It is not pleasant to have to argue against a superstition which is held most strongly by men and women who are often regarded as the best in our society, and against a belief that has become almost the new religion of our time (and in which many of the ministers of old religion have found their refuge), and which has become the recognized mark of the good man. But the present universality of that belief proves no more the reality of its object than did the universal belief in witches or the philosopher’s stone.

—Friedrich Hayek. Legislation and Liberty, Volume II, 1976.

Certain scientific theories have a ring of authenticity about them: they sound true. However, for a scientific theory to be true it requires far more than plausibility—it must actually accord with reality. For thousands of years the Greeks, Romans, and later the Medieval Europeans and Muslims believed all matter was made of four elements—earth, air, water, fire—and that the heavens revolved around the earth. It sounded plausible, there was consensus in the scientific community and everyone believed it—dissenters were ridiculed and in some cases tortured.

In another example of wayward consensus, it was believed that the human body was made up of four humors—yellow bile, black bile, phlegm, blood. It was believed that when these were in balance a person was healthy; when illness occurred it was because they were out of balance. It sounded plausible, there was consensus in the scientific community and everyone believed it.

Yet despite the belief of the many buttressing the belief of the individual, these scientific orthodoxies did not stand the test of time. This is because they were wrong.

The global warming theory claims to have achieved consensus amongst the scientific community. One problem is that many of those who sing the chorus do not even have global warming as their field of study. For example, the American Academy of Paediatrics and American Public Health Association have both issued statements supporting the global warming hypothesis. However we cannot give weight to these endorsements. It would make as much sense as giving weight to the opinion of the Screen Actors Guild.

Ever since this all began, there have been articles in the media about ice sheets breaking off and causing the rapid rising of sea levels. Such articles have been coming thick and fast now for more than a decade, along with claims that island nations will very shortly disappear. Yet anyone who visits the beach can vouch for the fact that, as yet, there has been no discernible rise in the level of the sea—despite the fact that we have been warned about rising sea levels in apocalyptical terms.

The vaunted United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, linked the severity of floods, hurricanes, and other natural disasters to global warming, and predicted that Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2035. The panel has since conceded that these bogus claims have no foundation in science. This raises the question, what would motivate someone to invent these claims? The answer is that some scientists believe so deeply in their cause that their moral code permits them to say or do anything that convinces others to believe.

Those who fervently believe that global warming is taking place, and will make the planet uninhabitable, might be expected to stop at nothing to save humanity. It reminds us of those Jesuit priests charged with carrying out the Inquisition. Some of them sincerely believed that heretics’ souls would burn for all eternity if they did not accept the pope as the true Vicar of Christ. Thus these pious men performed unspeakable acts of barbaric torture, including the use of the rack and burning people alive. However, their consciences were clear because they were convinced they were serving a higher good. This, and many other like examples throughout history, warn us to weigh carefully the evidence and arguments presented to us by those who are utterly convinced they hold the keys to mankind’s salvation.

This should not be considered as suggesting the global warming theory is incorrect. (The author, for one, instinctively feels it is correct.) However, peak oil was also a theory. For nearly a hundred years scientists and Malthusians, with the utmost solemnity, warned us that oil reserves would run out sometime in the 1980s. The world was urged to ban private motor vehicles, ration fuel, cut populations and return to an agrarian existence or else face war and mass famine. Yet the Peak Oil theory was debunked by the passage of time. Friedrich Hayek, writing well before anyone had heard of global warming, reminded us that there is nothing new about environmental Cassandras:

Industrial development would have been greatly retarded if sixty or eighty years ago the warning of the conservationists about the threatening exhaustion of the supply of coal had been heeded; and the internal combustion engine would never have revolutionized transport if its use had been limited to the then known supplies of oil (during the first few decades of the era of the automobile and the airplane the known resources of oil at the current rate of use would have been exhausted in ten years). Though it is important that on all these matters the opinion of the experts about the physical facts should be heard, the result in most instances would have been very detrimental if they had had the power to enforce their views on policy. (The Constitution of Liberty, 1960.)

This article is an extract from the book ‘Principles of Good Government’ by Matthew Bransgrove