Photo by boinink.

One of the primary psychic barriers to accepting the fact of climate change is the notion that human beings can reshape something as large and complex as the earth itself. On an intuitive level, it seems incredible. Presumptuous, even. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) put it this way: “The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous.”

It hardly needs pointing out that He, in this instance, is God. It’s not unusual to see this sentiment expressed in religious terms. After all, if human beings are reshaping the basic biophysical systems of the planet, they are like unto gods. What terrifies people about that idea is not so much the power itself, but the responsibility that comes with it. If the entire biosphere is the product of our decisions and actions, then we hold the fate of the only known life-bearing planet and all the life on it in our hands. That is an almost unthinkably heavy burden to bear. It seems only God could bear it.