Author: Robert D. Brinsmead
Apocalyptic has a 100% failure rate. Yet the question is raised whether climate change apocalyptic might be the one awful instance when apocalyptic proves to be right - like the boy who repeatedly cried “Wolf!”
Apocalyptic takes its name from an aberrant form of Judaism that developed around 200 B.C. It prevailed until the bar Cochba revolt in 135 C.E. That was when it finally managed to destroy itself in an ill-conceived “end-time” conflict with the Romans. After this, Rabbinic Judaism pronounced a curse on any Jew who persisted with apocalyptic.
Scholars of apocalyptic literature and apocalyptic movements recognize that this development within Judaism was the classical form of apocalyptic, providing a kind of paradigm for other apocalyptic movements right down to our day, including especially America’s religious Right, Marxism and Environmentalism.
Apocalyptic has been called “a theology [or a world view] of despair,” meaning that it is an outlook that has lost faith in the historical process. After Judaism had been ruled by one great power after another (
The hallmark of apocalyptic is to see the world getting worse and worse – whether that is the ruling powers getting worse and worse (Jewish apocalyptic), humanity getting worse and worse (Christian apocalyptic), capitalist society getting worse and worse (Marxist apocalyptic), or the environment getting worse and worse (Greenpeace-style apocalyptic).
In the case of the apocalyptic Zealots within Judaism, (if I may borrow some striking imagery from Albert Schweitzer) they threw themselves on the wheel of history in a last desperate effort to make it turn. The wheel turned, but it crushed them rather than ending Greco-Roman civilization and the historical process.
With its 100% failure rate, apocalyptic movements illustrate one thing that apocalyptic environmentalism is yet to learn: it is people who are fragile, not the world with its historical process. Its climate change alarmism is just another form of Salvationism - in this case the salvation of a supposedly fragile earth that is about to be destroyed by human activity. When even school children are being conscripted to play a role in “saving the planet” by doing good little deeds like cutting back on water and energy consumption, planting trees and riding bikes instead of using cars, we may see how far this apocalyptic salvationism has penetrated the popular culture.
Suppose we ask a good geologist such as Professor Ian Plimer to tell us, especially in the context of the current global warming panic, whether the earth is so fragile that it calls for human efforts to save it. Plimer has already given his published answer, and it is almost like a snort of derision. In The Past is the Key to the Present, Plimer says:
“For at least the last 2500 Ma, the continents have been pulled apart and stitched back together. Every time the continents are pulled apart, huge quantities of volcanic H2O, CO2 and CH4 are released into the atmosphere and greenhouse conditions prevail. When continents stitch together, mountain ranges form. Mountains are stripped of soils, new soils form and remove CO2 from the atmosphere, these soils are stripped from the land and the CO2 becomes locked in sediments on the ocean floor. When atmospheric CO2 is low, glaciation occurs. Large climate cycles can be related to plate tectonics.” (The full paper may be viewed at www.climatechangeissues.com/files/science/Plimer.doc )
Plimer goes on like this for page after page, portraying planet earth being pelted and pummelled with asteroids, intense global volcanism, mass extinctions, great ice ages, inter-glacial periods much warmer than our present “five minutes” of global warming, enormous sea-level changes, variations in atmospheric carbon dioxide from 6% to our present 0.037% and lower. In short, a planet that has survived what planet earth has survived for 4.5 billion years is anything but fragile.
Plimer has also said that he wrote A Short History of Planet Earth because he “was inspired by a Greenpeace banner which read ‘Stop Climate Change.’ To stop climate change, one must stop supernova eruptions, solar flaring, sunspots, orbital wobbles, meteorites, comets, life, mountain building, erosion, weathering, sedimentation, continental drift, volcanoes, ocean currents, tides and ice armadas – no mean feat, even for Greenpeace!” www.smedg.org.au/plimer0701.html
Whether the earth, including its climate system, is fragile or resilient goes to the heart of the climate change debate. The kind of world view that we bring to the debate determines how the facts about C02 and the climate are interpreted. For instance, if in discussion with a climate alarmist you point out that CO2 represents only 3.6% of all greenhouse gases, and that humans produce only about 3% of all CO2 emissions, you may then make the point that the human contribution is only 0. 18% - not much more than 1 part in a 1000 of all greenhouse gases. If anyone quibbles on the exact percentages here, you can double the human contribution and it is still comes out a very tiny number in the whole greenhouse equation. When the warming alarmists are confronted with these facts, they must resort to the argument that the climate is so finely tuned and earth’s systems are so fragile that this small human contribution – a human burp in a thunderstorm when compared with the vast natural greenhouse emitters - will cause a catastrophic tipping point in the earth’s fragile climate system.
There is no danger that this super-tough, resilient old planet will not be able to take a bit of extra CO2 in its stride as it has repeatedly done in its past history anyway. So much for the myth of the fragile earth!
It is also a dangerous myth because like all apocalyptic myths it has the capacity to hurt people. The policies being advocated by the climate change alarmists call for drastic economic and social changes, and they won’t be satisfied until they have destroyed civilization as we know it. If climate apocalyptic goes the way of all apocalyptic in being impatient and intolerant, no changes are going to be rapid enough or severe enough to inaugurate its post-industrial age. It will therefore throw itself on the wheel of history to force it to turn. We should already know the outcome.
Web Published – August 2008
Copyright © 2008 Robert D. Brinsmead