bradford_ship-trapped-in-pack-ice

Then……(William Bradford, Ship Trapped in Pack Ice, c. 1871)

Not everyone will immediately remember Lewis Gordon Pugh. He was the ‘explorer, environmentalist and lawyer’ who, in 2008, announced his intention to kayak to the North Pole, in order to demonstrate the terrible and real effects of global warming. He was to be followed all the way by a TV film crew. Presumably as an educated  ‘explorer, environmentalist and lawyer’, he’d done his homework in advance on what to expect, and indeed I recall nearly nightly bulletins, breathlessly describing the heroic progress. To quote the pre-trip publicity, Lewis…

…will be using his unique skill set and talents to accomplish something that hasn’t been done in recorded human history: he is going to Kayak across an ice free North Pole. With many scientists predicting an iceless Arctic Ocean this coming year, Pugh has decided to call attention to the fact by making his away across the now open waters traveling only by kayak, a feat he claims couldn’t have been accomplished even last year, thus affirming the urgency with which he feels we must approach the issue.

…and as Lewis himself modestly said:

“There’s one side of me that desperately wants to get to the North Pole to be able to shake the lapels of world leaders to get them to understand what has happened there, but then there’s the other side of me that says I really hope I don’t get there. I hope I fail because if I am able to get there we really are in deep trouble.”

You can guess what comes next.

Pugh’s kayak trip ended at 81 degrees north, about 1000km from the Pole. (A) barrier of sea ice . . . eventually blocked his route north . . .

This slight setback didn’t shake Lewis’ belief and mysteriously omniscient knowledge of global warming (this was about the time the GW crowd decided to rebrand it all as ‘climate change’, just in case), as he sagely observed:

“Ironically, global warming played no small part in undermining the entire expedition. We believed that the greater melting of summer ice would open up large areas of sea and allow us to paddle north at good speed. What we did not fully appreciate was that to the north of us there was a widespread melting of sea ice off the coast of Alaska and the New Siberian Islands and the ice was being pushed south towards us … The evidence of climate change was stark”

Of course it was Lewis, we should have guessed. Perhaps you should have too, before you set off. Strangely, he’s not made a repeat attempt.

Anyway, fast forward to now. Many people have been sniggering about the antics at the opposite end of the earth, our climate change experts still trapped in Antarctic pack ice, at the hottest time of the year, the Antarctic Summer. As one of the ‘experts’ on the Akademik Shokalskiy said:

“…the ice was much thicker than usual for this time of year”

That’ll be global warming then. Or climate change. Whatever.

Obviously this is all very embarrassing for the climate change fanatics. Their mantra along the lines of “as you know very well, climate is not the same as weather” has worn thin. Particularly as these expeditions were conceived and planned according to their stunning understanding of…er…climate. They’re not normally bashful about how certain they are in knowing what’s going on, even when they clearly don’t have a clue. A fine example is Tom Chivers, on the normally excellent Telegraph blogs:

Personally I’m quite pleased that there are scientists trying to study what’s going on with the fantastically complicated system of ocean currents and ice sheets and atmosphere, and I think hilariously glib little comments of the “it’s snowing outside, so much for global warming LOL” kind are largely unhelpful from purportedly serious commentators.

All of which raises the genuinely fascinating question: why do these apparently intelligent people continue to behave like this?

This blog post implicates a bizarre addiction to cognitive dissonance, and there’s something in that. It’s along the lines of continuing to dig when you’re in a hole. However, I think GK Chesterton was closest with his sublime observation (no less true for now being a bit of a cliche):

When a man stops believing in God he doesn’t then believe in nothing, he believes anything

That’s not to claim that religious belief is the only way forward, but to point out that religion substitutes tend to be  a menace. Which happily brings us to Hitler.

The author and historian Michael Burleigh has a fascinating habit of unpicking the belief systems behind politics, particularly totalitarian systems, his wonderful book Sacred Causes is a fine exposition of this.  As the Guardian, of all newspapers, helpfully summarised Burleigh’s view of Nazism:  what if you were to explain the Nazi phenomenon, not so much a political ideology, but as a surrogate religion, wrapped up in stylised and sentimental rituals?

Here he is, in the introduction to his remarkable history of the Third Reich:

In April 1937…an anonymous writer..explicitly compared Nazism to a secularised religion. He called the result a ‘church-state’ or a state ‘counter-church’, with its own intolerant dogma, preachers, sacred rites and lofty idioms that offered total explanations of the past, present and future, while demanding unwavering dedication from its adherents. Acquiescence was not enough; such regimes demanded constant affirmation and enthusiasm from their own populations.

and citing Robespierre, an antecedent of Hitler in roping in religious tropes to justify mad ideologies, Burleigh goes on:

…it reflected the belief that Providence had sanctified a specific social order through which alone happiness would reign on earth. Anyone who opposed this belief was not only in error, but part of a demonic conspiracy…Opponents were not simply misguided, and hence amenable to persuasion, but fit only for extinction, regardless of whether they had done anything other than exist.

Given the inevitable and intentional implication of climate-change ‘deniers’ being in some way comparable to Holocaust deniers, a standard tactic of the GW crowd, the above quotes don’t seem too far fetched, though it’s ironic that the new Nazis are the climate change fans, not the deniers.

So, Godwin’s Law proves its worth again. Last word to the Guardian: “a surrogate religion, wrapped up in stylised and sentimental rituals”.

Spot on.

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