The Strange Religion of Climate Change

Monday August 24th 2020 



Climate alarmism claims to be grounded in science. In reality, however, it displays many of the hallmarks of a religion – and a fundamentalist one at that. In this article, I’m going to discuss how this manifests and indulge myself in some amateur psychology. In a previous article I’ve talked about how scientists might find themselves unable to take a stand that contradicts the mainstream position on climate change. I’d now like to talk about the popular appeal and the ‘pull’ of the climate alarmism movement, with a focus on its most extreme expression: Extinction Rebellion.

I’d like to start by saying, this isn’t meant to be a criticism of religion, but of what is essentially an unconscious religious movement pretending to be scientific.

Believe as we do…

So what are the signs that climate alarmism is religious rather than scientific in nature? Most obviously, it has a ‘creed’ – a set of fixed beliefs to which everyone must subscribe, such as CO2 and fossil fuels being the enemy and the driver of climate change and that we are headed for climate disaster (Armageddon, The End Times, The Rapture). These beliefs have to be accepted in their totality, and refusal to do so is ’denial’ or heresy. This is surely the only time the word ‘denier’ has been used in relation to science. There are witch hunts of dissenters who dare to think differently – such as Obama’s naming and shaming of ‘deniers’ on his personal website – and rather than healthy debate, a stifling of alternative voices.

The Prophets of Doom

The rhetoric around climate change has been intensifying over the years and has reached fever pitch with Extinction Rebellion (XR), the group responsible for the recent disruptive protests in London and elsewhere (you may recall the images of XR members in garish theatrical costumes, in imitation, I think, of characters from Greek plays or initiates in the mystery religions!). XR are telling the world that billions of people will die in the next few years and that our children will likely never have children themselves. The prophecies of its founders, Gail Bradbrook and Roger Hallam, include famine, mass migrations, wars over resources, and total social breakdown. The language used is the language of doom: we are going to burn; it’s going to be hell.

The End Times has been a theme throughout human history. In recent times, there was the millennial bug panic, which centred around the imminent collapse of the world’s computer systems, and the anticipated apocalypse of 2012, when the Mayan calendar supposedly came to an end.

In my research (well okay, Googling) for this article, I came across a fascinating piece called, ‘What’s the Point of the Apocalypse?’ by Amanda Power of the University of Sheffield. In it, she explains how Doomsday predictions have been a repeating theme since the 3rd century BC, and were very prominent in the Middle Ages. Doomsday was seen as the natural ‘consequence of human failings’ which could only be prevented by last-minute repentance. But these predictions weren’t just religious: they were a means of attacking your enemy, who could be portrayed as the Beast or the Antichrist. They were a way of criticising society and demanding change by those ‘committed to reforming injustices, tackling disparities in wealth, challenging the behaviour of powerful elites and arguing for the equal value of all…’ This made me think of XR’s Roger Hallam, with his background in political agitation and working for trade unions, and his talk of social justice, fighting oppression and racism, and the need to overthrow corrupt capitalist systems. The article concludes by drawing the parallel with global warming, with its ‘threat of the end of the world’.

This digression is to illustrate that climate alarmism is part of a religious tradition. In the climate change creed, carbon dioxide has assumed demonic dimensions and its acolytes are the greedy fossil-fuel guzzling corporations. There is the call to return to a kind of primitive purity – to turn your back, as Hallam puts it, on the ‘monstrous’ and ‘toxic’ capitalist system. The fanatical Gail Bradbrook, despite her doctorate in Biophysics, can insist, with a straight face, that people will be eating each other within the next few years.

As an interesting aside, it turns out Roger Hallam’s mother was a preacher.

We can save you…

I watched a long interview with Roger Hallam in which he talked about how everyone was welcome to join his movement, whatever their past or current failings, and how they’d be accepted without judgement. You don’t even have to change your ways – the essential thing is to believe! (Gone are the days when environmentalism meant rolling up your sleeves and actually doing something useful for the environment!) This felt to me, again, religious in tone: welcoming in sinners, who can be redeemed through association with XR. This generous attitude seemed to be reserved for those who joined his group, rather than the wider world. In this ‘Post Doom’ interview, the host, Michael Dowd, adoringly described him as one of the world’s ‘leading prophetic voices’.

XR are the elect, the chosen ones, on a spiritual mission to show us the way – the government, as the representation of authority and the corrupt system, are the baddies, the sinners, and they don’t get credit for doing anything right. They are the rank materialists, profiteering from fossil fuels. Their authority must be overthrown to make way for a new order: a ‘people’s assembly’. When he came to my town on an XR recruitment drive, Roger Hallam announced he wanted to get ‘thousands of people to go to prison and be arrested in the next 12 months’. He is very serious in his effort to crash the system.

We can be heroes.

Hallam’s messianic aim is to bring about, ‘the greatest transformation in world history’. To turn the world upside down in his personal version of saving the planet. As Paul Burgess puts it in his seventh video on climate change, ‘the arrogance of man!’

But do they actually believe they’re right?

Something I really don’t understand is whether climate alarmists are truly convinced of what they’re saying. Roger Hallam claims he reads climate-related scientific articles every week. Gail Bradbrook has a PhD in Biophysics. How is it possible these educated, intelligent people haven’t spotted the glaring problems with the ‘science’ of climate change (the fact that we’re not actually warming, for instance, and that rising CO2 levels clearly aren’t making a difference…)? Is it that they are so ‘invested’ in their mission that they overlook reality? Have they just created an echo chamber where the only voices they hear are those which reinforce their own views? I’m reminded of someone I knew at school, who was a Jehovah’s Witness. She insisted the Earth was just a few thousand years old. If you said to her, ‘But we have fossils going back hundreds of millions of years!’, she would say, ‘They are fakes, planted by God to test our faith’. Climate alarmists are determined to be right. And being right is, perhaps, more important to them than the truth. How would they react if they discovered that, in fact, everything is fine with the climate and we’re not headed for disaster at all? Would it be a big disappointment?

If something is your ‘thing’, and you have built your identity and sense of worth and meaning around it, it takes a lot of courage to admit that it’s not real – or that you’re plain wrong. And if your mission is to save the world, it must take a lot to pull your cape off, shrug, and admit it’s all been a pointless expenditure of energy.

Climate alarmists have tried to make out that ‘deniers’ have psychological issues, unable to accept the reality of what we’re facing. The tables need to be turned on them, as surely they have issues of their own. The desire to tear down symbols of authority and to collapse society smacks of unresolved parental issues and a childish need to blame the grown-ups. And why would you want to infect a generation of children with fear, anger and hysteria? To fill them with a terror of growing up? To tell them they ‘probably won’t have enough food to eat in a few years’ time’? Maybe it’s because you yourself feel terrible inside and want others to experience the same. The irony is, whilst claiming to be safeguarding future generations, the alarmists are actively creating distress and hopelessness in young people. Surely, this carries an enormous weight of moral responsibility.

The hook that reels you in

One last theory to end on! There is, perhaps, some truth in the alarmists’ position – enough for their message to resonate and have popular appeal. Most of us would recognise that we are out of step with nature and are abusing the Earth. That we have got used to being consumers, to having what we want rather than what we need, and to a horribly wasteful culture of the disposable. We know this, and we want to put it right. Climate alarmism taps into this genuine feeling and is securing a monopoly on offering expression for it. Unfortunately, however, its energies are spent on fighting a myth.


For Britain activist