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Cardinal Pell needs to practise what he preaches on climate change

Posted on 16 November 2011 by John Cook

Recently, Cardinal George Pell delivered a speech at Westminster's Cathedral Hall which was reproduced in full by ABC Religion. I've just published a response to Cardinal Pell's speech on the ABC Religion website: Cardinal Pell needs to practise what he preaches on climate change. A short excerpt:

In a much publicised recent speech, Cardinal George Pell strongly endorsed the importance of evidence in public debate. He argues that "the debates about anthropogenic global warming can only be conducted by the accurate recognition and interpretation of scientific evidence."

It would be hard to find anyone who would disagree with his sentiment - a proper understanding of climate must be built on a foundation of empirical observations. There's just one problem: Cardinal Pell fails to practise what he preaches.

In order accurately to recognize and interpret scientific evidence, one must consider the full body of evidence. Pell's arguments make it painfully clear that he is unaware of the many lines of evidence that form our understanding of human-caused global warming.

Decades of scientific research have examined global warming from the front, back, sideways and every other conceivable angle. The same climate myths we hear echoing in the blogosphere, Australian parliament and even in Westminster's Cathedral Hall - thanks to Cardinal Pell - were scrutinized and discounted by climate scientists years ago, and, in some cases, decades ago.

By ignoring the long history of scientific debate in the peer-reviewed literature, climate skeptics are doomed to repeat the errors of the past.

Full article here...

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Comments

Comments 1 to 19:

  1. Great article, John.
    The baby in the bathtub (lets call him Enso) analogy from you rebuttal was brilliant.
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  2. Excellent article and reposte John.

    I am astounded that Pell an expert in things theological should have fallen for the false prophets of Monkton et al.

    Maybe he should read his bible:

    "2 Tim 4:3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear."
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  3. "2 Tim 4:4 They will reject the truth and chase after myths."

    Indeed they are.
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  4. Wow, you mean that's an actual biblical quote? Thought I knew the bible, but must have missed those lines!
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  5. As one of the commenters in abc site noted:

    Cardinal Pell is living in his anthropocentric paradise

    I cannot agree more. Christianity have been developed on top of the dogma that: "God created the world for man to have domination over". Irrational and transcendental denialism in a form of "God is almighty so he cannot let the destruction of the world he created" is the typical stance of conservative clergy. Pell, by repeating the long rebutted Monckton-like trivialisms such as "I have discovered that very few people know how small the percentage of carbon dioxide is in the atmosphere..." confirms that his conservatism prevents him from learning the true nature of AGW.


    IMO, the religions, especially christianity need some change and it's important because they influence lots of poeple. Will see what Vatican would say about AGW, if anytime soon. Hopefully something better than what we've heart from Pell. We don't need to look far for good examples: the geo-centric model of James Lovelock's Gaia is enough, I would gladly see it adopted by this or next generation of theologians.
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  6. chriskoz,

    The Pontifical Academy of Sciences released a paper in May this year by one of its commissioned working groups.

    Fate of Mountain Glaciers in the Anthropocene


    "Declaration by the Working Group

    We call on all people and nations to recognise the serious
    and potentially irreversible impacts of global warming caused by the anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants, and by changes in forests, wetlands, grasslands, and other land uses. We appeal to all nations to develop and implement, without delay, effective and fair policies to reduce the causes and impacts of climate change on communities and ecosystems, including mountain glaciers and their watersheds, aware that we all live in the same home.
    By acting now, in the spirit of common but differentiated responsibility,we accept our duty to one another and to the stewardship of a planet blessed with the gift of life.
    We are committed to ensuring that all inhabitants of this planet receive their daily bread, fresh air to breathe and clean water to drink as we are aware that, if we want justice and peace, we must protect the habitat that sustains us. The believers among us ask God to grant us this wish."

    Pretty strong stuff and a long way from Pell's "articles of faith" it seems.
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  7. oneita,

    I cannot access http://www.vatican.va at the moment but will check with interest. Thaks for that news, it's very encouraging! And, apparently it puts Cardinal Pell on lost position unless he starts learning the facts and "removes log from his eye".
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  8. Note: the Pope and the Catholic church endorse the scientific consensus position on climate change, which is why Pell's speech was originally named "One Christian View on Climate Change". It's definitely not the view of the Catholic Church and I would argue is not the view of Scripture either. One important Christian value is stewardship - we were appointed as stewards of creation, not marauders. Even more core Christian values are the "weightier matters of justice, mercy and faithfulness". The fact that the poor and vulnerable countries are most impacted by climate change, while contributing to it the least, means climate change is a justice and mercy issue that should concern all Christians.
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  9. As an atheist I don't subscribe to divine guidance. However there comes a point as is clearly voiced in the Declaration above where the direction as posited and evidenced by scientific discipline then requires an ethical position to be formed and appropriate action to be taken.

    The debate about the science should be over...too much energy is being spent on myth busting. The debate should now be about what we value....is it how much a carbon tax will impact on my household budget in Marrickville Sydney or is it about something much, much more important?

    Pell's diatribe is bereft of an ethical position. This is some ironic given his position and his moral and ordained responsibilities as a leader of his flock.
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  10. The Great Flood myth tells that God sought to remove the sinful from the face of the planet, and after so doing promised that He would not do it again.

    I know many Christians who take this as meaning that God would not permit the planet to warm so that it would harm humanity. It would seem to me that such faithful folk entirely miss the point - in the story, God promised not to wipe out humans again, but He said nothing about permitting humans to do so themselves.

    Also, the Revelation myth tells of the End Time, and there is nothing inconsistent with human-wrought climatological/ecological destruction heralding humanity's end-time.

    Christians who think that God won't permit climatological harm to come to them seem to be missing the enormous holes in their arguments, provided not by science but by their own mythology.
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  11. Bernard J Jesus said (Luke 13:4) "Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them— do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem?". The reason the 18 died was probably that the tower of Siloam was badly built by human beings, so the idea that God will protect us from the consequences of our actions is perhaps not that well supported by scripture anyway.
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  12. Cardinal Pell exceeds his majesterium by making pronouncements on scientific matters. On scientific matters his views weigh as much as any other non-scientist. That is: nil.
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  13. @Bernard J writes: "God promised not to wipe out humans again, but He said nothing about permitting humans to do so themselves."

    Perhaps this explains why so many sceptics insist that warming is natural; and so keen to deny the possibility of an anthropogenic cause.

    On the main thrust of the article: I don't see how Cardinal Pell is able to get away with this, when his colleagues -- including the Pope -- are so clearly in disagreement with him.
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  14. Jeffrey Davis @ 12

    I entirely agree. Cardinal Pell has acknowledged that his climate scepticism is a personal view and not official Catholic Church teaching. If he was a business executive, lawyer or even a parish priest, would anyone listen to, or care about, these "personal views"? It is only as a leader of the Catholic Church that he gets an audience. I therefore put this question to both his Church and the wider community to consider:

    Is it appropriate for him to use the media profile and sphere of influence he has as a cardinal to speak out on issues such as as climate change on which he is so obviously not an expert?
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  15. Bernard J, @10, as far as Christian faith and climate change goes, my former missionary mother often points out to me that the book of Revelation describes something very close to the mid-level (neither worst nor best) scenario of business as usual:

    "1 I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, “Come!” 2 I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.
    3 When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” 4 Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make people kill each other. To him was given a large sword.

    5 When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. 6 Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, “Two pounds[a] of wheat for a day’s wages,[b] and six pounds[c] of barley for a day’s wages,[d] and do not damage the oil and the wine!”

    7 When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” 8 I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.


    As an atheist, I do not think global warming will bring on the Christian apocalypse. There is no hope for us that if we go that course there will be a last minute divine intervention.

    However, as a former candidate for ministry I can say that continuing with BAU does violate the Christian duty of stewardship of the Earth, and of concern for the poor. And that nothing in God's purported promise to Noah prevents a forthcoming apocaplypse.
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  16. Mankind's Power to Create and Destroy

    The title and opening remarks in Cardinal Pell’s speech encapsulate all that is deficient in his worldview. His reference to the Biblical story of the Tower of Babel indicates that, to him, the idea that mankind can change the climate of the Earth is as prideful and far-fetched as the tower builder’s belief they could reach heaven.

    This idea is profoundly wrong both in terms of the science and theology. As to the science, John has answered that well. As to the theology, Genesis chapter 1 states that man was made "in the image of God", and was given authority to rule (responsibly) over the Earth. This means that man, like God, has the power to create and destroy. Should Cardinal Pell doubt our ability to wreck the environment, we need to look no further than our power to split the atom in the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We came perilously close to nuclear Armageddon during the Cuban missile crisis of 1963. I believe by the grace of God, we were saved at that time by President Kennedy, who unlike Cardinal Pell, understood the destructive potential of mankind’s follies.
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  17. John...the baby in the bathtub analogy is brilliant. In one image you capture variability on top of trend AND the idea that variability is simply redistribution of heat. It also appeals to family values to boot!
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  18. Cardinal Pell asserts that the individual should examine the primary data and make up there own mind as to the veracity of claims of anthropogenic global warming - this coming from a man who manifestly can not read or understand a peer reviewed scientific paper.

    If he is going to practice what he preaches, surely he should advocate the same principles being applied to the religious beliefs he espouses? Martin Luther did!
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  19. Greetings from Sydney, Australia.

    Forget about the Science when it comes to Cardinal Pell, it's all about Australian Federal Politics.

    Cardinal Pell is closely linked to the Leader of the Federal Opposition Liberal Party, Tony Abbott, a former seminarian, (and nothing wrong with that).

    Tony Abbott, somewhat devoid on the policy front, has adopted a position of NO to all Labour Government intitiatives, including a Price on Carbon.

    He also has strong links to big business, mining companies, etc. (you get the drift).

    Other Opposition Members, such as former leader Malcolm Turnbull, were in favour of a Price on Carbon.

    Tony Abbott vacillates on AGW, depending on who his audience is at a particular time & place.

    All about Politics, alas, and nothing about the Science.
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