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Global Warming and Scientism: Dealing in Dogma

Late last month, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, issued its latest report. In it, the panel “doubled down” on its earlier conclusions about human activity and the climate. Most notably, the IPCC went from saying that human activity was “very likely” the cause of global warming to “extremely likely.” It did so despite acknowledging that there has been a 17-year pause in said global warming.

The panel’s critics, of whom there are many, wasted no time in pointing out the report’s shortcomings. Richard Lindzen of MIT said that “the latest IPCC report has truly sunk to a level of hilarious incoherence.” He added that “they are proclaiming increased confidence in their models as the discrepancies between their models and observations increase.”

As if to reinforce Lindzen’s point, Thomas Lovejoy of George Mason, writing in the New York Times, asked the rhetorical question, “Does the leveling-off of temperatures mean that the climate models used to track them are seriously flawed?” His reply was “Not really. It is important to remember that models are used so that we can understand where the Earth system is headed.”

But why should we trust models to tell us where we’re headed when they can’t explain where we’ve been? Well, in Lovejoy’s telling, it comes down to an act of almost religious reverence. As he puts it, “It is time to restore the role of science to a respected place and reserve debate for understanding the implications of scientific results.”

Substitute “the Church” for “science” and “dogma” for “scientific results” and you could be talking about the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. Folks, this is scientism, the view that natural sciences “alone can yield true knowledge about man and society.”

And let me go one step further: this is really nothing less than a kind of religion, a kind of fear-based religion, if I can put it that way.

Let’s at least try to be rational about this. One can be undecided about the extent, if any, of man-made global warming and still object to the kind of hubris, and shall we say fear-mongering, on display here. Even if you believe that the phenomenon is real and poses a threat, you’ve still got to be taken aback by this kind of chutzpah.

That pretty much sums up where Bjorn Lomborg stands. As he wrote in USA Today, “the leading current solutions [to global warming] have almost no impact and [come] at a very high cost.”

Better then to focus on problems we can do something about. Since 2004, Lomborg, a former Greenpeace member and the author of The Skeptical Environmentalist, has convened a group of Nobel Laureates and other experts to discuss the world’s most pressing health and environmental issues.

What has emerged is known as the Copenhagen Consensus. The Consensus does what those urging immediate action based on the IPCC report steadfastly decline to do, which is to say, set priorities. Instead of spending hundreds of billions, if not trillions, on what may be a quixotic fight against climate change, the Consensus proposes spending far more modest amounts in ways that can make a real difference in people’s lives.

Investments in improved nutrition for children and expanded malaria treatment yield infinitely more “bang for the buck” than money spent on trying to roll back global warming, a phenomenon that, even if real, we do not have a clear handle on.

Not surprisingly, Lomborg’s approach is anathema to climate alarmists. But it’s one that Christians should consider.

Its combination of wise stewardship and love of neighbor has an almost-biblical ring to it. And it leaves dogma where it belongs: to theologians.

BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us at BreakPoint.org where you can read and search answers to common questions.

Eric Metaxas is a co-host of BreakPoint Radio and a best-selling author whose biographies, children's books, and popular apologetics have been translated into more than a dozen languages.

Publication date: October 9, 2013

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