Global Warming is the Mother of all Moral Panics!

by | Jun 8, 2021 |

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In his newly published book, “Green Fraud,” Marc Morano, publisher of the influential Washington DC-based Climatedepot.com, explains, 

“Global warming hype and hysteria dominate the news media, academia, schools, the United Nations, and the U.S. government…School-skipping teen climate activists testify before the U.S. Congress and the United Nations, and young children are recruited for lawsuits against the U.S. government for its alleged climate ‘inaction.’ The phrase ‘climate emergency’ has emerged as the favorite for climate campaigners.

“But the arguments put forth by the global warming advocates grossly distort the true facts on a host of issues, ranging from rising sea levels and record temperatures to melting polar caps and disappearing polar bears.

“In fact, there is no ‘climate crisis’ or ‘climate emergency.’ The UN, climate activists, the media, and academia are using the climate scare as an opportunity to lobby for their alleged ‘solutions,’ which require massive government expansion and central planning.”

Early in the 20th century, the famous American journalist H.L. Mencken described what our nation is suffering through, perhaps now more than ever, when he said,

“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed and hence clamoring to be led to safety by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”

Human-caused climate change/global warming can be considered the mother of all hobgoblins.

Greta Thunberg, AOC, and countless others tell us it’s time to panic about climate change!

We actually think the opposite. It’s time to calm down.

What we’re concerned about is the distinct possibility that catastrophic man-caused climate change is now what sociologists call a “moral panic.” In other words, the panic surrounding climate change is far more dangerous than the issue itself.

It’s fascinating how human beings can whip themselves into a fervor over a supposed problem.

They don’t stop to consider the possibility that the problem is likely to be manageable. Or that the problem…may not even be a problem. It is just as British writer and publisher Tom Stacey explains in the “Prefatory Essay” to the late Professor Bob Carter’s 2013 book, 

“Catastrophilia is ever with us, accompanied by wild-eyed summons to action.”

As far back as the 16th Century, we had a moral panic in Europe, which led to the burning of thousands of innocent women claimed to be witches responsible for crop failures. The Friends of Science Society write: 

“’Weather Cooking’ was a crime that witches were accused of in the Medieval and Little Ice Age periods. When the weather got bad – it was clear to the ‘locals’ that someone had been up to something. So – witches were executed for ‘cooking’ bad weather.”

No one has been burned today, but careers by the scores have been destroyed for those in academia who admit to not believing humans control the thermostat of planet Earth. 

Let’s consider a couple of modern examples of moral panics that had huge costs in either funds wasted or lives lost (or both):

Y2K

When complicated computer programs were first written in the 60s, software designers used a two-digit code for the year, omitting the ‘19.’ As 2000 approached, the worry was that systems would not interpret the 00 properly, therefore causing major problems in the system.

In the late 1990s, nearly every tech expert agreed we needed to spend hundreds of billions of dollars to avoid a so-called ‘Millennium Bug,’ or Y2K catastrophe. The Orlando Sentinel reported: “The world spent an estimated $500 billion or so to keep the Y2K bug from supposedly throwing us back into the stone age.”

Despite that huge expenditure, we fell far short of fixing everything. Yet, on the morning of January 1, 2000, practically nothing happened.  Planes did not crash, trains did not collide, and life went on as normal. National Geographic explained:

“In the end, there were very few problems. In Ishikawa, Japan, a nuclear energy facility had some of its radiation equipment fail, but backup facilities ensured there was no threat to the public. The U.S. detected missile launches in Russia and attributed that to the Y2K bug. But the missile launches were planned ahead of time as part of Russia’s conflict in its republic of Chechnya. There was no computer malfunction.

“Countries such as Italy, Russia, and South Korea had done little to prepare for Y2K. They had no more technological problems than those countries, like the U.S., that spent millions of dollars to combat the problem.”

Sentinel Staff member Ramsey Campbell summed up the situation well (“EXPENSIVE Y2K BUG NIBBLED AWAY MILLIONS,” January 12, 2000):

“It was all a big fuss over nothing. It’s like that old joke about a gimmick for keeping elephants away: “There aren’t any elephants in Florida,” says one guy. “See – it works,” replies another.

“But that $500 billion did go somewhere…Somebody ought to make a movie about it. I already have the perfect title – Revenge of the Nerds: With a Vengeance.”

Fukushima

It has been almost a decade since a major earthquake, and a devastating tsunami damaged the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan. 

Approximately 160,000 people were evacuated from the Fukushima nuclear power plant area shortly after it was damaged by the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami because of fear of radiation exposure. It is estimated that 1,600 people died prematurely from stress-related illness in the evacuation process. While there were indeed thousands of lives tragically lost due to the tsunami and subsequent pollution from wastewater, there was not a single case of radiation-induced illness or death due to escaped radiation. 

The UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation issued a press release two years later that said:

“Radiation exposure following the nuclear accident at Fukushima-Daiichi did not cause any immediate health effects. Eight years later, still, none have appeared. It is unlikely to be able to attribute any health effects in the future among the general public and the vast majority of workers…To date, there have been no health effects attributed to radiation exposure observed among workers, the people with the highest radiation exposures.”

The ‘precautionary’ action, taken in response to hypothetical health risks, was more harmful than the risks themselves.

Moral Panics

Here’s what you need to know about moral panics. There are five defining elements: Concern, Consensus, Hostility, Disproportionality, and Volatility.

It begins when people become concerned about a problem that they believe threatens community interests. The danger of a changing climate meets that requirement.

A Consensus arises that there is an urgent crisis. This “consensus” is typically not real, just a manufactured perception. The absurd unsupportable claim that “97 percent” of scientists agree that burning fossil fuels is creating a climate catastrophe fits nicely as a moral panic phenomenon. The junior author of this article discussed this at The Heartland Institute’s rebuttal of the 2018 Global Climate Action Summit.

Anyone who disagrees with this so-called “consensus” is met with hostility, and more, as we said above. No better example is Senator Sheldon Whitehouse from Rhode Island wanting dissenters imprisoned.

Sociologists call them folk devils, or in this case, ‘science deniers.’

The solution to the problem is Disproportionally out of scale with what is actually known.

Spending inconceivable amounts of money to change every aspect of how we live…yeah, that’s certainly disproportional.

And, finally, moral panics are typically volatile. They flare up but then go away pretty quickly. Have you heard anything about Y2K in recent years? This is where climate change doesn’t fit the model, and it seems clear why.

There is always a storm, drought, flood, record high, or even record low temperature in any given week. There’s always something an alarmist can point to and say, ‘see⏤climate change!’

It doesn’t matter⏤those weather extremes are a constant in nature……Or that there is no proof man’s activities are causing some extreme, unnatural variation. The panic has become familiar… and… predictably….valuable.

While there may be a legitimate cause for concern initially, the panic gets amplified by people and organizations capitalizing on the fear people feel.

The news media hypes the panic because exploiting fear and creating conflict is the foundation of their business model.

People who sell expertise or products designed to fix the problem encourage the hysteria.

Remember, during Y2K, lots of tech companies and software developers made a fortune.

Panic can be highly profitable.

Of course, those who seek power use the scare to seize as much as they can, as fast as they can. Consider how Governors and Premiers in the US and Canada jumped quickly to enforce draconian lockdowns across society, ruining small businesses and doing far more damage to the health and prosperity of their citizens than the Coronavirus likely ever could. Two papers that should be read by all politicians include:

Finally, this is the most important thing about many moral panics… those pushing the hysteria often have the same goal in mind. That goal is to create a compelling incentive for changes in public policy that favor those stoking fear. 

So, what do you think? Climate alarmists say there is no time for debate or private sector innovation. They assert that we must spend unfathomable amounts of money and blindly trust the politicians and bureaucrats who will spend it. We must sacrifice many freedoms… capitalism… even our way of life. We don’t know about you, but that’s what we’re concerned about. 


NOTE: We have Mark Mathis of the Clear Energy Alliance to thank for portions of this article. See Mark’s four-minute video on this at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qesALW45okw.

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Dr. Jay Lehr is a Senior Policy Analyst with the International Climate Science Coalition and former Science Director of The Heartland Institute. He is an internationally renowned scientist, author, and speaker who has testified before Congress on dozens of occasions on environmental issues and consulted with nearly every agency of the national government and many foreign countries. After graduating from Princeton University at the age of 20 with a degree in Geological Engineering, he received the nation’s first Ph.D. in Groundwater Hydrology from the University of Arizona. He later became executive director of the National Association of Groundwater Scientists and Engineers.

Tom Harris is Executive Director of the Ottawa, Canada-based International Climate Science Coalition, and a policy advisor to The Heartland Institute. He has 40 years experience as a mechanical engineer/project manager, science and technology communications professional, technical trainer, and S&T advisor to a former Opposition Senior Environment Critic in Canada’s Parliament.

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