I recently read Bjorn Lomborg’s book, Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist’s Guide to Global Warming. Lomborg acknowledges that global warming exists, and attributes at least some of the cause to human activity. But he argues that it is folly to think that changing our lifestyles and economic systems will have any measurable impact on improving the situation. The trillions of dollars that would be required to make even a dent in the warming trend would be better spent tackling other social, health, and technology issues — initiatives that would reap far greater benefits to billions of people, at a fraction of the cost.
Instead, we are lectured about the urgent need to drop everything else, and devote the full resources of the planet to combating global warming. Anyone who opposes this massive campaign is marked as a heretic, or worse.
Lomborg sees a grim parallel to this apocalyptic approach in an earlier period, when climate change triggered widespread witch hunts.
Alarmism has a long history in the climate debate. Perhaps most chillingly, this was evident in the witch trials in medieval Europe. After the Inquisition’s eradication of the actual heretics (like Cathars and Waldensians), most witches from the early 1400s onward were accused of creating bad weather. The pope in 1484 recognized that witches “have blasted the produce of the earth, the grapes of the vine, the fruits of the trees, . . . vineyards, orchards, meadows, pasture-lands, corn, wheat and all other cereals.” As Europe descended into the Little Ice Age, more and more areas experienced crop failure, high food prices, and hunger; witches became obvious scapegoats in weakly governed areas. As many as half a million individuals were executed between 1500 and 1700, and there was a strong correlation between low temperatures and high numbers of witchcraft trials across the European continent.
When politicians today scream that energy companies are “treasonous” and “we need to start treating them now as traitors,” can witch trials be far behind?