The long-awaited Paris Climate Conference begins this week, and even those of us who couldn't jet in for the all the hot air should care about what is going on there.

Just to set the record straight, I don't think any of us want to burn to death on a hot earth or freeze on a cold planet. Measured, science-based investigations into the climate, which are genuinely objective and not at bottom a cover for abolishing capitalism and progress, do not come amiss. But that is not what we can expect from Paris.

What we can expect is a kind of end-of-the-world hysteria from some of the most credentialed academics, elected people, and bureaucrats on the planet. Joel Kotkin, an expert on demography and social trends, writes this:

The Paris Climate Conference . . . takes place in the very place where, arguably, the most dangerous exemplar of hysteria, the Islamic jihadi movement, has left its bloody mark. Yet the think tank mavens, academics, corporate shills and endless processions of bureaucrats gather in the City of Light not to confront the immediate deadly threat, but to ramp up their own grisly scenarios and Draconian solutions.

Welcome to the age of hysteria, where friends and foes, and even those who blissfully talk past each other, whip themselves into an emotional frenzy that bears no discussion, debate or nuance. Rather than entering a technological age of reason, we seem to lurching towards a high-tech middle ages, where warring bands – greens, jihadis, libertarians, social conservatives, nationalists – immerse themselves not in intellectual competition but, inflating their own individual outrage. In this environment, exaggeration and hysteria are weapons of recruitment, while opposition is met with demeaning attacks, potential imprisonment and, at the worst, vicious acts of violence.

Amid the recent carnage in Paris – not to mention bloodshed in the Sinai, Beirut and Mali – one would expect the world’s economic and political leadership to focus on that clear and present danger presented by Islamic extremism. But for years, much of the world’s power structure, particularly on the Left, has convinced itself that climate change represents the greatest challenge to mankind, rather than more immediate threats such as terrorism, poverty, deforestation and stagnating global economies.

For some, climate change has become the default cause of virtually everything, even the Syrian civil war. However much dry conditions may have contributed to the crisis, this assertion ignores the fact that people have been killing each other in the Middle East from time immemorial and that droughts have been a constant threat in that region, as here in California, since before biblical times.

Kotkin calls this "establishment hysteria." It reminds us of some end-of-the-world movements in pre-modern times, and yet these people in Paris are the very exemplars of the modern, up-to-date man (sorry, human). And yet these very modern men and women excommunicate scientists from the scientific community if  their studies don't fall in line with accepted climate change dogma.

Kotkin says that even Robert Johnson, founder of Greenpeace, has noticed that we are "moving from legitimate rational concern about changing global conditions and toward a state of 'climate hysteria.'" But this hysteria is not just related to climate but is more pervasive, affecting the way we think about racial issues, immigration, and campus protests.

Ironically, in the Age of Hysteria we are prevented from dealing with and finding solutions to our problems. If (if?) we get unworkable and destructive rules and regulations from the Paris Climate Conference, it will be because hysteria has gripped the credentialed of the earth to the point that they cannot conduct rational discussions and studies of the environment.