Usually, this seemed to work, the drought ended, and the credibility of the priests was enhanced (just as sick people mostly get better, and in olden times this might be taken as proof that the medicine worked -- in the days before double-blind trials).
As the droughts became worse however -- and strangely the end of the Incas may well have been associated with natural changes in climate leading to lower rainfall and poorer crops -- it finally dawned on the benighted people that their ever-more frantic blood-letting had no effect at all on the weather or the rain. It was as futile as King Canute defying the waves, and a great deal less pleasant. And when that realisation came, the people turned on their priests with the fury of those who have been duped and deceived, and let the priests learn the reality of human sacrifice from the sharp end.
There is a parallel here with our current passion for climate mitigation -- and an awful warning to its promoters, like Chris Huhne. Our plans for climate mitigation are futile at three levels:
- More and more scientists are coming to believe that natural and astronomical cycles dominate terrestrial climate change, and that the effect of human activity ranges from trivial to zero. If they’re right, our efforts too are as futile as King Canute’s.
- Even if Al Gore and the IPCC are right, nonetheless respected environmental economists and analysts argue that the activities we plan to undertake, at the expense of trillions of dollars, are likely to make only a 0.2 degree C difference in mean global temperatures -- and that not until 2100. That’s within the error limits of measurement -- effectively no difference at all.
- And if our objective is to cut carbon emissions, the EU’s arbitrary commitment to expensive and intermittent renewable technologies like wind and solar, and its perverse refusal to include nuclear in its low-carbon plans, mean we are condemning Europe to loss of competitiveness, with high-cost energy and serious risks of disruption in supply.
"Even if global warming is man-made, the actions we are taking will achieve a result too small to measure, and even that's only in 100 years time. We might as well sacrifice a golden calf to the sky gods. It would be equally ineffective, but much cheaper."