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Saturday, February 06, 2010

Global warming: it's all superstition

A survey says that 25% of British people are sceptical about global warming, reports the BBC website with an audible tut. But if any more than 75% of us did believe in it, wouldn't that be worrying in itself? The idea that the whole population should, in the space of a few short years, adopt a belief in something that can't be proved makes you deeply concerned about our gullibility.

I behave as if I believe in it, not because I've examined the evidence and come to a rational conclusion. Of course I've seen "An Inconvenient Truth", avoid taking the car anywhere if I can and get ill-tempered and messy sorting rubbish every Monday night, but I could no more explain to you why the earth is getting warmer than I could let you know the workings of the internal combustion engine. My belief in it is as scientifically grounded as my mother's economics. That is to say, she knew nothing about it but she believed, with some justification, that if you'd enjoyed a period of prosperity without working for it then it was bound to be followed by a period of relative poverty. She was always right. I think her economic views were shaped, not by any examination of the facts, but by a combination of her youth in the depression, in-bred northern scepticism and the drip-drip-drip experience of chapel-going christianity. If you'd spent like a drunken sailor you were bound to face a reckoning at some point. This is true but it's not rational. It's what they used to call superstition.