First in a series.
From ancient times, the worship of people or objects other than a Supreme Being was viewed as apostasy, most vividly depicted in the Old Testament by the Golden Calf in Exodus. While idolatry is instigated primarily to control obedient followers, religion has typically had its roots in the notion of deliverance from suffering, salvation, a code of righteous conduct, and a sense of comfort. However, fervent religious belief has also entrenched powerful overlords and been responsible for the persecution and death of millions in the name of holy righteousness. Idolatry and activist religion thus have a great deal in common.
Call it whatever you like, but the United States today is in the grip of several manifestations of a kind of idol worship. This article is the first of a series examining these modern golden calves. We ascribe this disturbing development to educational institutions abandoning a focus on critical thinking and instead nurturing a “clergy” who preach reverence to their conceptual idols. This produces students who lack adequate reasoning skills and instead parrot supposedly enlightened narratives fed to them, much to society’s detriment by crowding out beneficial debate.
The first and most pervasive example of today’s transition from reason to idolatry is the Church of Climate Change. Not only is the U.S. in thrall to this, but most of the West has also genuflected. The cause even has its own Joan of Arc in unhappy, deluded Greta Thunberg. At this point, the theology is centered on the belief that climate change is such an existential near-term threat to humanity that no attempts at mitigation should be off limits, regardless of their futility or collateral damage.
There is no debate about the fact that carbon dioxide is accumulating in the atmosphere, and since CO2 does not break down for some 300 years, that trend will continue. However, crucially, we only know the impact of that accumulation through supposition, anecdotal findings, and models that have already proved unreliable and often inaccurate. We certainly do not know whether there even exists some elusive doomsday. The question is not whether steps should be taken to reduce emissions, but which policies will work, whether their impact will justify the cost, what coping strategies are more suitable than extreme mitigation policies, and who will participate. By analogy, we do not ban automobiles in order to eliminate traffic fatalities; instead, we insist on seat belts to mitigate the damage even though some people still perish.
We have written at length about the many flawed policies perpetrated by the climate change clergy, who too often benefit economically, politically, or egotistically while promoting radical remedies. The climate clergy and its supplicants are masters of propaganda, too often to the exclusion of facts and common sense. Example No. 1 is the myth that extreme sacrifice by the West, which is responsible for only 25% of emissions (and falling), will set a useful “moral example” that will be emulated by others. For the most part, the result in other countries has been largely meaningless virtue-signaling. That should be justification enough to moderate the sacrifice by ordinary citizens until such time as we see real progress in the rest of the world. But that is considered heresy.
Another manifestation of the failure to heed facts and common sense is the slavish devotion to electric vehicles (EVs) as a remedy to climate change, which we have previously discussed. The data show clearly that EVs’ net lifecycle benefits with respect to emissions are very small, but the infrastructure costs – electric grid updates, urban and highway charging capability, generating capacity – are measured in the multi-trillions of dollars, even if purchase subsidies are ignored. Add to those the mineral supply constraints for batteries, the everyday challenges – you can’t walk to the fuel stop and get a can of electrons – and the industry and employment disruptions, and what results is the biggest boondoggle-in-progress in human history.
Even the source of deliverance in this religion – namely, renewables – is a pipe-dream. The wind does not always blow, and the sun shines, on average, only half the day. But demand for electricity does not move in step – backup capacity (typically fossil fuel) must be at the ready. However, as renewables dominate, at some point the generators needed for backup become uneconomic to operate. This effectively caps the percentage of power that renewables can economically provide due to inevitable subsidies for the backup plants to sit idle but remain open.
Battery storage as an alternative has many challenges, including cost and competition with other applications (EVs among them), so perhaps subsidizing home batteries rather than EVs would have more impact.
Lastly, renewables have their own cost issues, including raw materials, land usage, and the need for transmission lines because populated areas are off-limits for utility-scale renewables.
The real near-term deliverance from greenhouse gas-emitting energy is small-scale and micro-scale nuclear fission. MIT has done extensive work on these technologies, and it is clear that costs, implementation time, operational challenges, and risk can be dramatically reduced compared to current practices. Yet this approach to emissions mitigation somehow remains sacrilegious to the climate clergy.
In sum, the idolatry and closemindedness of the canons of the Church of Climate Change are exacting untold costs on the U.S. and other Western economies, while barely making a dent in an ill-defined problem. This is causing our society to regress – sadly, in ways reminiscent of periods in history when people were subjected to heartless and cruel coercion and religious-based persecution. This church’s canons should be abandoned in favor of policies based on evidence and reason.
Golden Calf 2: Equity
Golden Calf 3: Gender
Golden Calf 4: The Right Not to Be Offended
Andrew I. Fillat spent his career in technology venture capital and information technology companies. He is also the co-inventor of relational databases. Henry I. Miller, a physician and molecular biologist, was a consulting professor at Stanford University’s Institute for International Studies. They were undergraduates together at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.