Does climate change? If so, why? Is there really a climate crisis? If there isn’t, then why do so many believe there is? Is climate change a religion?
In drafting this essay, I have drawn heavily on my own training and experience as a teacher of meteorology and my own research in the 1960s and 1970s, when the scientific community was seen to seek the truth without the bias of pushing specific agendas. With my background in these things, I offer you what I believe to be a balanced and factual argument that the concept of climate change, previously known as global warming, has become a religion.
Today, there is so much commentary on climate change, so much so that I think that the majority of us accept that climate change is an inconvenient truth, and trust that those in power are getting on with fixing it. Is that it? Surely, if that’s true, we don’t need another essay!
But I think we do! In this essay, I would like to shine a light on some corners of the subject usually glossed over.
Does climate change? If so, why?
I believe that climate does change over time. (Remember, we are talking about climate now, not weather.) Climate is a description of the average atmospheric conditions in a specific region, taken over at least 30 years. Weather simply changes every day. In the case of Melbourne, Australia, it is said that you can experience all four seasons in one day!
A century ago, Serbian scientist Milutin Milankovitch hypothesised that the long-term, collective effects of changes in Earth’s position relative to the Sun are a strong driver of Earth’s long-term climate, and are responsible for triggering the beginning and ending of ice ages. Let me discuss his three cycles.
- Eccentricity of the Earth’s Orbit
Earth’s orbit around the Sun isn’t a perfect circle. Over time, the gravitational pull from the two largest planets, Jupiter and Saturn, cause the shape of Earth’s orbit to vary from nearly circular to slightly elliptical. Currently, Earth’s eccentricity is near its least elliptical (most circular) and is very slowly decreasing, in a cycle that spans about 100,000 years.
The total change in global annual insolation (energy received from the sun) due to the eccentricity cycle is very small and some will argue, insignificant; but before I go on, consider this.
The Earth’s atmospheric system is extremely complex and extraordinarily difficult to model. There are so many variables to consider. Let’s just consider one here.
The amount of ice on the Earth, on land or on oceans, correlates with the amount of insolation reflected back to space, known as the Earth’s albedo.
During ice ages, much of the Earth’s surface was covered with ice. This large coverage of white meant that the Earth’s albedo was high, with much of the incoming solar radiation received by Earth being reflected back into space without appreciably warming the atmosphere.
But if a change in the Earth’s orbit brings about a minute change in the insolation received — for example, just a little bit more heat, barely enough to measure — it could be enough to melt an ice cap or two just a little bit, barely enough to measure. The Earth’s albedo decreases, just a little bit. Then, more of the incoming insolation is retained as heating, melting a bit more ice, and before you know it, a positive feedback loop is set up and the ice age melts away.
As a result, a steady increase of real measurable temperatures; sea level rises from the melting ice; and plants and animals once again begin to colonise what had been the frozen rocky waste that underlay the ice.
- Obliquity of the Earth’s Spin
The angle of the Earth’s axis of rotation is tilted as it orbits around the Sun is known as obliquity and thus explains our seasons. Each hemisphere facing the sun has its summer and the hemisphere tilted away has its winter. As the year progresses, when the sun is directly over the equator, each hemisphere has its autumn and spring respectively.
Obliquity varies between 22.1 and 24.5 degrees with respect to Earth’s orbit. The greater the obliquity, the more extreme our seasons, as the hemisphere facing the sun receives more insolation during its summer, and less during winter when it is tilted away. It is believed that periods of greater obliquity can trigger deglaciation after an ice age, as the Earth’s albedo is reduced.
Obliquity is currently tilted at 23.4 degrees, or about halfway between its extremes, with a cycle that spans about 41,000 years. It was last at its maximum tilt about 10,700 years ago and will reach its minimum tilt about 9,800 years from now.
- Precession of the Earth’s axial wobble
As Earth rotates about its axis, it wobbles slightly, much like an off-centred spinning top before it falls over. This wobble is believed to be due to tidal forces caused by the gravitational influences of the Sun and Moon that cause Earth to bulge at the equator, affecting its rotation. The cycle of precession spans about 25,770 years.
The passage of precession makes the seasons more extreme in one hemisphere and less extreme in the other. Currently, this makes Southern Hemisphere summers hotter and moderates Northern Hemisphere seasons. But in about 13,000 years, precession will cause these conditions to flip.
Other climate change drivers
So far in this essay, I have not mentioned the effects of volcanic ash from eruptions, that can be carried right around the globe by high-level jet streams. These clouds of ash reflect insolation and can have a cooling effect on our climates for many years.
[A word of caution here. If you are not aware, or perhaps have forgotten, the internet is far from ‘balanced’ in the articles and websites fed to you on a search. I have noticed (and it getting worse and worse in my view) that generally government websites (whatever the country), NASA, Wikipedia and National Geographic, to name but a few, all point their readers to the doctrine that climate change is an inconvenient truth. They have no room for discussion of alternative views.]
Another contributor to climate change is the sunspot cycle of 11 years. The comings and goings of sunspots have been shown to parallel changes in the Earth’s climates, and the occurrence of the Little Ice Age, which lasted from about 1450 to 1820.
Then there is the theory that the burning of fossil fuels, coal, oil and natural gas is creating climate change. Usually, this is described as anthropogenic warming, as it is a direct effect of man’s activity. It is focussed on the extra production of carbon dioxide (CO2), which is one of the greenhouse gases that trap insolation in our atmosphere as the radiation bounces off these molecules on their way back out to space, but as a result, are returned to Earth, creating the heating effect.
One thing to remember about the theory of anthropogenic warming due to CO2 is that CO2 only makes up an extremely small proportion of our atmosphere and this is not changing significantly due to our anthropogenic activity. Our atmosphere is 78 per cent nitrogen, 21 per cent oxygen, 0.9 per cent argon, and 0.1 per cent other gases (including CO2).
However, CO2 is the most important gas for plant growth, being the only source of carbon available to them. As Jordan B. Peterson has eloquently pointed out, the globe’s food production from plants has increased thanks to the extra CO2 produced by man and the deserts have begun to shrink! Great news for mankind!
There are still more climate change drivers. For example, the distribution of continental masses around the globe resulting from plate tectonics. Their distribution influences the Earth’s albedo, as land and oceans have different coefficients of reflectivity with respect to insolation.
Other examples are gaseous and particulate pollution, cutting insolation and stimulating rainfall, to say nothing of poisoning our environment. Deforestation has a devastating impact on soil quality, to say nothing of the reduction in water vapour in the atmosphere (a great contribution to the greenhouse effect). And the impact of commercial agriculture on the atmosphere.
Our atmosphere, the weather and the climate we experience are influenced by arguably the most complex, interconnected array of variables known to man. To simplify it to anthropogenic warming and to the excess of CO2, does a gross injustice to the science.
Is there really a climate crisis?
Most media commentary, most governments’ policies and most corporations, particularly the global ones, believe that there is. Anyone who is not a believer is ridiculed, sidelined, or ignored. But does that mean that there really is a climate crisis? Or does it demonstrate something completely different?
In the second half of this essay, I am leaning heavily on a one-and-a-quarter-hour-long discussion between Amir Tsarfati and Professor Yonatan Dubi published in November 2022 — Climate Change: A New World Religion? Amir is a Jew converted to Christianity, and Yonatan describes himself as a Jew by birth but now part atheist, part agnostic.
Yonatan is a physicist who specialises in mathematical modelling. He points out that the world’s average temperature has risen by 1.1o C over the last 100 years and that sea levels have risen by 30 cm in the last 100 years. This is an interesting observation, as we would expect sea levels to rise following the Little Ice Age of 1450 to 1820, and they have. Nothing unusual here!
Globally, sea level rise is extremely variable depending on local tectonic forces. For example, the sea level on Israel’s coastline has risen 7 cm over the last 100 years. Do these rates constitute a crisis? I don’t think so.
As Yonatan points out, rates like these will give man ample time to adjust to make any necessary changes to save himself and his livelihood. For Yonatan, this is not a crisis. He also points out that the IPCC’s (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) own data shows that there has been no rise in catastrophic weather events over the last 100 years either. As we know, the mainstream media love to use each hurricane, flood, fire, or drought as evidence of climate change. They are simply stoking the fire of alarmism and fuelling the fears of climate change believers.
Is climate change a religion?
What is a religion? Extremely hard to define, I am sure you will agree, but for me, there are some core components. Belief is central, a belief in something that requires faith, without the evidence of fact. The second element for me is that the belief engenders, or creates, a unity within a community of believers. Those who don’t believe are outcasts, excluded from the community.
According to a classical sociologist, religion is a “unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things, that is to say things set apart and forbidden — beliefs and practices which unite into one single moral community called a Church, all those who adhere to them.” (Durkheim, 1915)
Amir and Yonatan build their argument that climate change is a religion. They recognise the emergence of the ‘environmental movement’ in the 1960s with the publication of the classic work Silent Spring (Rachel Carson, 1962). The core of this book targeted the use of DDT against the curse of malaria in Africa. Afterward, the banning of DDT led to the excess deaths of millions from malaria, until the Africans started using DDT again!
Amir identified the Club of Rome’s Limits to Growth, 1972, as planting the seeds of the current preoccupation with limiting economic growth as a worthy environmental response to the climate crisis. Yonatan also identified the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 as the moment that saw increasing numbers flocking to the Greenpeace movement.
At the heart of all these initiatives was the underlying belief in the planet and in the fact that the planet needed saving. The enemy that needed to be fought against was mankind. Man was no longer the pinnacle of God’s creation, but rather a curse, responsible for so much pain, misery and degradation of the planet.
So, parallel with the demise of the Judeo-Christian heritage, starting in the liberated 1960s and continuing with the destruction of Communism, culminating in the breakup of the USSR and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the people needed a new cause around which to unite. The environment, the planet, became their new god.
So, God said, in effect, “If that’s what you want, that’s what you get.” It wasn’t long before they were living in a pigpen, smeared with filth, filthy inside and out. And all this because they traded the true God for a fake god, and worshiped the god they made instead of the God who made them — the God we bless, the God who blesses us. Oh, yes!
~ Romans 1:25 (MSG)
It seems to me that climate change has all the hallmarks of a religion. For me, the most concerning aspect of this is that their adherents have ‘set aside’ their rational, enquiring, eager-to-learn minds, that naturally question and debate; for blind belief, faith, in what their leaders tell them. Their singular target is simply our individual carbon footprint, that is, the amount of CO2 that can be attributed to each one of us. So, believers simply must make the sacrifices necessary to bring this impact down. The more we save, individually, the more pious we are and the higher up the religious hierarchy we go!
Do not be deceived!
The climate change religion is very deceiving. It is so easy to become unwitting converts, as so much of it is obviously sensible. Let’s consider a few examples. Overfishing the oceans will swell our profits for today, but deplete the harvest for future generations — our children and grandchildren.
Clear-felling and burning our native forests send precious resources up in smoke, destroying the natural habitat for innumerable species of plants, animals and birds, to say nothing of the potential for cooling the planet due to increased smoke cover in the upper atmosphere.
Intensive commercial farming is over-reliant on artificial fertiliser. It degrades the soil, depleting the carbon content, and increases the risk of soil erosion by wind and or flood, not to mention the dangers of salinisation, as salt may be brought to the surface by evaporation, rendering the land unusable by future generations.
3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives,
the disciples came to Him privately.
“Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen,
and what will be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age?”
4 Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you.
5 For many will come in My name,
claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many.
6 You will hear of wars and rumours of wars,
but see to it that you are not alarmed.
Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.
7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.
There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.
8 All these are the beginning of birth pains.”
~ Matthew 24:3-8 (my underlining).
I believe that the climate change religion can easily deceive us. Stage one, we believe the rhetoric, because we can’t see any alternative narrative as censorship has effectively outlawed alternative perspectives.
Stage two, we subconsciously accommodate the new religion into our current faith and moral practices. Finally, stage three, we can no longer recognise the new religion that has taken up residence within us and makes it normal for us to outcast any, including our family or community, who don’t share our beliefs. We take on the mores that preach the moral virtue of ‘for the greater good’, even though it flies in the face of the fact that each one of us, has been individually, fearfully and wonderfully made by God (Psalm 139:14).
More and more layers of red paint!
Yonatan described a wonderful analogy of more and more layers of red paint. He compares the impact of increasing the parts per million of CO2 in our atmosphere due to the burning of fossil fuels to adding layers of paint to a fence.
When we paint a fence with red paint, the first layer will look pretty anaemic as the original material or colour will be bound to show through. So, we put on another coat of paint, then another and perhaps a fourth.
By now each additional layer simply makes the paint layer thicker; it does not change the colour. Yonatan is saying that reducing the parts per million of CO2, as the climate change religion desires, will have as negligible an effect as taking off one layer of red paint from our fence. The fence will still look red!
So, imagine the destruction of all the economies right across the globe. Imagine the impact on the poorest people. Imagine the wealth gap widening even more as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. And all for what? An immeasurable impact on the planet’s climates!
I can only see one benefit from all this. The rich elite, who have designed this new religion, do very well, thank you! The rest of us become the new feudal society of serfs, serving our new masters for their every pleasure.
Be nice to your neighbours
Let me conclude on a positive note.
15 Your hands are full of blood!
16 Wash and make yourselves clean.
Take your evil deeds out of My sight;
stop doing wrong.
17 Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow.
18 “Come now, let us settle the matter,”
says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool.”
~ Isaiah 1:15b-18
I commend the whole of this chapter to you, but what does the writer say here? To recognise that we might have been deceived into thinking and doing wrong. Then to do right, to seek justice, defend the oppressed, and take up the cause of the fatherless and plead the cause of the widow (v17).
I can think of no better analogy than that we should be:
… the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
~ Matthew 5:13
Let’s be nice to our neighbours. Let’s be responsible to the environment, while remembering that it is our decisions, our responsibility as citizens that counts, not the edicts and demands of external authorities. If there is no clearly argued good reason for doing something, there is no clearly argued good reason for doing something!
Photo by Markus Spiske.