Global warming is the latest cause célèbre for activist movie stars and politicians. Things sure change quickly as environmental doomsday scenarios morph from one generation, and extreme, to another. For all the apocalyptic forecasts of melted icecaps and flooded American metropolises on the horizon, it was only in 1974 that Time and Newsweek reported on an alarming consensus among the "experts" of the day that the world was facing the imminent threat of a new ice age. That never came to pass, so it's on to the alternative calamity.
In between flying from coast to coast on private jets, or cruising the nation's highways in gas-guzzling SUVs, environmental fear-mongers like Al Gore routinely lecture Americans on ways they should conserve energy and cut down on "dangerous" greenhouse emissions. Equating the fight against global warming with a "moral crusade," Gore and the rest of the apostles of environmentalism are increasingly adorning their cause in what can only be described as religious parlance. I've long conjectured that environmentalism has become something of a religion and my experience of living in heavily-secularized Europe has only confirmed that suspicion.
The wave of hysteria over global warming is pathetic, having its source in the topsy-turvy arrangement of priorities by a post-Christian culture searching for purpose, forgiveness and absolution — searching, in other words, for an alternative to real religion. This explains the ferocity with which its proselytes attack those who question their conclusions and suppress arguments for conclusions other than their own. The environmentalist's hyper-defensiveness and anger reveal the ideological and emotional underpinnings of the entire movement even while adherents claim strict fidelity to science and empiricism.
The vitriolic assault on global warming skeptics is extraordinary. Scott Pelley of CBS's 60 Minutes compared skeptics of global warming with deniers of the Holocaust. Dr. Heidi Cullen, who works for the Weather Channel, advocates that the American Meteorological Society strip its seal of approval from any weatherman publicly expressing doubts about man-made global warming. Probably the most bizarre threat came from the popular environmentalist blogger, David Roberts, who wrote that war crime trials, (what he coined a "Climate Nuremburg") eventually be brought against skeptics as punishment. Such threats and intimidation tactics call to mind the modus operandi of Communist dictatorships.
Dr. Roy Spencer, a highly acclaimed climatologist and former NASA scientist, currently at the University of Alabama at Huntsville, is quite critical of the "experts" and celebrities who are whipping up the hysteria about supposed man-made global warming. The assertion is that humans (Americans in particular) because of their avaricious consumption of fuel and energy are directly responsible for the higher quantities of carbon dioxide in the air. This, consequently, leads to an increase in the greenhouse effect in the earth's atmosphere and, since the natural atmospheric filtration has been weakened by human activity, infrared sunlight radiation "overheats" the earth.
Taking a different approach, Dr. Spencer believes that stabilizing, atmospheric precipitation systems and weather patterns have everything to do with natural climate change and that these factors are not endangered or affected by human activity. He suggests that the green house effect is determined by precipitation systems (whereas the global warming crowd believes it to be the other way around) and that, together, they keep the earth's climate naturally balanced. He believes that these precipitation systems keep the earth cool, as they compensate for the heat resulting from the greenhouse effect, which exists naturally as a result, principally, of evaporated water (i.e. cloud cover), rather than carbon dioxide. Dr. Spencer's sophisticated understanding stands in contrast with the sophistry of the global warming crowd. But they are too convinced of the righteousness of their "moral crusade" to bother with nuanced constructions and alternative hypotheses, such is the need to fill the void in their hearts for something that can give greater purpose to their lives.
Traditional religion, with its high demands for personal moral conversion, a lifelong commitment to living responsibly, the belief in objective truth and the subsequent conformity of one's actions to that truth, is an onerous path to follow. Those already seduced by moral relativism are happy to see the God of the Judeo-Christian tradition supplanted by "mother earth." Traditional rituals and Sacraments are replaced with a litany of environmental protocols and commandments: recycle, use mass transit, buy organic, become a vegan, etc. Guilt over personal sin is eclipsed by guilt at the collective, societal level for having "destroyed" the planet. And finally the Church is replaced by a regulatory monster of a state, promising to clean up the mess. This is the new world religion, but it is a religion without forgiveness. Despite their best efforts, secularized environmentalists have nowhere to go for absolution. They cannot succeed in completely erasing their souls' need for something greater than themselves, greater than even the created world.
The liberating, even revolutionary, message of Christianity is that the believer has, indeed, knows, a Person, not merely a thing, to go to for forgiveness and lasting peace. The Catholic Church teaches that man is the earth's steward and that he has a sacred duty to use the goods of the earth responsibly and well. This is environmental stewardship correctly understood. "God saw what He had created and it was good." Indeed, the Christian understanding of the environment and man's place in the created world is far more elevated, beautiful and complete than that of the secular environmentalist. In light of the Incarnation, God entered humanity, thus wedding Himself forever to creation, and supernatural grace permeates the entire world.