By Andy May
OMG! The world is going to end, and we caused it. This story, in one form or another, goes back to biblical times. According to Genesis (6:9 to 9:17) God decided that humans had sinned too much and must be punished, so he called up a great flood to destroy the world. A similar story also appears in the earlier Epic of Gilgamesh. End of the world predictions are very popular and recur regularly in human history.
More recently, prognosticators have predicted climate change disasters that are due to human actions (sins?). During the Little Ice Age (see Figure 3 in the link), the European public blamed the cold weather on witches and Jews, over 50,000 “witches” and tens of thousands of Jews were killed because they supposedly caused the cold weather and glacial advances. Thus, the idea that humans somehow control climate change is very old. We have no more proof that this is the case today than people had in 800AD, which is about when Archbishop Agobard of Lyons, France said:
“In these parts nearly everyone – nobles and common folk, town and country, young and old – believe that human beings can bring about hail and thunder … We have seen and heard how most people are gripped by such nonsense, indeed possessed by such stupidity…” (Behringer 2010, p. 69)