Comment: climate change and the madness of crowds

“Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.”

This is from the preface to ‘Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds’ by Charles Mackay, first published in 1841. The book chronicles popular follies, including the South Sea stock crisis and other economic bubbles, witch trials, fortune telling, alchemy and many others.

Particularly relevant to today’s belief in catastrophic climate change are the several instances of “terror of the end of the world”.

Around 1000AD a belief spread that the return of the messiah was imminent. Many headed towards Jerusalem in numbers “so great that they were compared to a desolating army.”

“Every phenomenon of nature filled them with alarm. A thunderstorm sent them all upon their knees in mid-march. It was the opinion that thunder was the voice of God, announcing the day of judgment…. Every shooting star furnished occasion for a sermon, in which the sublimity of the approaching judgment was the principal topic.”

This website maintains the book is compulsory reading for those attending the Paris climate conference at the end of the year.