Beware of the hot-air fascists

November 24, 2016 23:17

Next month, the Board of Deputies will host a forum on climate change . The event is the brainchild of the Board's "social-action group", and will allow participants to "share perspectives" as a prelude to a United Nations conference on climate change planned for the end of the year.

Speakers at the Board's forum will include Jonathon Porritt, a former chair of the Ecology party (forerunner of the Green party), and His Grace the Bishop of Salisbury (the Right Reverend Nicholas Holtam), who is the Church of England's representative on something which the Board's website calls "the international bishops' panel calling for urgent action on climate change".

For good measure a couple of rabbis (Orthodox and Reform) will also be present. Board vice-president Sheila Gewolb, who is in charge of "community issues", is naturally kvelling: "We have a responsibility for our children to protect the environment," she explained. "The Torah teaches us that we need to preserve the environment for future generations and, as a representative body, we need to be leading the way."

To judge from the inbox of my electronic postbag, many of you do not agree with Ms Gewolb, and were as bemused and as irritated as I was that the Board would even consider squandering its resources on such an event. Don't we British Jews have enough problems to deal with, without permitting ourselves to be drawn, collectively, into matters far removed from protecting our discrete communal interests, which is what the Deputies are supposed to be focused on?

"Does there have to be a Jewish view on every issue facing British society?" one telephone caller asked. "If climate change, why not junk foods? Or even quantitative easing and the Bank of England's monetary policy?"

Initially, I was broadly sympathetic to this viewpoint. But on reflection I am not so sure.

I know I'm treading on eggshells and can claim no special expertise in this deeply contentious area. But, some years ago, I researched and delivered a university lecture on environmental fascism - the mindset characterised by an insistence that "green" activists know what is best, and because of that are entitled to ignore the democratic will, and even the law of the land, in their pursuit of what they (sincerely, no doubt) believe is best for the rest of us, whether we happen to like it or not. Now fascism is an ideology I do know something about: the mindset I describe is inherently fascist.

That the Earth's climate is becoming warmer is indisputable. That we humans need to or can do anything about it are matters on which scientific opinion is divided. Throughout geological time, there have been significant variations in climate. After the Second World War, a massive surge was recorded in carbon-dioxide emissions, but for four decades after 1940 global temperatures actually fell. Unquestionably, global warming brings gigantic challenges. But would it not be better for us to meet these by - for example - investing in flood defences rather than in wind farms?

In preparing my lecture, I made it my business to research the dangers posed by global warming but also its advantages. Experts tell us rising CO2 levels over the past 150 years have improved human nutrition by increasing crop yields and in this and other ways have helped us to live longer.

There is an expert view that we are coming to the end of a natural ice age. The last time this happened was around 8,000 years ago. At that time, Britain was connected to the European mainland at the southern end of the North Sea, an area known as Doggerland.

Sea levels rose and this area was flooded. For its inhabitants, this must have been a terrifying and deadly experience. But it was not their fault. Sea levels rose because of a periodic "wobble" in the rotation of the Earth.

Had Doggerland not been flooded as a result of global warming, the Nazis could have marched straight into England, couldn't they?

I do hope that the clerics present at the Board's forthcoming forum will not lose sight of this divine dimension.

Global warming might, after all, be an Act of God.

November 24, 2016 23:17

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