Events have failed to fulfill the prophecy. Preachers have suddenly been struck dumb by uncertainty. Believers are understandably nervous and some, under their breath, are abandoning the dogma.
These sentences could have been written at the end of the day on Oct. 22, 1844, about the Millerites, a religious sect started in upstate New York. Preachers had told their followers that Jesus would return to earth that day. He failed to show.
But the subject here is not Millerism, but another kind of religious faith: the faith of the global warming alarmists. And while it's not likely to have the impact of the Millerites' Great Disappointment, we could be seeing the beginning of something similar on Sept. 27, when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issues its fifth assessment report in Stockholm.
A preview is provided by science writer Matt Ridley in the Wall Street Journal, who has "had a glimpse of the key prediction at the heart of the document."
"The big news," Ridley writes, "is that, for the first time since these reports started coming out in 1990, the new one dials back the alarm. It states that the temperature rise we can expect as a result of man-made emissions of carbon dioxide is lower than the IPCC thought in 2007."
Ridley admits that the change is small. And he does not deny that increased carbon emissions could increase global temperatures by some significant amount. They would certainly do so if carbon emissions were the only thing affecting climate.
But there may be other things. Like variations in sun activity. "The most plausible explanation of the pause," Ridley writes, "is simply that climate sensitivity was overestimated in the models because of faulty assumptions about net amplification through water-vapor feedback."
The pause referred to is the fact that global temperatures haven't increased over the last 15 years. Global warming models predicted they would. The models' failure is not as stark as the Great Disappointment, but it's a failure nonetheless.
The religious analogy is appropriate because belief in global warming has taken on the trappings of traditional religion.
Alarmists like to say the science is settled -- which is nonsense, since science is a series of theories that can be tested by observations. When Einstein presented his theory of relativity, he showed how it could be tested during astronomical events in the next decade. The theory passed.
Saying the science is settled is like demanding what religions demand -- that you have faith.
Religion has ritual. Global warming alarmism has recycling and Earth Day celebrations.
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