An enlightening article in the Wall Street Journal informed me and other readers that belief in climate change is a religion.
This was news to me. Most religious beliefs – including the prophecy that the world will end in 2012 – are not tested by crowds of scientists working overtime.
But there is a grain of truth in the article. Movies such as The Day After Tomorrow do use apocalyptic images to describe climate change. In the real world, erratically changing corporate profits, peanut butter shortages, an end to Kentucky bourbon supplies, and even mass migrations are not apocalypses. Even a resource war over water or energy does not qualify as an apocalypse – although civilians and veterans might wish they still had bourbon after that.
Some of the more extreme peak oil preparation websites show how panic can grip people in the face of change. Faced by large-scale environmental revolt – unpredictable weather, changeable agriculture, species migration, and economic and global instability – environmentalists may be tempted to pick an apocalypse narrative as the best fit.
Choosing to call climate change an apocalypse is a serious tactical mistake because apocalypses are completely outside our control. It would be better to compare climate change to the Great Depression or World War II. We should mobilize, adapt, do public works projects, strengthen the social safety net, and set up systems of mutual aid.
And no, predicting poverty and war is not a religious or apocalyptic statement. Climate change isn’t equivalent to a near-earth supernova. However, we need to work hard to avert unnecessary suffering.