Events have failed to fulfill the prophecy. Preachers have suddenly been struck dumb by uncertainty. Believers are understandably nervous and some, under their breath, are abandoning the dogma.
These sentences could have been written at the end of the day Oct. 22, 1844, about the Millerites, a religious sect started in upstate New York. Preachers had told their followers that Jesus would return to Earth that day. He failed to show.
But the subject here is not Millerism, but another kind of religious faith: The faith of the global warming alarmists. And although it’s not likely to have the impact of the Millerites’ Great Disappointment, we could be seeing the beginning of something similar.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has issued its fifth assessment report in Stockholm. Wall Street Journal science writer Matt Ridley has “had a glimpse of the key prediction at the heart of the document.”
“The big news,” Ridley writes, “is that, for the first time since these reports started coming out in 1990, the new one dials back the alarm. It states that the temperature rise we can expect as a result of man-made emissions of carbon dioxide is lower than the IPCC thought in 2007.”
Ridley admits that the change is small. And he does not deny that increased carbon emissions could increase global temperatures by some significant amount. They would certainly do so if carbon emissions were the only thing affecting climate.
But there may be other things. Like variations in sun activity. “The most plausible explanation of the pause,” Ridley writes, “is simply that climate sensitivity was overestimated in the models because of faulty assumptions about net amplification through water-vapor feedback.”
The pause referred to is the fact that global temperatures haven’t increased over the past 15 years. Global warming models predicted they would. The models’ failure is not as stark as the Great Disappointment, but it’s a failure nonetheless.
The religious analogy is appropriate because belief in global warming has taken on the trappings of traditional religion.
Alarmists like to say the science is settled – which is nonsense, since science is a series of theories that can be tested by observations. When Einstein presented his theory of relativity, he showed how it could be tested during astronomical events in the next decade. The theory passed.
Saying the science is settled is like demanding what religions demand – that you have faith.
Religion has ritual. Global warming alarmism has recycling and Earth Day celebrations.
Some religions persecute heretics. Some global warming alarmists identify “denialists” and liken them to Holocaust deniers.
Religions build grand places of worship. Global warming alarmists promote the construction of windmills and solar farms that produce uneconomic and intermittent electricity.
Global warming alarmism even has indulgences like the ones Martin Luther protested. You can buy carbon offsets to gain forgiveness for travel on carbon-emitting private jet aircraft.
Some religions ban vulgar pleasures, like the New England Puritan sumptuary laws banning luxuries. Some global warming alarmists want to force most Americans out of big-lawn suburbs and into high-rise apartments clustered around mass transit stations.
This last element seems to be dominant among many global warming alarmists. Stop the vulgar masses from living their tacky lifestyles of driving those horrid SUVs. They must be made to repent, conform and then be saved.
The signs that the threat of global warming has been exaggerated come after publics here and abroad have rejected alarmists’ demands for vast carbon emission reductions.
The European Union’s carbon reduction program is in shambles and the United States has actually reduced emissions more, thanks to cheap natural gas produced by fracking.
Windmills and solar panels are not economic or dependable sources of electricity. China and India are not going to stifle the economic growth that is lifting millions out of poverty with carbon emissions caps.
History teaches that climate can change, and it makes sense to fund research to determine how to mitigate possible harms (and capitalize on possible benefits).
Unfortunately, most government and nonprofit funding has gone to global warming alarmists. But apparently even these priests understand that their prophecies have not been fulfilled.
Redemption is possible. Some Millerites formed the Seventh Day Adventist church, which has built fine medical schools and hospitals. Global warming alarmists might consider their example.
• Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner, is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics.