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Friday, May 4, 2012

Coalition Climate Change Denial Policy

Tony Abbott on consulting a Catholic bishop during an election campaign

TONY JONES, JOURNALIST (ABC TV, Lateline, 2004): Have you met Archbishop Pell during the election campaign?

TONY ABBOTT: Not that I can recall.

TONY JONES: Not that you can recall, because we believe that you've had at least one meeting with him quite recently.

TONY ABBOTT: Well, when? Where?

TONY JONES: You don't recall that? At the Presbytery in Sydney.

TONY ABBOTT: Actually, now that you mention it, I did meet with Cardinal Pell. So what?

Is Coalition Climate Change Policy prescribed by Cardinal Pell? 

Extract of -
The Global Warming Policy Foundation
2011 Annual GWPF Lecture
Westminster Cathedral Hall | 26 October 2011

One Christian Perspective on Climate Change
Cardinal George Pell
Archbishop of Sydney

Let me begin by thanking the Global Warming Policy Foundation for the invitation to deliver this lecture.

Why might a Catholic bishop comment?

We might ask whether my scepticism is yet another example of religious ignorance and intransigence opposing the forward progress of science as is alleged in the confrontations between Galileo and the Papacy in the early seventeenth century, when the Church party on the evidence of scripture insisted that the sun moved around the earth.

I first became interested in the question in the 1990s when studying the anti-human claims of the “deep Greens”, so I had long suspected that those predicting dangerous and increasing anthropogenic global warming were overstating their case.

In my view the evidence is insufficient to achieve practical certainty on many of these scientific issues. Much less is there validation to justify huge public expenditure on these phantoms.

It is not generally realized that in 2001 at least, one of the IPCC Third Assessment Report’s Working Groups agreed: “In climate research and modelling, we are dealing with a coupled, non-linear, chaotic system, and therefore that the long-term prediction of future climate states is not possible”.

Arnold helped to explain why the systems around us work, how fluids flow. Like Lorenz, he found that small changes had an immense impact on outcomes. For him long-range weather forecasting was effectively impossible, because small events could have dramatic, unforeseen consequences.

The immense financial costs true-believers would impose on economies can be compared with the sacrifices offered traditionally in religion, and the sale of carbon credits with the pre-Reformation practice of selling indulgences.

The cost of attempts to make global warming go away will be very heavy. They may be levied initially on “the big polluters” but they will eventually trickle down to the end-users. Efforts to offset the effects on the vulnerable are well intentioned but history tells us they can only ever be partially successful. Will the costs and the disruption be justified by the benefits?

We must be sure the solutions being proposed are valid, the benefits are real and the end result justifies the impositions on the community, particularly the most vulnerable. You will gather that I have concerns on all three fronts.

Are there any long term benefits from the schemes to combat global warming, apart from extra tax revenues for governments and income for those devising and implementing the schemes? Will the burdens be shared generally, or fall mainly on the shoulders of the battlers, the poor? Another useful Latin maxim is “in dubio non agitur”: don’t act when in doubt. There is no precautionary principle, only the criteria for assessing what actions are prudent.

Some observations on Cardinal Pell's Presentation

The assumption "the cost of attempts to make global warming go away will be very heavy" may not be the most helpful of views:
Some measures to reduce carbon dioxide emissions may be relatively inexpensive. It seems prudent to adopt them.

Innovations in energy production and the way energy is used that increase efficiency may save money and happen coincidentally to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Implementing such innovations as rapidly as possible will make the cost savings available sooner. They will help to reduce carbon dioxide emissions too, even though this may be an unintended, serendipitous benefit.

The cost of energy is increasing rapidly for reasons that have nothing to do with attempts to "make global warming go away". The social harm of increasing energy costs is exactly the same no matter what the reason. Effort to minimise this harm is equally important. The intensity of the global warming debate has tended to leave these other sources of harm by the way-side. A number however are inflicting significantly greater financial hardship and there is the potential to find better and less harmful approaches.
See "Discussion of Electricity Prices" on a number of other factors creating rapid energy price increases, and avenues to overcome them. 

Cardinal Pell also highlights some key attributes of climate science that give little reason for comfort: “In climate research and modelling, we are dealing with a coupled, non-linear, chaotic system, and therefore that the long-term prediction of future climate states is not possible”.
The implications of this description are perhaps a little obscure. An example of a non-linear system is a house-of-cards. It is susceptible to sudden collapse when a single card is moved even though it is seemingly stable when other small changes are made. There are three unfortunate characteristics of such systems -
  • Very small changes can create completely unexpected and seemingly disproportionate changes with little warning.
  • Predicting behaviour of the system will be very difficult. 
  • Removing a "trigger" that seemingly precipitated a disproportionate change will most likely fail to restore the system to its previous state.

Cardinal Pell challenged over climate change views

Report and comment by Ellen Teague on Australian Cardinal George Pell’s 26 October London talk -  
‘One Christian Perspective on Climate Change’.

Catholic Archbishop of Sydney Cardinal George Pell was challenged by Columbans after he gave he talk in London questioning the cost benefits of financing action to curb climate change, such as funding clean, renewable energy. “The cost of attempts to make global warming go away will be very heavy” he said on 26 October; “they may be levied initially on ‘the big polluters’ but they will eventually trickle down to the end-users”.
It was only under questioning from the audience in a two-thirds full Westminster Cathedral Hall that Cardinal Pell made clear that he was speaking as an individual and not presenting an official Catholic stance. Ellen pointed out that a joint communiqué issued by the Holy See and the British Government last September, during the papal visit, clearly indicates the Vatican’s position. The second paragraph stated that, ‘The British Government and the Holy See share a conviction of the urgent need for action to address the challenge of climate change’ and that ‘action is needed at every level from the governmental to the individual if we are to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, to set in motion the transition to a global low-carbon economy, and to assist poor and vulnerable countries to adapt to the impacts of climate change that are already inevitable’.
(Read more...)