Nowhere today is the human race's tendency to follow fashion, regardless of facts or social and economic realities, more evident than in the remarkable manner in which the "truth" of man-made global warming is being embraced with an almost religious fervour by politicians, journalists and some Christian leaders.
Predicting weather patterns is a notoriously imprecise science, even from week to week, let alone over the next century with the aid of computer models. Yet those who point this out are derided as "sceptics" by the true believers.
There are billions of pieces of information about weather which can be programmed to "prove" almost anything about the future with the help of computers. The more reliable approach is to investigate past temperature fluctuations through the study of ice cores, tree rings or plant remains. These and other tried and tested scientific approaches can identify climate patterns over many thousands of years, which in turn can shed light on likely future trends.
As the article by Peter Finlayson (pages 6-7) indicates, solid scientific evidence points to cycles of warming and cooling over periods of around 1,500 years. The earth is currently in a warming period which began in the 19th century, similar to what occurred in ancient Rome and during the middle ages (when agriculture flourished in Greenland). There is nothing unusual about the present slight rise in average global temperature.
In addition, increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere do not cause a rise in the average global temperature. Ambitious programs to reduce carbon "footprints" are therefore a waste of time and money, even if they enable those spending taxpayers' money to occupy the moral high ground.
Indeed, much of the present mania about alleged man-made global warming resembles a new fundamentalist "religion" conveniently filling the spiritual vacuum for some in our secular age. Such people, it seems, have a deep-felt need to fear a future apocalypse, experience a newfound sense of guilt and do penance, all because of mankind's sins against Mother Earth.
This is not to question sensible measures to reduce or eliminate local air and water pollution, protect endangered species or to look for alternative forms of energy. But let's keep these separate from any Green "religion".
Michael Gilchrist is Editor of AD2000 (email address available on request).