The idea of planetary climate control is one that readers and viewers of futuristic science fiction are likely to be familiar with. The idea is that at some point in the future technology will have advanced so far that we will be able to eliminate destructive weather such as hurricanes and tornadoes or even give ourselves year round ideal weather conditions.
The dream of being able to manipulate the weather, to make it rain when we need rain, and shine when we want sun, to be able to avoid extreme temperatures and unpleasant and dangerous storms, is nothing new. The same dream, on a more moderate scale, is reflected in the rain dances that have been part of certain tribal cultures for ages. What sci-fi writers have envisioned, is on a much more grandiose scale than this but it is also more realistic in that the method by which planetary climate control will be achieved, the development of science and technology, is more effective than magic.
In the sci-fi vision of planetary climate control we see a glimpse of the ultimate end to which modern science has been working for centuries. That end is man’s total control over himself and the world in which he lives. Two thousand years ago, Jesus Christ asked “What doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” Science, in the modern sense of the word, is what happens when man collectively ignores that question and recklessly seeks to gain the world at the expense of his soul.
Modern science is often thought of as being materialistic and atheistic and it has increasingly taken on these attitudes in the last two centuries but to truly grasp its nature it needs to be understood that it is Baconian in spirit. In New Atlantis, a brief and incomplete, posthumously published novel by Sir Francis Bacon, a ship gets lost in the Pacific Island and ends up on the island of Bensalem, home of a scientific research foundation known as Salomon’s House. The Father of Salomon’s House tells the visitors that the goal of this organization is “the knowledge of causes, and secret motions of things; and the enlarging of the bounds of human empire, to the effecting of all things possible.” This is the purpose of science, as Bacon conceived it, and it is summarized well in the saying, often attributed to Bacon, “knowledge is power.”
Bacon thought of this as an entirely positive and worthy project but it has some darker implications that were pointed out by George Grant. Much of Grant’s writing was devoted to exploring the nature of technology, the modern synthesis of science and art, knowing and making/doing, and its impact on the modern world. Technology, as Grant saw it, was the instrument of dynamic change and was reshaping the world and radically uprooting old traditions and established institutions. Grant, holding this up to the light of ancient wisdom, found it to be of questionable goodness and so argued that the benefits man has reaped from technology are at best mixed blessings. It was the pursuit of Bacon’s goal of “the enlarging of the bounds of human empire, to the effecting of all things possible” that had brought about modern technology and behind this goal, Grant saw the Nietzschean “will to power”, arguing, as a Christian, that this was ultimately an attempt to build in the place of the “Kingdom of God” of Christian theology, a “Kingdom of Man”. To make the “Kingdom of Man” the end of history, rather than the “Kingdom of God” is to put man in the place of God – the height of human arrogance and folly.
If modern science is the accumulation of knowledge of the causes, effects, and processes of the natural world so as to be able to bend that world to our will through technology then the sci-fi vision of a future world in which science has harnessed and mastered the natural forces of climate and weather at whose mercy man has lived for millennia is a goal that it is to be logically expected that science will set for itself. Whether we see it as a benevolent attempt to serve mankind, an arrogant attempt to play God, or a strange mixture of both, “climate control” is clearly in keeping with the Baconian vision of science as power. The question, to which we now turn, is whether science as power, the extension of man’s will over all of nature, is also what is actually behind all of the talk coming from the scientific community about “climate change”.
We are not accustomed to thinking of it this way, because those warning about the dangers of climate change speak as if they were motivated purely by concern for the good of the planet and the welfare of all mankind and the drive to subject nature to the domination of man belonged solely to the industrialists, petroleum companies, and all others they have cast as the villains in their narrative of anthropogenic global warming. This narrative is utter nonsense, however, and this, together with the way climate change scientists have been shown to have fudged their data to manufacture “evidence” and the heavy handed way in which many of them have sought to suppress dissent to the narrative, gives us good cause to question the purity of their motives.
Virtually every detail of the anthropogenic global warming narrative is an insult to the intelligence of the people who are bullied into saying they believe it. We are told, for example, that the roughly one degree Celsius by which the average surface temperature of the earth rose between the last half of the nineteenth century and the twenty-first represents an alarming and unprecedented spike in global temperatures after they had remained more or less steady for a thousand years. This assessment, represented in the infamous “hockey stick” graph, can only be arrived by ignoring what history has to say and relying instead upon high tech witch doctoring to conjure up past temperatures out of tree rings and the like. History, as John Lukacs says, is the remembered past, and the past millennium, as remembered in the writings of those who actually lived through it, began with a period of considerable warmth which was followed, in the middle centuries, by one of significant cooling.
We are expected to believe that, while notoriously unreliable in predicting the next day’s weather, scientists and their computers are accurate when it comes to the much larger scale of global climate patterns. This one degree rise in global temperature, they tell us, is due to all the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere from industrial smokestacks and automobile exhausts, and, unless we drastically cut our carbon dioxide emissions, we will be faced with imminent climactic disaster. In 1815, Mount Tambora in Indonesia erupted, and temperatures around the world dropped by approximately half a degree. This was caused by the release of ash and sulfur into the atmosphere, and while it was the opposite effect of that attributed to carbon dioxide, the point is that carbon dioxide is hardly the only substance that enters our atmosphere which affects global temperatures. The idea that out of all the factors that affect the global climate, carbon dioxide is primarily to blame for the rise in global temperature and the problems which may or may not afflict us as a result, comes out of the flip-side to the modern confidence in man’s ability through science and technology to subject nature to his will – the difficulty in accepting that forces greater than man and beyond his power to control may have a larger part to play in what happens.
Perhaps the “97%” of scientists, who we are told support the anthropogenic climate change narrative, actually do believe it, although the way the scientific community treats the narrative as a creed, dissent from which renders one either a heretic or an infidel, strongly suggests otherwise. They use the narrative to promote a certain set of actions – the governments of the world getting together and agreeing to pass taxes, regulations, fines, and whatever else is needed to reduce industrial carbon emissions. If we were to accept the narrative at face value, then these agreements would resemble an attempt to avert the imminent crash threatened by our racing towards a precipice, by decreasing the pressure on the accelerator.
It does not take a big stretch of the imagination to think that this is really all about power. Modern scientific knowledge is highly specialized, fully accessible only to “experts”. When the scientific community, therefore, presents the world with a doomsday scenario that can only be averted if its orders are followed, those with political power will do its bidding. If anyone outside the circle of expertise is skeptical of the claims, the scientific community can simply say he doesn’t understand the science. The only real threat would be from dissent from within the circle of expertise, creating the need for the scientific community to suppress and cover up such dissent and present a public façade of a universal consensus.
Power is highly addictive, which is why George Grant warned that the modern scientific project of subjecting all of nature to the will of man would inevitably lead to tyranny, in which man himself is subjected to the same will. Is this what we are seeing in all this hot air about climate change?
Climate change alarmism is built upon a correlation scientists have drawn between the rise of carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere since the nineteenth century and a rise in average global temperature over the same period of time. Something else has expanded greatly in the same period and that is the population of the world. It was around 1830 that the world’s population first grew to one billion. Today it is over seven billion. If one considers how else, other than by burning fossil fuels, human beings produce carbon dioxide, i.e., by breathing, and how the same people warning us about manmade climate change are frequently also neo-Malthusians, i.e., people who think the world’s population has grown beyond the planet’s carrying capacity but who lack Malthus’s Christian scruples against abortion, euthanasia, and the like, one can see the door of climate change alarmism opening up onto a very dark path indeed. As Nicolás Gómez Dávila once put it “The so highly acclaimed ‘dominion of man over nature’ turned out to be merely an enormous capability to kill.”
Now, as the latest climate change summit in France has just drawn to a close, that is a rather sobering thought upon which to reflect.