How Much Worry is too Much? Aussie Docs Diagnose "Climate Change Delusion"

By Andrew Moseman | July 11, 2008 1:43 pm

Burning EarthThe Telegraph reports that earlier this week in Australia, doctors at Royal Children’s Hospital announced that they’d diagnosed the first case of so-called “climate change delusion.” Doctors Robert Salo and Josh Wolfe say a 17-year-old male had refused to drink any water out of eco-guilt—he believed his water consumption would cause the deaths of millions of people.

The story seems almost too outrageous to be true, but some blogs and newspapers have jumped on the “Al Gore is literally driving people crazy” angle, and blamed media coverage of global warming for this Australian’s mental condition. The scapegoating seems reminiscent of the story last month about the pregnancy pact at a Massachusetts high school (which was a hoax), when culture warriors were quick to blame films like Knocked Up and Juno for supposedly glamorizing pregnancy or single parenthood. So far, however, we haven’t heard anyone blame this young man’s affliction on the anti-consumption message of Wall-E.


To be clear: Anyone unsettled enough to think his next drink of water would destroy humanity could probably find something else to obsess over if global warming didn’t exist. As Dr. Salo told The Telegraph, this patient’s panic is much like the way people “would have worried about nuclear bombs or radiation in the past.” But just as climate change is very real and very dangerous, nuclear annihilation wasn’t some baloney threat—one could argue that worries of nuclear war were justified, given the number of nukes that were, and still are, in existence.

The real question is: How concerned should we be? Salo and Wolfe’s patient went over the edge into an apocalyptic vision. But the same Telegraph story reports that 75 percent of Australians say they are fairly or very concerned about climate change. Given that Australia is seeing some of the world’s most dramatic effects of global warming, that worrying is justified. Really, they’d be crazy not to.

Image: iStockphoto 

  • Steve L

    ‘Very Real’? -describes the scientific illiteracy of journalists, celebrities, politicians, miss world contestants etc- try talking to a ‘very real’ scientist on the topic sometime – no direct connection between Co2 and runaway warming- only possible according to un-verifiable computer modeled feedback loops- which have so far made weekend weather forecasting look accurate in comparison-

  • John Toradze

    A fairly witless article about a mentally ill kid hurting himself, replied to by the usual lies about “un-verifiable” modeling by the obligatory “know-nothing and crowing about it” subspecies of Homo sap.

    The mentally ill teen is dramatizing the same motive that leads people to cut themselves. It gets attention, it distracts the individual doing it from other very real problems in their lives, and it can be a manifestation of compulsion with no other antecedent.

    The poster is dramatizing the same motive that leads lemmings to follow each other over a cliff to drown, denying a very thoroughly researched topic. He is also dramatizing a growing and very dangerous phenomenon – celebration of ignorance by sneering at actual expertise. The poster has not educated himself in the matter of which he speaks, and yet, he considers it his obligation to loudly declaim on what he is ignorant about.

    Here’s the facts.
    1. Climate models are only one element of the global warming discussion, which only came into use in the last 10 years or so. The global warming siren has been wailing since the late 1960′s, with scholarly books of papers published dating from more than 30 years ago. Prior to that time other methods than computer modeling were used to calculate the effects of CO2 on warming. It is obvious then that the poster is incorrect, becase it cannot be true that it is “only possible according to un-verifiable computer modeled…” if those models were predated by predictions 20 years older than the models are.

    2. Over the past 35 years, predictions made 35 years ago have tracked either at or below what has actually happened. What has happened in the interim is that additional factors have been identified which explain the too-low predictions. Those have been methane and CFCs. Thus, those projections have gained near bulletproof credibility by being conservative and being tested over considerable time. Thus, unlike what the poster claims, the ideas have been verified over 1/3 of a century.

    3. Those computer models have been verified against historical data covering hundreds of thousands of years, and matched.

    4. There is a huge body of evidence from retreating glaciers and rising alpine zone lines to melting of the north polar ice-cap, tree-ring data, and ice core data covering almost 1 million years. That evidence confirms the CO2/methane model – period. Alternatives such as sunspot activity, etcetera, do not match the 800,000 year history we now have, nor the geological record, nor tree rings, nor the actual increase in temperatures we have seen over the last 1/3 of a century. All those alternatives have been proposed, the hypothesis has been falsified many times over. Thus, nothing else explains the massive amount of data we have. Nothing else. Period. Stop. Embracing the alternatives at this point is the equivalent of proposing that the Roman god Apollo’s fiery chariot is coming closer to earth, or that fairies are intervening because they are angry at polar bears.

    Those who claim the “scientific illiteracy” of others while only exhibiting their own massive illiteracy really need to do their homework before opening their mouth again on subjects they know nothing about. A trip to a library, for instance, would be wise and not terribly hard. If a person cannot be bothered to go to the library or educate themselves in any other way, then they should let the adults function without bothering them with utterly ignorant pronouncements.

    Just in case anyone was wondering, Rush Limbaugh is not a scientist. Rush Limbaugh is a publicly acknowledged drug addict, scientifically illiterate, who, like many public figures, is best at conning his fans.

  • Corvus

    I mostly agree with John Toradze, except for one point. That notion of Lemmings following one another and leaping to their deaths by drowning is actually fallacious. Never happened. That scenario was extrapolated from a few staged shots of a supposed lemming migration which appear in the widely-viewed 1958 Disney nature film called White Wilderness. This has been a matter of record for some time now. Let’s not continue to propagate a 50 year old misconception, while trying to dispell some newer ones.

  • James

    Perhaps John Toradze could provide a few key references, to assist people in educating themselves.

  • Pingback: Allergy Sufferers of the World: Don’t Stress, You’ll Only Make It Worse | Discoblog | Discover Magazine

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    very interesting read indeed

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    That is just madness. I say no more

  • http://www.rapidprofitmarketing.com Local Internet Marketing

    Amazing… the guilt on us is getting greater

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