Pro-AGW comments on the FM site often strike me as bizarre. Investigation often — not always — shows them actually to be bizarre (esp notable examples are here and here). The extraordinary aspect of this lies in the people making these bizarre comments, as they often have long records of knowledgeable and insightful comments on this site.
Does adopting “anthropogenic global warming” as a religion — or a doctrine of an “environmentalist religion” — distort people’s thinking? This post concerns the public aspect of the climate change debate, which has great influence on public policy. Fortunately the actual science continues on despite all this. At the end of the post are links to articles discussing environmentalism as religion; I recommend looking at these.
“FM: I subscribe to the New Scientist, so I know the article which you have misquoted. So you have moved into ‘ad hominan’ arguments; this is beneath you. Stop it now.”
So again I must ask the readers of the FM site for help. Can anyone explain this? It makes no sense to me. Oldskeptic is one of the most consistently sharp commenters on this site. I have learned much from his comments, including that I was wrong about the degree of social mobility in the US (see this post). Perhaps I have misunderstood this comment.
The objectionable text is, I believe, the section appearing below. It seems quite simple.
- My quote from the New Scientist is the first 4 paragraphs in full; the GRL abstract follows. So no misquoting.
- There is no mention of anyone, so no possibility of an ad hominem argument (Latin: “argument against the man”).
(1) “Danger ahead as the Sun goes quiet“, New Scientist, 7 January 2009 — This is a description for a general audience of the following article.
THE sun’s ability to shield the solar system from harmful cosmic rays could falter in the early 2020s, just in time to threaten the health of NASA astronauts as they return to the moon.
As well as the 11-year cycle of sunspots and solar flares, the sun’s activity experiences longer-term shifts lasting several decades. The sun is currently in a long-term high, having been relatively active for nearly a century, but it is not known when this will end.To find out, a team led by Jose Abreu of the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology in Duebendorf analysed 66 long-term highs from the past 10,000 years, as recorded in fluctuating levels of rare isotopes such as beryllium-10 in ice cores from Greenland. These are produced when cosmic rays break down the nuclei of oxygen and nitrogen atoms in the Earth’s atmosphere. Production of these isotopes peaks when the sun is inactive, as the weaker solar wind lets more cosmic rays enter the solar system, which hit the Earth.
Based on the duration of past highs, and the fact that the current one has already lasted 80 years, the team has calculated that its most likely total lifetime is between 95 and 116 years, and they suspect the high will probably end at the shorter end of this range.
(2) “For how long will the current grand maximum of solar activity persist?“, J. A. Abreu, J. Beer, F. Steinhilber, S. M. Tobias, N. O. Weiss, Geophysical Research Letters, 30 October 2008 — Abstract:
Understanding the Sun’s magnetic activity is important because of its impact on the Earth’s environment. The sunspot record since 1610 shows irregular 11-year cycles of activity; they are modulated on longer timescales and were interrupted by the Maunder minimum in the 17th century. Future behavior cannot easily be predicted – even in the short-term.
Recent activity has been abnormally high for at least 8 cycles: is this grand maximum likely to terminate soon or even to be followed by another (Maunder-like) grand minimum? To answer these questions we use, as a measure of the Sun’s open magnetic field, a composite record of the solar modulation function Φ, reconstructed principally from the proxy record of cosmogenic 10Be abundances in the GRIP icecore from Greenland. This Φ record extends back for almost 10,000 years, showing many grand maxima and grand minima (defined as intervals when Φ is within the top or bottom 20% of a Gaussian distribution).
We carry out a statistical analysis of this record and calculate the life expectancy of the current grand maximum. We find that it is only expected to last for a further 15-36 years, with the more reliable methods yielding shorter expectancies, and we therefore predict a decline in solar activity within the next two or three cycles. We are not able, however, to predict the level of the ensuing minimum.
Note an earlier debate with Oldskeptic about climate science here: High school science facts prove global warming! Skeptical scientists humiliated by this revelation!, 31 December2008. As always with such posts on the FM site, Oldskeptic is invited to reply. Perhaps this is a misunderstanding.
Articles discussing environmentalism as a religion
- “Environmentalism as Religion“, Michael Crichton, speech at the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco,15 September 2003
- “Faith in Nature: Environmentalism as Religious Quest“, Mark R. Stoll (Professor of History at Texas Tech University), H-Net Reviews. September 2004.
- “Environmentalism as a religion“, Fernando Diaz Villanueva (author of Che Guevara), 22 March 2006
- “Environmentalism as Religion“, John M. Ostrowski, posted at Lew Rockwell, 21 March 2007
As an emminent scientist, Dyson’s brief comment on the subject deserves special attention.
All the books that I have seen about the science and economics of global warming, including the two books under review, miss the main point. The main point is religious rather than scientific. There is a worldwide secular religion which we may call environmentalism, holding that we are stewards of the earth, that despoiling the planet with waste products of our luxurious living is a sin, and that the path of righteousness is to live as frugally as possible. The ethics of environmentalism are being taught to children in kindergartens, schools, and colleges all over the world.
Environmentalism has replaced socialism as the leading secular religion. And the ethics of environmentalism are fundamentally sound. Scientists and economists can agree with Buddhist monks and Christian activists that ruthless destruction of natural habitats is evil and careful preservation of birds and butterflies is good.
The worldwide community of environmentalists – most of whom are not scientists – holds the moral high ground, and is guiding human societies toward a hopeful future. Environmentalism, as a religion of hope and respect for nature, is here to stay. This is a religion that we can all share, whether or not we believe that global warming is harmful.
Unfortunately, some members of the environmental movement have also adopted as an article of faith the belief that global warming is the greatest threat to the ecology of our planet. That is one reason why the arguments about global warming have become bitter and passionate.
Much of the public has come to believe that anyone who is skeptical about the dangers of global warming is an enemy of the environment. The skeptics now have the difficult task of convincing the public that the opposite is true. Many of the skeptics are passionate environmentalists. They are horrified to see the obsession with global warming distracting public attention from what they see as more serious and more immediate dangers to the planet, including problems of nuclear weaponry, environmental degradation, and social injustice.
Whether they turn out to be right or wrong, their arguments on these issues deserve to be heard.
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To read other articles about these things, see the FM reference page on the right side menu bar. Of esp relevance to this topic:
Posts on the FM site debating climate science with other laypeople:
- Is anthropogenic global warming a scientific debate, or a matter of religious belief?, 22 November 2008
- Another pro-global warming comment, effective PR at work!, 1 December 2008
- Mystery solved, providing an important insight about the global warming debate., 2 December 2008
- The definitive rebuttal to skepticism about global warming!, 10 December 2008
- High school science facts prove global warming! Skeptical scientists humiliated by this revelation!, 31 December 2008