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Byron Shire
March 22, 2023

Cardinal Pell’s plea for scientific evidence

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Last week in London, Australia’s Cardinal George Pell opened a new front in the church’s age-old war on science by telling the world there really isn’t enough evidence to believe in man-made warming.

‘Carbon dioxide… is not a pollutant, but part of the stuff of life,’ the cardinal chirped cheerfully, and CO2 levels would need to rise to ‘almost 13 times today’s concentration’ before they posed any danger to humans.

But Australia’s most powerful Catholic saved his best cheep for last, warning that, ‘debates about anthropogenic global warming can only be conducted by the accurate recognition and interpretation of scientific evidence’.

We had to sit down after reading that one.

After all, Cardinal Pell is a man who believes in miracles and all sorts of unreasonable things: that God is an all-powerful being who rules the world; that Christ was born to a virgin; that Jesus rose from the dead; and that bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ at Holy Communion. Pell also believes in Heaven and Hell.

So where does he find scientific evidence for all that stuff?

Pell’s attack on ‘climate change zealots’ and ‘extremists’ (for which, read 97 per cent of the world’s climate scientists) was delivered at an annual guest lecture to the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a British pressure group founded by Margaret Thatcher’s former chancellor of the exchequer, Nigel Lawson.

With only 80 members and funding from a handful of rich, anonymous donors, the GWPF claims to be open-minded on the issue of man-made global warming, yet its board and advisers are almost all hardened climate sceptics, and it regularly brands climate change believers as ‘hysterical and ‘extreme’.

The cardinal’s speech must have been everything they hoped for and more.

Having urged everyone to examine the ‘scientific evidence’, Pell proceeded to rely on the opinions of a band of well-known climate deniers, led by Professor Bob Carter (whom he cited seven times), Professor Ian Plimer (five times), ‘Lord’ Christopher Monckton (four times), Craig Idso (twice) family and Bjorn Lomborg (once). He argued that the science was still not settled, that the Earth was not as warm as in mediaeval times and that ‘climate extremists’ and their advertising agencies were pushing ‘propaganda’ and ‘lies’.

Sadly, the cardinal did not recycle his 2006 declarationthat ‘hysteric and extreme claims about global warming are a symptom of pagan emptiness’. Nor did he repeat his claim that, ‘In the past pagans sacrificed animals and even humans in vain attempts to placate capricious and cruel gods. Today they demand a reduction in carbon dioxide.’

Luckily for him, he also did not repeat his 2008 mistake of identifying nitrogen as a greenhouse gas. He has clearly taken his own advicethat there is ‘no substitute for knowing what you’re talking about’.

But he did manage to compare believers in climate action to the builders of the Tower of Babel, who had the hubris to believe they could interfere in God’s realm, and were duly punished for their presumption. Those who seek to moderate global warming are clearly guilty of the same ungodly pride, the cardinal believes.

It makes you wonder what Pell would have done if he’d been around in the time of Galileo, 300 years ago, when the Catholic Church believed (along with many others) that the Earth was the centre of the universe. Back in 1633, Pell’s predecessors in Rome put Galileo on trial for heresy after he sided with Copernicus and proclaimed, in defiance of the Holy Scriptures, that the Earth revolved around the Sun.

Galileo, whom many regard as the father of modern science, was forced to recant, had his works banned by the Pope, and was sentenced to house arrest until he died nine years later.

The church eventually allowed publication of his works in 1741, but as late as 1990, one famous churchmanwas claiming that Catholics had no need to apologise for muzzling and imprisoning the famous astronomer, because the church had right on its side.

The churchman in question was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, whom Pell greatly admires.

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