How about those of us who study comparative religion? Can we add anything to the discussion? Perhaps a bit of perspective on the Global Warming movement as a religious movement.
Has anyone noticed how closely the claims of Anthropogenic Global Warming resembles the basic teachings of Buddhism?
The Buddha is said to have discovered Four Noble Truths while meditating under a bodhi tree:
First, life involves suffering (or "is suffering," there is some debate on just how broadly he defined the problem).
Second, the cause of suffering is desire (or karma; again, there seems to be some question about exactly what Buddha meant).
Third, the way to end suffering is, therefore, to end desire (karma).
Fourth, Buddha offered an "Eight-Fold Path" to ending desire or karma, and therefore attaining nirvana: right view, aspiration, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness, and concentration (of mind, not of greenhouse gases).
The parallels stumble over one another to emerge. Let us put them in the following order:
The Four Noble (Half) Truths of Global Warming
|By most measures, worldwide air|
temperatures have increased
over the past 2 centuries by a
little more than 1 degree C.
The truth: Almost certainly so. While some skeptics point out that weather stations in cities are subject to "heat island" effects, and argue that AGW proponents have not taken this into account sufficiently, it seems clear from a variety of measurements that global temperatures have, in fact, gone up about 1 degree C over the past century.
|Mendenhall glacier, |
near Juneau, with
Nugget Falls in
foreground, early 1980s.
#2 The main cause of atmospheric warming, is car-ma. (And car-pas, they reproduce so swiftly nowadays.)
|The same glacier a quarter|
mile behind the falls, about 2006.
(My sons John and James
standing in front of the falls.)
#3 Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) is a terrible thing, which will harm or destroy much complex life on earth, including our own. It is therefore critical to end the cause (car-mas, car-pas) of this bad effect.
The Truth: I seriously doubt it. If Earth's ecosystem were so fragile and subject to runaway warming and cooling trends, how did we develop life on this planet in the first place? Some periods in the past have been much warmer than today -- yet the ice sheets did not melt, and Earth did not become another Venus. Reports of flora and fauna from the Shang Dynasty in northern China show that 3 thousand years ago, the region was much warmer and wetter than it is today, for instance. Other periods have been much cooler, yet Ice Ages eventually ended due to natural cycles and (presumably) negative feedback mechanisms.
Planet Earth seems fairly resilient. Even UN predictions suggest that continued global warming will only raise the sea level by about a foot or so over the 21st Century -- so slight a rise it will be easy to gradually adjust for it, even on the lowest Pacific islands.
What makes it easier to doubt the apocalyptic scenarios offered by AGW, is how often they have proven empty. Al Gore blamed the Bush administration for Hurricane Katrina, and won a Nobel Prize for doing so. The many gross errors he made in An Inconvenient Truth make one wonder about the standards of his supporters. One also commonly comes across extreme claims about Pacific Islands sinking under the waves, Himalayan glaciers disappearing, the causes of melting ice on Kilamanjaro, and the supposed desertification of the planet, leading, one otherwise well-informed AGW proponent assures me, an "end to agriculture" and mass starvation, would reach 70% in a few decades, despite reams of contrary evidence I pointed him to.
One can see the psychology of doomsday thinking at work, here. Population Bomb, anyone? Late, Great, Planet Earth?
#4 Our environmental Buddhas offer an "Eight-Fold Path" to end car-ma, and attain nirvana, which also involves right view (global), aspiration (green), speech (media), action (turn off the lights!), livelihood (organic farming), effort, mindfulness, and concentration (of greenhouse gases, but first of cash into the right pockets).
The Truth: Most of this looks more and more like a scam. Adopting the whole program might well destroy the world's economy (what's left of it), and would likely devastate poor countries. And Al Gore and Co would probably get even richer than they already are, off government pork falling off the butcher's wagon.
Why do I think that? Over the past several years, the world economy has been deeply threatened by public debt. This is a problem that we all know the answer to: spend less money. And yet the Left, which pushes programs to solve AGW, has in fact not decreased spending, even when it held the White House and both houses of Congress. No, it has increased spending dramatically.
And where has that money gone?
Into the pockets of constituents and supporters.
It is reasonable, I think, to distrust attempts by people so eager to spend money and increase government power to "manage" the alleged threat from AGW by further increasing the size and power of central government. I simply don't believe what the plutocrats claim or promise, anymore. I think it is mostly an effort, perhaps unconscious in some cases, to line their own beds and increase their power over the rest of us.
Furthermore, given the growth of technology and how slowly the Earth is warming, I believe far cheaper methods of cooling the atmosphere, should they be needed, will become available, if they are not already. Some discussion has taken place over the possibility of releasing SO2 into the upper atmosphere. Whether that will become viable, or some other solution will be found, I think it would be foolish at this time to wed ourselves to expensive, economy-killing, and probably unnecessary programs from the same people who gave us 20th Century socialism and the debt crisis, and stopped nuclear power in the US.
And those, my friends, are the "Four Noble Half-Truths," so far as one scholar of religions can make them out. If that does not seem so far, take comfort in the fact that after 2600 years, no one seems to really get Buddhism, either.