09 October 2007

Global Warming Fideism

I often hear (what I will call) global warming fideists, such as Sean “Insanity” Hannity, use the pejorative sense of the term ‘alarmist’ to describe those who find the anthropogenic hypothesis of global climate change compelling. These alarmists are the lugubrious “gloom and doom” crowd who predict a dismal future for life on earth due (at least in part) to human industrial activity of the past couple centuries. These pessimists “jump” to the conclusion that humans are crucially responsible for the observed climatic changes, making “outrageous” prescriptions for lifestyle changes, e.g., relying on renewable resources rather than fossil fuels for energy.

Now, Hannity, along with the other conservative global warming fideists on the political horizon, publicly avows to be a Christian. This makes his accusations of alarmism against those who accept anthropogenic climate change as certain (or as certain as one usually accepts scientific claims) rather ironic: ought one remind Hannity and the others what their eschatology is? A massive final war between good an evil, God and Satan, and ultimately eternal damnation for the unbelievers. At least our version of humanity’s demise is based on empirical evidence—and, according to current estimates, is obviable.

Furthermore, I think everyone would accept the following normative statement: when alarm is justified, one ought to be alarmed. Or, similarly: when alarmism is justified, one ought to be an alarmist. Thus, in the case of global warming, being a non-alarmist might arguably be better considered the pejorative term, since the present predicament, according to most climatological models, is rather alarming. (The fact that most biologists today agree that we are in the midst of a major extinction event—the seventh major event in evolutionary history, called the “Holocene extinction event”—supports the claim that the situation on earth is more generally alarming. Indeed, unlike past extinction events, which were caused by natural phenomena, scientists implicate human activity as the primary cause of this event.)

So, while Hannity and the others hold the belief—or, as Prof. Migliore at Princeton would oxymoronically put it, have the “faith-knowledge”—that they will soon be raptured into heaven, the claim of global warming is dismissed as “alarmist.” Again: (a) what is more alarming than their own eschatological views?, and (b) in cases such as global warming, why exactly is being an alarmist a bad thing? Indeed, global warming alarmism seems entirely warranted, given the available evidence.

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