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We Haven't Reached Peak Climate Alarmism
But we're getting there.
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“We have people all across the world in the streets, showing up, demanding a cessation of what is killing us,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told some 75,000 climate protestors gathered for the New York March to End Fossil Fuels last week. “We must be too big and too radical to ignore.”
The occasion for the week-long demonstration, which culminated in the arrests of nearly 150 “now or never” war criers who’ve decided to bet everything on alarmism, was the arrival of world leaders in New York City for the annual United Nations General Assembly and the Climate Ambition Summit. Many of the participating protestors belong to Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion, two groups of spazzes who treat climate radicalism as an exercise in therapeutic self-expression. In recent years they’ve managed to hyper-moralize discussion of climate change so that it’s evolved from a practical matter of how to improve our environment to a crusade against wicked forces whose deceitful tongues and activities allegedly wreak havoc upon the weather.
There’s a trend being driven by these “Eco-warriors” that bears mentioning. It’s a sort of casual narcissism whereby they desecrate famous works of art, deface businesses, block highways, and do other things that only those suffering from the punishing handicaps posed by stupidity would do in protest of what they believe is the degradation of planet earth. See for example the two brave, courageous souls from Just Stop Oil who entered room 43 of the National Gallery in London last year, opened two tins of Heinz cream of tomato soup, and threw the contents at Vincent van Gogh’s $84.2 million Sunflowers, thereupon gluing their hands to the wall, which is apparently standard operating procedure.
“What is worth more, art or life?” asked one of the two specimens. “Are you more concerned about the protection of a painting, or the protection of our planet and people?”
While limited in scope, the actions of these climate activists are enough to test even the most committed civil libertarian in his opposition to casual waterboarding. A special breed of morons who tend to be chock-full of the deluded pride that attends ignorance, they particularly excel at narcissistic exhibitionism—a phenomenon that first manifested in politics during the anti-nuclear movement of the 1970s, when younger liberals convinced themselves that street protests and other forms of everyone-come-look-at-me public advocacy could rid the world of nuclear weapons. When the Cold War ended and the threat of nuclear armageddon subsided, apocalyptic fear mongers took up climate change as their new cause.
Since then, apostles of the climate apocalypse have generally been cut from the same cloth as progressive globalists. It’s not a coincidence that they offer a single prescription for salvation that coincides exactly with the economic programs of the Left—more taxes, more interventionism, less capitalism, and less freedom.1 Thus, in the “Strengthening the response” section of the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, you will not be surprised to see that scientists call for “economic instruments which consider economic and social equity and distributional impacts; gender-responsive and women-empowerment programs as well as enhanced access to finance for local communities and Indigenous Peoples and small landowners.”
Extinction Rebellion co-founder Stuart Basden has said that his movement “isn’t about the climate,” but is instead concerned with overturning white supremacy, the patriarchy, heteronormativity, and class hierarchy. As another activist puts it: “Environmental justice is the intersection of both social justice and environmentalism, where the inequity in environmental degradation is also considered.”
Much Ado About Nothing
Let us stipulate that climate change is a real thing, and that there are consequences. As environmental guru Michael Shellenberger has noted, the surface area of Glacier National Park’s 37 named glaciers decreased by 34% between 1966 and 2015, while the number and size of glacier lakes has increased globally, threatening flooding. Warmer water temperatures and heat waves from climate change cause coral, an invertebrate animal, to bleach, lose its pigment, and die. There’s also evidence that heavier precipitation is occurring around the world and contributing to flooding, while the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts hurricanes will intensify by 5% in the future.
And yet, according to the United Nations IPCC, there’s limited evidence of any increase in glacier lake outburst flooding, which can be prevented through dams; while warmer temperatures increase bleaching, scientists have found that corals are adapting to warmer water, and people are breeding coral that can survive in hotter temperatures; flood damage is most likely to result from a lack of proper water management to channel storm water through upgraded drain systems, not modestly higher rainfall; and the NOAA estimates that Hurricanes will become 25% less frequent.
These obviously aren’t the only climate change facts and rebuttals out there, but the takeaway remains the same: Environmental changes aren’t anywhere near as threatening as activists pretend they are. By their lights, climate change is an apocalyptic danger and “billions will die” in the next couple of decades. The truth, however, which pours cold water on the overheated rhetoric of climate activists, is that there’s no scientific basis for any claim of climate apocalypse. In fact, every major environmental trend is improving.
Not at all shockingly, apocalyptic fears are concentrated primarily among Americans of the liberal persuasion, for whom climate alarmism has become an interesting, budding subgenre of Democratic hysteria. Much in the same way that these folks had (and in many cases, still have) completely warped perceptions of the actual risk covid poses,2 so, too, do they share an outsized, unscientific fear of climate change. For example, 71% of Democrats agreed with the false statement, “Climate change is increasing the cost of natural disasters as a percent of GDP”;3 76% agreed that “Deaths from natural disasters will rise in the future due to climate change”;4 and 88% now consider climate change a “major threat to the nation.”
How do we explain the disproportionately apocalyptic view of climate change on the Left? Welp, we can start with our mainstream media mediocrities,5 who have a fetishistic relationship with end-is-nigh panic porn—which, needless to say, is inconsistent with the professional commitment to accuracy they pay so much lip service to. To get a sense of just how often these people churn out sensationalistic environmental pseudoscience, one need only look at some recent articles from The Atlantic, the flagship salon of the ruling class:
Democratic leaders also routinely pop off with fear fodder of their own. “Climate change is literally an existential threat to our nation and to the world,” Biden said last July when he announced his administration’s plan to deal with the “climate emergency.” Similarly, Nancy Pelosi stated that it’s imperative we “face the existential threat of our time: the climate crisis.” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, meanwhile, claimed that “the world is going to end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change,” and that the fight to mitigate the effects of climate change is her generation’s World War II.
Money is involved as well. No surprise there. Academics and NGOs studying the environment are funded when they indulge in gloom-and-doom forecasts; there must be a problem that requires solving if their research is to be backed. Power no doubt plays a role, too, as the best way to assert control over people is to make them afraid. And if the pandemic taught us anything it’s that institutional fearmongering can lead the masses down a desired path without actually solving any problems.
Michael Shellenberger has also documented a large body of evidence that apocalyptic environmentalism serves as a substitute religion for progressives, who tend to be more secular than conservatives, and therefore more in need of some worldview to provide comfort against existential despair:
Progressives have re-created Judeo-Christianity as apocalyptic environmentalism, complete with a fall from Nature, guilt for having sinned against the victim-god of Nature, and the desire for an apocalypse that will destroy industrial civilization before ushering in a new utopian harmony of heaven on Earth.6
Indoctrinated in universities that teach nihilistic dogma in the form of scientific gospel, many on the Left have become unquestioning apostles of this new apocalyptic religion that demands we atone for our sins against nature by pursuing renewables and low-energy living. This activism-as-religion follows left-wing politics more broadly. Having gradually abandoned traditional religions, psychological comfort is found in the Church of Woke and its three articles of faith: anti-racism, gender identity, and climate apocalypticism, all of which have become nigh-unassailable doctrine despite requiring a serious suspension of disbelief.
Climate apocalypticism in particular seems to meet the psychological needs of some people. It gives them a purpose: to save the world from climate change, or some other environmental disaster. It also provides a story that casts them as heroes and cosmically special, and does this while retaining the illusion among adherents that they are people of science and reason, not superstition and fantasy.
The trouble with the new environmental religion is that it spreads anxiety and depression without meeting the deeper existential and spiritual needs its ostensibly secular devotees seek. And just as we saw during the pandemic, a persistent exaggeration of the facts warps reality. In 2017, the American Psychological Association diagnosed rising “eco-anxiety” and called it “a chronic fear of environmental doom.” This fear has had an outsized impact on the psychological well-being of young folks, with studies documenting growing anxiety and depression about “the world they’ll inherit.” In 2020, a large national survey found that one out of five British children was having nightmares about climate change.
The fire-and-brimstone sermons coming from eco-apocalypstas, though complete bull, most definitely have an impact on people.
The Nihilism and Communal Narcissism of Climate Radicals
Ironically, aside from “some minor damage to the frame,” Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers was unharmed by the two peasants who threw tomato soup on it because it was covered in a protective “glaze.” But given that it’s not immediately clear to the lay observer that the painting was protected, the visceral impact succeeds in accomplishing what these children intended, which is to unsettle people. An attack on treasured artwork has such a visceral effect precisely because we understand that it represents a repudiation of the best of human civilization. Recall that ISIS went out of its way to destroy art because they, just like many present-day activists, see the values of the Western world as essentially toxic.
To the stunningly brave tomato soup-wielding emotional hemophiliacs, Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers is a meaningless and distracting bourgeois affectation, the value of which can only be understood by a price-tag in dollars rather than art’s actual worth as determined by its power to educate people, promote cultural appreciation, break social and cultural and economic barriers, and inspire a higher order of thinking.
It should be understood that such stunts aren’t avant garde. Nor should they be dismissed as merely the products of “youthful idealism” and “theatrical activism,” which many people have taken to doing. No, these are acts of desecration and criminality emblematic of a broader pattern of philistinism borne out in our social media age in which many people refuse to recognize the value of anything that doesn’t specifically advance some political agenda or fit within a certain ideological framework. We have seen this in recent trends of historical criticism, whereby past figures are judged based on the idiotic intersectional mores of the present and whether or not their legacy is consonant with today’s approved narrative.
Throughout history, radical politics have always filled empty lives, providing a sense of meaning and purpose for those with the least to gain from the status quo and the most to gain from upending it. But today’s eco-apocalypstas are unique in that they tend to be infected by a combination of nihilism and communal narcissism. We can expect them to remain blissfully ignorant of this, of course; generally speaking, there’s little sign in rabid activist types of anything like the requisite frontal-lobe activity for self-examination that might help them understand their cringe-worthy grandiosity is a struggle for self-realization dressed up as a struggle for a cause.
These climate jihadists depend on others to validate their self-esteem. What they crave is a role in a soul-stirring drama played to a vast audience. Afflicted with a pathological need to see themselves as somehow exceptional or outstanding at all times, the goal is always to seduce people into giving them attention or acclaim or sympathy and thus to shore up their faltering sense of self. Unmoored, free from traditional social ties, their individuality serves to heighten insecurity, which can be overcome only by seeing their grandiose selves reflected in the eyes of others as they engage in some heroic gesture.
Because the catastrophizing environmentalist mindset holds that the world has no future thanks to the imminent climate apocalypse, it makes sense to live only for the moment, and “to fix our eyes on our own private performance, to become connoisseurs of our own decadence, to cultivate a transcendental self-attention,” as the American historian Christopher Lasch once put it.
As products of an increasingly agnostic society during an age of diminishing returns, many young adults also end up turning to political movements in lieu of a secularized way of life. It’s not personal salvation that they hunger for, let alone the restoration of an earlier golden age, but the feeling, or even just the illusion, of direction and deep assurance. The struggle to establish a firm sense of self invariably leads certain people to submerge their identities in a larger cause, hoping to overcome feelings of insignificance and disenchantment by investing their energies in radical performative collective action. As Eric Hoffer has written, “One gains the impression that the frustrated derive as much satisfaction — if not more — from the means a mass movement uses as from the ends it advocates.”
So long as climate apocalypticism continues to provide activists with artificial purpose and something to hold on to, the bell-tolling of the green movement will continue unabated, and urgent ecological ends — what Biden has described as a “moral imperative” — will not only be used to justify further vandalism and eco-austerity, but will serve as a pretext for other kinds of utopian social engineering projects pursued under the banner of Progress™.
They use the climate issue as an excuse for imposing political regimentation on market economies.
Very early in the pandemic it was know that there’s only a 1 to 5% chance of somebody with covid having to be hospitalized, yet in April 2021, 41% of Democrats still believed there was a greater than 50% chance.
In reality, the share of GDP spent on natural disasters has either declined or remained flat when “normalized,” meaning when scientists take into account increased wealth in harm’s way.
Per Michael Shellenberger, “In 1931, 3.7 million people died from natural disasters. In 2018, just 11,000 did.” And that decline in death happened at a time when the human population quadrupled. Neither the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change nor any other reputable scientific body predicts a reversal in the long-term trend of declining deaths, even under high degrees of warming.
Liberals are far more trusting of the media than conservatives. They also consume more doom-addicted mainstream news. A potent combination: Absorbing more of the content and believing what they’re told.
Note how climate alarmism always has distinct Biblical vibes—fires and floods are viewed as warnings to vile, marauding humankind about its unholy behavior, while weather anomalies are god-like chastisements and expressions of divine displeasure. Nature is treated as a sentient force reprimanding us for our hubris and climate crimes. We are “guilty as hell,” screams the Guardian’s environment editor. “With raging wildfires, floods and pandemics, it seems like End Times – and it’s our own damned fault,” says a writer for the Hill. There’s a strain of the environmental movement that is Calvinistic, in the sense that the world is an evil place and it would be better if it were destroyed and turned back over to the natural kingdom.