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The perverse skills of climate change deniers

  • 30 November 2009

In April 2007 Cardinal Renato Martino, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, held a meeting at the Vatican 'to gather data' on climate change. The 80 invited participants were evenly divided between climate change sceptics and those looking for a credible church response. It was a mixed group of politicians, scientists, Catholic bishops, lobbyists, lay and church agency people, missionaries and leaders of other churches.

It turned out to be an unhappy squabbling event. US based Baptist minister Dr Calvin Beisner interpreted Scripture to say that the world is evil and that burning fossil fuels is a way to purge it. Catholic Archbishop Patrick Kelly and Anglican Bishop James Jones from the UK were aghast at this interpretation.

At the same meeting, former US lobbyist for the tobacco industry Professor Fred Singer made several interventions on the present and future benefits brought by the oil industry. He was supported by US Catholic layman Dr Craig Idso of the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, partially funded by Exxon Mobil. Both of them state publicly that they work to influence the energy and agricultural policies of governments.

Beisner, Singer and Idso are part of a cluster of names which keep popping up in the literature of climate change denying scientists and religious leaders. Their primary concern is to attack the proposition that human activity is a major cause of climate change. They work to maintain current fossil fuel based economic systems, and promise that the world will not have to change its patterns of using fossil fuels.

These US sources are often quoted in Australia along with local names like Bill Kininmonth, Bob Carter, Ian Plimer, David Archibald, Don Aitkin and David Evans.

It is crucial to recognise that climate change sceptics have placed themselves outside the normal scientific community. They pile up so called 'evidence' with which to browbeat people.

For example, they misuse temperature trends and conflate readings from different spheres surrounding the earth. They focus on minor contributors to climate change, such as the earth's 100,000-year-long orbit of the sun, or cry 'sun spots'. They deride models of climate change as inaccurate because the models cannot predict short term weather patterns, or are refined as more data is gathered.

But the basic physics of climate change is simple — a rising percentage of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere warms the