When the aged Bishop Polycarp of Smyrna was condemned for his faith at the games, his persecutors urged him to spare his years and denounce the atheists. By this, of course, they meant the Christians who denied all the pagan deities and believed in just one God, a novel one claiming to tower over all others. Polycarp famously gestured to the baying crowds and said, “Away with the atheists!”
You may also remember the jibes of those sad New Atheists (before they became Old Hats) that “I simply believe in one less god than you.” If you compare the two cases, the Gnus had a point – Christians have stopped believing in a whole menagerie of gods in accepting the Trinitarian God (thus also showing that monotheism is a rich numerical concept). You could almost say that Christians and atheists are closer together than Christians and pagans – and that would be right on more than one level, because it’s almost invariably the Christian God that atheists work so hard to reject.
It’s occurred to me that in the climate change debate (addendum – as far as the other side is concerned it’s not a debate but a monologue inviting no dissent) there are scarcely any true “climate change deniers,” in the sense of those who believe climates are not changing and do not change. Their existence is an Aunt Sally based on alarmists’ willful ignorance.
In fact, the majority of climate sceptics, or climate realists – call them what you will but not, as I shall soon show, “climate change deniers” – are the equivalent of polytheists, to the alarmists’ rigid monotheism that doesn’t even admit Trinitarian complexities.
For the climatology field is still ruled, astonishingly, by the “hockey-stick” notion infamously put forward years ago by Michael Mann et al. I refuse to reproduce it here, but as you know it purportedly shows an unchanging climate since the last ice age, with a sudden explosion in temperature during the last century credited entirely to anthropogenic CO2 emissions. It is now well known that the hockey-stick was illegitimately cobbled together from a single, localised data set of tree ring proxies and an entirely unrelated temperature record for this century, and that had they continued following the proxy it would have shown a temperature decline since 1900. Yet it remains the mental image behind all the “climate emergency” talk.
To demonstrate its pervasiveness, one of the few people who has read the IPCC report in its entirety testifies that although the hockey-stick graph has been reintroduced into the latest policy summary to scare politicians, after an absence of several editions because of the Climategate scandal, there is absolutely nothing in the text to justify it. None of the scientific papers, nor the technical summary, nor the text of the policy advice mention any work backing it up. It is therefore nothing more than a meaningless religious symbol gratuitously appended to the report.
And this tells us that when they say they believe in climate change, what they really believe in is a rock-steady climate and just one lone period of recent warming of only a few decades’ duration. This is as ahistoric and thin a theology as some new-fangled cult like Scientology.
The so-called climate denialists, in marked contrast, are on record as saying that the climate changes all the time. Unlike the pagans at Smyrna, they do believe in its most recent manifestation, though they certainly believe the warming stalled a decade ago, and doubt that much of it is due to fossil-fuel use. But unlike the mainstream cult members, they also believe in many other periods of warming and cooling.
To take the post ice-age period alone, they believe the warmest period was the “Holocene Optimum,” so named before somebody decided warmness is a catastrophe rather than a blessing, followed after a cooler interval by the Minoan warm period, then the Roman warm period, then the Mediaeval warm period, and finally the smaller modern warming. In between were cooler periods, the most dramatic of which was the “Little Ice Age” from which we only began to emerge coincidentally with human industrialisation. It is possible to trace the most prosperous periods of human history to the warmer periods, and conversely to blame the collapse of civilisations, in great part, to global cooling.
To give just one specific example of this, the Pax Romanica, after centuries of warm expansion, began to collapse from plagues and food shortages – disastrous for an urbanised civilisation – probably due to wetter and cooler temperatures in its bread baskets. Meanwhile, equally hungry tribes from northern Europe twisted the knife by seeking new territory, and we see the sack of Rome, the Saxon invasions and so on as a direct consequence.
Now, the warm periods, and hence the climatic causes for much of their history, are not seen on the hockey-stick, and are therefore denied by the alarmists, who believe in only one more climate change than do absolute climate deniers. That, by my reckoning, makes them at least as much climate change deniers as Polycarp was an atheist.
We can see this belief in action in a source I’ve cited before on such matters – Chris Packham, in this case on a recent BBC Autumnwatch programme. He cited some research, easily found on the web, saying that climate change has disrupted the usual practice of beech trees of producing few masts most years, and then a sudden glut. The theory is (or the Just-So story, depending on your belief in Adaptationist evolution) that this “strategy” not only gives nut-eaters too much to eat in the mast years, ensuring new seedlings, but starves the beggars into low numbers in the lean years.
Accordingly Packham bewails both global warming and the excess of deer in this country as, in all probability, making it impossible for future generations of naturalists to stand under stately Beech trees. Though I haven’t noticed our roe-deer to be that dependent on any one food source, let alone beech nuts. Mentioning the deer, I guess, gives a handy plug for his hope of re-wilding the countryside with lynxes and wolves, which would make it dangerous for those naturalists, let alone little girls taking food to grannies, to stand for long under any trees.
But this whole narrative, it seems to me, depends on that false religion of hockey sticks dominating the psyche. The European Beech, Fagus sylvatica, only appeared in Britain 6,000 years ago, possibly introduced by Mesolithic man for food, right at the height of the Holocene Optimum. Even so, it has never spread naturally beyond southern England, and its range extends as far south as Southern Greece and northern Sicily, which all rather suggests it quite likes warm weather.
Not only that, but whatever tight relationship one postulates between weather, mast years, predators and reproductive success, the fact is that Beech trees have succeeded in this country ever since they were introduced, despite the three global warm periods since. Beech trees survived squirrels, deer and wild boar roaming the woodlands long after the lynxes and wolves went extinct, even when mediaeval monks were growing grape-vines up north centuries ago. So is it true that, in Packham’s gloomy words, “This is climate change staring us in the face” when we look at mast-production in beech trees? If so, I would argue that it’s wearing a friendly smile. “Jolly hockey sticks!”
Those who are fearing imminent Armageddon are, in fact, only the climate change deniers. And unlike Polycarp, who I believe was fully justified in rejecting the Romano-Greek pantheon, they appear to me to be victims of an irrational cult.