And yet, amazingly, we've survived. Why? Because in 1970 the planet stopped its very slight global cooling and began to undergo very slight global warming. So in the '80s, the doom-mongers cast off their thermal underwear, climbed into the leopardskin thongs, slathered themselves in sun cream and wired their publishers to change all references to "cooling" to "warming" for the paperback edition. That's why, if you notice, the global-warming crowd begin their scare statistics with "since 1970," an unlikely Year Zero which would not otherwise merit the significance the eco-crowd invest in it.
But then in 1998 the planet stopped its very slight global warming and began to resume very slight global cooling. And this time the doom-mongers said, "Look, do we really want to rewrite the bumper stickers every 30 years? Let's just call it 'climate change.' That pretty much covers it."
We don't know why these changes are happening, whether they're part of an endless cycle, or whether we really are making a difference with our modern habits. Humans have always created pollution — ancient waste sites are still fodder for some really great archaeological digs and London's filthy fogs of old are legendary. But the world has also always changed. The Sahara was once a forest primeval, and the voluminous fashions worn from the Middle Ages through the Elizabethan era made perfect sense during a mini-ice age. The eruption of Mt. Tambora, in 1815, wiped out summer and caused a terrible famine.
I basically don't yet have an opinion about global warming. I do, however, have an opinion about hysteria, and that's why I like Mark Steyn's article.
UPDATE: On the hysteria beat, we learn that scientists — real scientists, not Al Gore — are beginning to back off a bit from the all doom, all gloom, all the time beat.
UPDATE II: For more rational thinking on climate change, check out this post at Cheat Seeking Missiles.