One of the iconic cartoons – and sometimes even in real life – there is a robed character on a street corner with a sign the reads “The End of the World is Coming.” Of course, both science and logic tell us that he is right.
Usually, that warning is an invitation to repent for some wayward ways or maybe just a solicitation for a few coins. We would be foolish to take him too seriously because we know that his warning has no relevance to our lives.
If we do take such ominous warnings seriously, we might be like the late Reverend Harold Camping, who on two occasions led his followers on a “camping trip” (I could not resist the pun) to the mountain to await the imminent Rapture — the first phase of the world-ending Apocalypse in which the forces of good and evil will face off in worldwide conflagration. According to the theology, the good Christians will be beamed up to the heavenly place while the less worthy will be left behind to suffer from – or conduct — the awful biblical battle. If Camping had read the Bible more closely, he might not have been so quick to predict the hour of judgment. According to Matthew 24:36, “of that day and hour knoweth no man.”
I think of all this whenever some agency … some scientific authority … some politician by the name Al Gore makes yet another “end of the world” prediction. As I have written in the past, I am an agnostic on the meaning of climate change. My unwillingness to embrace the predicted earth-ending calamities is not the denial of scientific empiricism.
It does appear that the earth has warmed up a smidgeon over the past few years. But we are also told by scientists that the earth will again enter ice ages – even to become what it was at one time, “snowball earth.” Yes, our beautiful green planet was once covered in ice and snow from pole to pole – and they say it is going to happen again in a few billion years.
I react to that as I do to the guy on the corner with the sign. They are probably right, but it is so far in the future – and so little, if anything, we can do about it – that the warning is irrelevant.
Of course, the Draconian hyperbolic outcomes predicted for our warming earth are more immediate. We are told that we must … must … act now to save the planet. The existence of humans hangs in the balance. According to the dangerous climate change sign-carriers, we are just decades … nay, years … away from catastrophic events. In fact, the events are upon us already in the form of increasingly severe hurricanes, tornadoes, forest fires and sunburns.
We are told that the Camp Fire in California was the most destructive and deadly in history. But … was that because the geological and climate conditions are so different than in the past? OR because we have constructed thousands of homes and other structures in regions where massive forest and brush fires are common? Is the death and destruction from hurricanes because they are inherently more powerful? OR because more people have migrated to the southern seashores?
Since virtually all their deadlined-predications in the past have never come to pass, I am not overly concerned about the latest ones. Al Gore seems to be standing in for Reverend Camping in repeatedly leading us to the mountain of failed prophecy.
Perhaps the earth is in a warming cycle, but I do not believe mankind has the power to impact on that reality to any significant degree – at least not without returning to the Stone Age. So, maybe for a while we will have to not build residences in floodplains or on seashores. Or, accept the consequence. Maybe retaining walls are a better investment than fear-mongering-for-profit campaigns.
Our most prudent plan would be to spend our resources adjusting to the reality of the consequences of a warming cycle than to try to stop it like one might want to stop a speeding train by standing on the track.
Part of my skepticism is also borne out of my own experience with science versing mother nature.
At one time, I owned a home on the shore of Lake Michigan. At the time, the lake was rising and taking down the sand dunes and no few homes. There was only a sliver of a beach – and at times none at all. I was told that it was a climate problem. Lake Michigan would never recede in our lifetimes. We had to fortify our lakefront to save the homes. Many of my neighbors did. I did not.
Weeeeell … much to my pleasant surprise and to the surprise of the scientists and experts, the lake level dropped. The bare bluffs that had collapsed into the lake were again green with bushes and trees. And my beach – from bluff to shoreline — was as wide as a football field. The experts never did – or could – explain why they were so bloody wrong. But I learned that scientists are often only slightly better than crystal ball readers in predicting the future.
In the 1950s, those atomic tests were going to destroy the planet. The nuclear age continued and so did the earth. In the 1960s, the world was to be ravaged by war and starvation due to the imminent “population explosion.” The “explosion” has continued, but the Draconian outcomes did not occur. In the 1980s, scientists predicted that we would be out of fossil fuel by the Twenty-First Century.
And now, we seem to have more than ever – much to the chagrin of the climate catastrophe folks.
My bet is that all those terrible things that are predicted to happen in the next 10 or 20 years if we do not take drastic actions IMMEDIATELY, will not be nearly as bad as they predict and may not happen at all regardless of what we do, or do not do.
So, there ‘tis.