To say you believe in climate change is a bit like saying you believe in arithmetic (and I don’t believe in that either). To say you believe in something is to imply that you are driven by faith rather than reason. I believe that two plus two equals four, not as an act of faith, but because the evidence I’ve come across overwhelmingly supports that claim.
Climate science is far more complex and I believe that climate change is occurring and that human activity contributes to it. I believe that mostly because it’s clearly the scientific consensus, with 97.5 per cent of climatologists thinking that way. I believe them not because I believe in them, not as an act of faith, but because I recognise their expertise. Ninety per cent of those guys have PhDs; I’m never going to be that well qualified a climatologist. I know that you don’t get to be that well qualified, you don’t get to call yourself a scientist, without being totally committed to scientific method, which is a human invention, not an act of faith, designed to promote reason and discover truths without prejudice.
Yet this idea of believing in climate change has taken off to a dangerous degree. Alarmingly an employment tribunal judge recently agreed that a belief in climate change can be akin to a religion, setting up climate change activists for the charge that are trying to replace the established faiths.
The point is well illustrated by Tory MEP Roger Helmer. Surprisingly, Helmer has a scientific background, but prefers to frame the debate in terms of a war of faiths rather than reasoned scientific discussion. He recently warned that the Church of England has, ‘abandoned religious faith entirely and taken up the new religion of climate change alarmism instead.’
I don’t imagine Helmer’s right, but if he were this would be an undesirable development. Faiths are chosen or, more often, born into. They are followed because they provide comfort to the believer; confirming their prejudices, providing support and social networks and so on.
It may be that human beings are hardwired to think this way, but that doesn’t make it right. Asking people to believe in climate change, rather than to believe that human activity is changing the climate, inevitably devalues the science and creates a nonsensical battle between climatologists and religion.