From the start, fear has been the primary tool for motivating people to fight man-made global warming — or, as it's currently being called, "climate change." We have been told that if we don't limit carbon-dioxide emissions, we can expect to be visited by an entire cavalry of apocalyptic horsemen.
These include the flooding of our cities, entire island chains disappearing beneath waves, pestilence, infestation by vermin, famine and even increased earthquake activity.
You can add another horrible to this list: genocide.
At least that's what an article in the October 28 issue of the New Republic would have us believe. In it, Yale historian Timothy Snyder points out that the genocidal policies of Hitler and Stalin were driven by more than their murderous ideologies — they also served "a vision of economic development that would overcome environmental limitations."
For Hitler, the goal was to turn Eastern Europe into the bread-basket that Germany lacked. For Stalin, these same areas contained the wealth that would finance his socialist utopia. Both were willing to kill millions of people to turn these visions into reality.
Well, Snyder now describes a scenario in which climate change spawns massive instability: "failed states, ungoverned spaces, and widespread war ... [even] significantly increased risks of nuclear war and worldwide terrorism."
In some places, the competition for resources will lead competitors to deny the humanity of other claimants, which is a necessary step to genocide.
Well, even if you doubt the science behind man-made global warming, Snyder makes some important points: Despite our technological hubris, civilization is vulnerable to environmental change. We can't control the weather — we don't even really understand it.
That's why Snyder is also right when he stresses the need to invest in those technologies that help us to ameliorate the impact of climatic shifts, regardless of their causes.
Still, I can't help but notice that in his speculation about future instances of ideology leading people to deny the humanity of others, he overlooks actual instances of what is happening today.
An obvious instance is abortion-on-demand. It's hard to think of a better illustration of ideology — in this case the exaltation of personal autonomy — which denies the humanity of others and kills people.
On the environmental front, global-warming hysteria has given license to an anti-human view that portrays people as a problem to be managed. This ideology leads some to openly discuss the need for "culling" the human race, as if people were livestock.
Others talk about more vigorous and even coercive population-control measures as a way of "saving" the planet. One recent ad even portrayed a teacher blowing up students who weren't committed to reducing their personal CO2 emissions! I'm not making this up!
Snyder's argument reflects what happens when we abandon the biblical worldview, with its inherent dignity given to every single human life, and when we deny the sovereignty of God. Worldviews, as you've heard me preach so many times, do matter — not just in preventing climatic disaster — but in preventing human beings from being killed in the name of a human ideology.
Chuck Colson's daily BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.