I found the below article by Bret Stephens in the WSJ to be a neat statement of what I’ve been thinking for years — that global warming is just a fad, a trend, a hot topic for the noughts, and when all the doomsday scenarios didn’t play out, it would die out and be replaced by some other scare. This has happened before, of course — just as global warming replaced smoking in bars, which replaced acid rain, which replaced nuclear holocaust, which replaced “global cooling,” which replaced overpopulation, and on and on. An abridged portion appears below.
And I’ll put the ending of the article right up front and invite readers to join in the conversation — when global warming slides from the popular public agenda, what will take its place? Feel free to weigh in the comments.
Thanks to Climategate and the Copenhagen fiasco, the media are now picking up the kinds of stories they previously thought it easier and wiser to ignore.
This is happening internationally. In France, a book titled “L’imposture climatique” is a runaway bestseller: Its author, Claude Allegre, is one of the country’s most acclaimed scientists and a former minister of education in a Socialist government. In Britain, environmentalist patron saint James Lovelock now tells the BBC he
suspects climate scientists have “[fudged] the data” and that if the planet is going to be saved, “it will save itself, as it always has done.” In Germany, the leftish Der Spiegel devotes 15 pages to a deliciously detailed account of “scientists who want to be politicians,” the “curious inconsistencies” in the temperature record, the “sloppy work” of the U.N.’s climate-change panel and sundry other sins of modern climatology.
As for the United States, Gallup reports that global warming now ranks sixth on the list of Americans’ top 10 environmental concerns. My wager is that within a few years “climate change” will exercise global nerves about as much as overpopulation, toxic tampons, nuclear winters, ozone holes, killer bees, low sperm counts, genetically modified foods and mad cows do today.
Something is going to have to take its place.
The world is now several decades into the era of environmental panic. The subject of the panic changes every few years, but the basic ingredients tend to remain fairly constant. A trend, a hypothesis, an invention or a discovery disturbs the sense of global equilibrium. Often the agent of distress is undetectable to the senses, like a malign spirit. A villain — invariably corporate and right-wing — is identified.
Then money begins to flow toward grant-seeking institutions and bureaucracies, which have an interest in raising the level of alarm. Environmentalists counsel their version of virtue, typically some quasi-totalitarian demands on the pattern of human behavior. Politicians assemble expert panels and propose sweeping and expensive legislation. Eventually, the problem vanishes. Few people stop to consider that perhaps it wasn’t such a crisis in the first place.
This is what’s called eschatology — a belief, or psychology, that we are approaching the End Time. Religions have always found a way to take account of those beliefs, but today’s secular panics are unmoored by spiritual consolations or valid moral injunctions. Instead, we have the modern-day equivalent of the old Catholic indulgence in the form of carbon credits. It’s how Al Gore justifies his utility bills.
What this decade requires is a new and better panic… Herewith, then, I propose a readers’ contest to invent the next panic. It must involve something ubiquitous, invisible to the naked eye, and preferably mass-produced. And the solution must require taxes, regulation, and other changes to civilization as we know it. The winner gets a beer and a burger, on me, at the 47th street Pig N’ Whistle in New York City. (Nachos for vegetarians.) Happy panicking!