Climate Change, Galileo, and the New Inquisition

Four centuries ago Galileo was condemned by the Papacy for promoting the theory of a heliocentric universe, because the science was in conflict with Biblical beliefs. Recently, Australian prelate Cardinal George Pell rang the changes on the belief versus science theme in a lecture delivered at the 2011 Global Warming Policy Annual Forum, Westminster Cathedral Hall, London.

With the next UN climate change conference due to take place in Durban at the end of this month, the Cardinal, who has made a study of climate change from a scientific layman’s point of view, insists that to assess the benefits of carbon dioxide emission schemes we must appeal to the scientific evidence and not to a supposed “consensus” that human beings really are causing dangerous changes in the global climate. The following is an edited version of the lecture.

We might ask whether my skepticism on the issue of climate change is yet another example of religious ignorance and intransigence opposing the progress of science. After all, this is what 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; or in the almost equally celebrated debate between Bishop (Soapy Sam) Wilberforce and T. H. Huxley in 1860 at Oxford on the topic of Darwinian evolution, when the claim that man is made in God’s image was seen as contradicting evolution. In fact, my intention in speaking out is to avoid repeating such historical errors and to provide some balance to current ecclesiastical offerings.

I first became interested in the question in the 1990s when studying the anti-human claims of the “deep Greens”. I had long suspected that those predicting dangerous and increasing anthropogenic global warming were overstating their case. During the years 2008-09 it was dangerous for an Australian politician to voice dissent unless he was from a country electorate. Opponents were silenced. As I was not up for re-election and I suspected the emperor had few if any clothes, I made a few more small public statements, never from the pulpit, never at a large public meeting.


What the Science Says: Methodology

Recently Robert Manne, a prominent Australian social commentator, following fashionable opinion, wrote that “the science is truly settled” on the fundamental theory of climate change: global warming is happening; it is primarily caused by the emission of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide and it is certain to have profound effects in the future.

These fundamentals are distinct, he acknowledges, from scores of other different questions. The author is secure in these fundamentals, and dismayed and embarrassed by those who cannot make these distinctions, especially as “the future of the Earth and of humanity are at stake.” Opponents are accused of “ideological prejudice and intellectual muddle”.

His appeal is to the “consensual view among qualified scientists”. This is a category error, scientifically and philosophically. In fact it is also a cop-out, a way of avoiding the basic issues. What is important, and what needs to be examined by lay people as well as scientists, is the evidence and argumentation which are adduced to back any consensus. The basic issue is not whether the science is settled but whether the evidence and explanations are adequate in that paradigm.

I suspect many educated people are like the insurance brokers working in this area, whom I heard of recently, who confessed they had never even begun to examine the evidence for themselves. I fear too that many politicians have never investigated the primary evidence. Much is opaque to non-specialists, but persistent enquiry and study can produce useful clarifications, similar to the nine errors identified by the British High Court in Al Gore’s propaganda film An Inconvenient Truth.

The complacent appeal to scientific consensus is simply one more appeal to authority, quite inappropriate in science or philosophy. Thomas Aquinas pointed this out long ago explaining that “the argument from authority based on human reason” is the weakest form of argument, always liable to logical refutation.

Underlying these models we have a fundamental scientific problem, which has been usefully set out by Lord Monckton, quoting Edward Lorenz, the founder of chaos theory. In 1963 Lorenz wrote that in the instability of a non-periodic flow (and the evolution of the climate is ostensibly aperiodic) “prediction of the sufficiently distant future is impossible by any method, unless the present conditions are known exactly”.

Lorenz continued that “in view of the inevitable inaccuracy and incompleteness of weather observations, precise, very-long range weather forecasting would seem to be non-existent”, because our knowledge both of the initial state of the climate system and of how the climate responds to changes in external forces is incomplete.

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”. Note that it is not just weather but also “future climate states” that are not reliably predictable in the long term. As Mark Twain said, “Climate is what you expect: weather is what you get.” Neither is predictable.

Professor Bob Carter, Dr. David Evans, Professor Stewart Franks, and Dr. William Kininmonth have succinctly stated the case for the sceptics, a case which so far has been completely ignored by the Australian media and political class. The conclusions of the 2007 Fourth Assessment Report of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), they wrote, are “essentially reliant on computer modelling and lack empirical support”; the report’s speculations on “the baleful influence of atmospheric carbon dioxide rest almost exclusively on unvalidated computer modelling that rests on unsubstantiated assumptions about the amplification effects of water vapour, clouds and other unverifiable factors.” The predictions based on these models “have been wrong for the last 23 years”. During the decade since 2001 carbon dioxide has increased by five per cent, but the atmosphere has failed to warm.

The influence of various solar mechanisms (such as sunspot activity) and changing ocean circulation, which are poorly understood, are “omitted from the climate models”, as is the influence of major volcanoes such as the occasional mighty eruption of Krakatoa or Mount Saint Helens or the continuing eruptions deep in the ocean, brought to public attention by Professor Ian Plimer.

While causal physical principles such as the greenhouse effect are known, much else has not been established definitively. Such uncertainties include the already-mentioned water vapour multipliers, sunspot activities and cloud formation, as well as deforestation, soil carbon and aerosols. We should also add variations of the earth’s orbital parameters, asteroid and comet impacts, and variations in cosmic rays.

Claims of atmospheric warming often appear to conflict and depend critically upon the period of time under consideration.

Global temperature reached a twentieth century high in 1998, corresponding to the strong El Nino episode of that year. Subsequently, the continued warming anticipated by the IPCC did not eventuate, and, after first reaching a plateau, by 2010 temperature had cooled slightly. The failure to warm was accompanied by dominant La Nina conditions, and by a period of solar sunspot quietude.

The following facts are additional reasons for scepticism.

  • Multiple lines of evidence show that in many places most of the 11,700 years since the end of the last Ice Age were warmer than the present by up to 2 degrees Celsius.
  • The ice-core records of the cycles of glacial and interglacial periods of the last one million years or so show a correlation between CO2 levels and temperature, but the changes in temperature preceded the changes in CO2 and cannot, therefore, have been caused by them. Carbon dioxide was probably out-gassed from the warming oceans and vice versa when they cooled.
  • The atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide is generally the same everywhere, but temperature changes are not the same everywhere.


The Battle for Public Opinion

As a bishop who regularly preaches to congregations of every age and at widely different levels of prosperity and education, I have some grasp of the challenges in presenting a point of view to the general public. This helps me to understand the propaganda achievements of the climate extremists, at least until their attempted elimination of the Medieval Warming and then Climategate. I was not surprised to learn that the IPCC used some of the world’s best advertising agencies to generate maximum effect among the public.

Since the climate has been changing—as Professor Plimer puts it, ever since that first Thursday 4,567 million years ago when the Earth began and the atmosphere began to form—I am not a “denier” of climate change, and I am not sure whether any such person still exists.

Therefore the term “climate change denier”, however expedient as an insult or propaganda weapon, with its deliberate overtones of comparison with Holocaust denial, is not a useful description of any significant participant in the discussion. What is the nature of the change? That is the question.

In the 1990s we were warned of the “greenhouse effect”, but in the first decade of the new millennium “global warming” stopped. The next retreat was to the concept of “anthropogenic global warming” or AGW; then we were called to cope with the challenge of “climate change”. Then it became apparent that the climate is changing no more now than it has in the past. Seamlessly, the claim shifted to “anthropogenic climate disruption”.

Another, more spectacular example of this successful spin is the debate on “carbon footprints”, on the advisability or not of a “carbon tax”. We all know that it is the role of carbon dioxide in climate change which is in question, not the role of carbon, but we continue to talk about carbon. The public discussion is almost entirely conducted in terms of “carbon footprints” and a “carbon tax”, provoking colourful but misconceived images of carcinogenic burnt toast and narrow, Dickensian chimneys being cleaned by unhealthy young chimney sweeps. It is brilliant advertising. But it is untrue.

My suspicions have been deepened over the years by the climate movement’s totalitarian approach to opposing views, their demonising of successful opponents and their opposition to the publication of opposing views even in scientific journals. As a general rule I have found that those secure in their explanations do not need to be abusive. Churchill claimed that in wartime “truth is so precious she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies”: but this approach should be anathematised in science.

I have discovered that very few people know how small the percentage of carbon dioxide is in the atmosphere.

Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere during the twentieth century are estimated to have risen from 280ppmv to about 390ppmv today, an increase of forty per cent. Yet today’s total CO2 concentration represents less than one-twenty-fifth of one per cent.

While opinions vary, one geochemist has calculated that only about five per cent of present atmospheric carbon dioxide is derived from burning fossil-fuels; that is, just 19 parts of CO2 per million parts of atmosphere.

I can understand why the IPCC public relations advisers did not ensure that these statistics were presented vividly to the public, because they are no stimulus to alarm! In fact they seem to be a well-kept secret outside scientific circles.

Despite the fact that Wikipedia’s entry on air pollution now includes carbon dioxide emissions in a list of “greenhouse gas pollutants”, CO2 does not destroy the purity of the atmosphere, or make it foul or filthy (the Oxford Dictionary definition of a pollutant). It is not a pollutant, but part of the stuff of life.

Animals would not notice a doubling of CO2 and obviously plants would love it. In the other direction, humans would feel no adverse effects unless CO2 concentration rose to at least 5000ppmv, or almost 13 times today’s concentration, far beyond any likely future atmospheric levels.

A final point to be noted in this struggle to convince public opinion is that the language used by AGW proponents veers towards that of primitive religious controversy. Believers are contrasted with deniers, doubters and sceptics, although I must confess no one has dubbed me a climate change heretic.

The rewards for proper environmental behaviour are uncertain, unlike the grim scenarios for the future as a result of human irresponsibility which have a dash of the apocalyptic about them. 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. Some of those campaigning to save the planet are not merely zealous but zealots. To the religionless and spiritually rootless, mythology — whether comforting or discomforting — can be magnetically, even pathologically, attractive.


More than Anecdotes: the Contribution of History

The history of climate change provides no reassurance that human activity can control or even substantially modify the global climate, although humans can effect important local changes for good or ill.

In broad outline the history is uncontroversial. For 2.5 million years, northern Eurasia and North America were covered by ice sheets kilometres deep, and the earth has seen eleven strong glacial episodes (or Ice Ages) in the past million years. We live in an interglacial period which has now lasted 10,000-11,500 years.

The warmer interglacials usually last between 10,000 to 20,000 years, occurring at intervals of about 100,000 years. By these criteria one could argue that an Ice Age is now overdue, which perhaps contributed to the cooling scare in the 1970s.

Apparently the present eccentricity of the earth’s orbit is small, decreasing and likely to continue so for 30,000 years, meaning that our current interglacial may be exceptionally prolonged. A pleasant coincidence.

Controversies commence as we approach the Christian era. Nobody seems too concerned about the Minoan warming of about 3,500 years ago. The Roman warming around 2,000 years ago provokes some heartburn. But there have been attempts to simply erase the Medieval warm period (850–1300AD) from history.

The First (1990) and Second (1995) IPCC Assessment Reports had shown a Medieval Warm Period, warmer than the end of the twentieth century and followed by a Little Ice Age. Notoriously, both the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age were eliminated in the 2001 Third Assessment Report, following Michael Mann’s 1999 study on the last 1,000 years of climate.

Two Canadian academics, Stephen McIntyre and Professor Ross McKitrick, found Mann’s data misleading. The Wegman Report to the US Congress in 2006 upheld their criticisms as valid and their arguments as compelling. The deficiencies in the IPCC process were given even wider publicity when hundreds of emails were leaked or hacked from the University of East Anglia website in 2009, showing censorship and evidential irregularities.

Professor Bob Carter lists eight different recent scientific studies from 2000-08 on proxy data such as tree-ring records, borehole temperature methods, and deep cores in glaciers, lake beds and ocean floors which demonstrate the existence of the Medieval warming with temperatures equal to or higher than today. Particularly significant is the 2008 study by Loehle and McCulloch compiled from eighteen high quality proxy climate records.

Dr Craig Idso has collected papers over the past quarter of a century from more than 1000 scientists in 578 research institutions in 44 countries, providing evidence by a multitude of empirical methods that, taken together, establish that the Medieval Warm Period was real, was global, and was warmer than the present. The comparatively few papers that oppose this evidence are written by a small, tight-knit group of computer modellers.

The historical data are equally clear and sometimes more compelling on the existence of earlier and warmer times, followed by the Little Ice Age, a cold snap of 500 years; two contrasting periods when the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere did not change despite greatly differing temperatures worldwide.

Brian Fagan is the best-known climate historian, author of a string of books and editor of The Oxford Companion to Archaeology. He believes in twentieth century anthropogenic warming, but has no problem in accepting the evidence that in the Medieval Warm Period average summer temperatures were between 0.7°C and 1.0°C above twentieth century averages, while Central European summers were up to 1.4°C higher.

As the evidence for the Medieval warming has increased, some of the exponents of AGW have conceded its existence in the northern hemisphere but contested the claim that it extended south, despite the previously mentioned Idso database. Once again Brian Fagan has collected the scientific evidence from deep-sea cores, pollen samples, tree-rings and Andean ice cores and conclusively established the reality of an American Medieval Warming dominated by long, catastrophic droughts.


Conclusion: Weighing All the Evidence

The continuing pre-eminence of the Western world depends on the continuing creative interaction which fuelled the rise: the life-generating friction between the different forces symbolized by Athens, Rome (secular in this case), and Jerusalem.

Whatever our political masters might decide at this high tide of Western indebtedness, they are increasingly unlikely, because of popular pressure, to impose new financial burdens on their populations in the hope of curbing the rise of global temperatures — except perhaps in Australia, which has two per cent of the world’s industrial capacity and only 1.2 per cent of its CO2 emissions, while continuing to sell coal and iron worth billions of dollars to Asia.

The debates about anthropogenic global warming can only be conducted by the accurate recognition and interpretation of scientific evidence. The evidence of historians is also vital because this is not simply a mathematical problem, not “pure” science.

Extreme-weather events are to be expected, but are unexpected in every period. No one towards the end of the Medieval Warming in Europe expected the rapid descent into the cold and wet of the Little Ice Age, for example, or the freezing gales, winds and heavy rains, that produced the short summers and the terrible developing famines of 1315–20. Surprises such as these will continue into the future.

For this reason (among others) I support the recommendation of Bjorn Lomborg and Bob Carter that, rather than spending money on meeting the Kyoto Protocol which would have produced an indiscernible effect on temperature rise, money should be used to raise living standards and reduce vulnerability to catastrophes and climate change (in whatever direction), so helping people to cope better with future challenges. We need to be able to afford to provide the Noahs of the future with the best arks science and technology can provide.

In essence, this is the moral dimension to this issue. 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? Before we can give an answer, there are some other, scientific and economic, questions that need to be addressed by governments and those advising them. As a layman, in both fields, I do not pretend to have clear answers but some others in the debate appear to be ignoring the questions and relying more on assumptions.

What are the questions? They have to do with the validity of the assumptions, and therefore the conclusions, of the IPCC and, importantly, the relationship of costs and benefits in both monetary and human terms. In other words, 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.

Sometimes the very learned and clever can be brilliantly foolish, especially when seized by an apparently good cause. My request is for common sense and more of what the medievals, following Aristotle, called prudence, one of the four cardinal virtues, the “recta ratio agibilium” or right reason in doing things. We might call this a cost-benefit analysis, where costs and benefits are defined financially and morally (or humanly) and their level of probability is carefully estimated.

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.

When Galileo was placed under house arrest primarily because of his claim that the earth moved around the sun, he is said to have muttered “Eppur’ si muove” — and yet, it moves.

As for Galileo so for us, the appeal must be to the evidence, not to any consensus, whatever the levels of confusion or self-interested coercion. First of all we need adequate scientific explanations as a basis for our economic estimates. We also need history, philosophy, even theology, and many will use, perhaps create, mythologies. But most importantly we need to distinguish which is which.


Copyright © George Pell. First published by Cardinal Pell’s complete paper with footnotes can be found here.


George Pell is the Cardinal Archbishop of Sydney. Apart from his ecclesiastical qualifications, he has a Masters degree in education from Monash University in Melbourne and a PhD in Church History from Oxford University.

  • Margaret

    Poor Cardinal Pell has apparently been brainwashed with some very easily refuted claims. This article is so full of holes. The good cardinal really needs to stick to his day job. No, it has not been cooling since 1998. No, Mann’s data is not misleading. He merely made a minor error in some very esoteric math that did not substantially alter his conclusions, which are, in any case, mirrored by several other proxy studies. No, there was no huge conspiracy going on at the University of East Anglia. The situation was thoroughly investigated and the scientists exonerated. The cardinal does not have his facts straight on the science, so his conclusions can be dismissed. What interests me is why religiously conservative web sites so often air these obviously false and ill-informed claims? I can’t help thinking of the Ralph Reed/Jack Abramoff scams in which social/religious conservatives were misled and manipulated. Do Koch brothers and Exxon really think religious conservatives are so stupid and gullible that they’ll swallow this anti-science cant?

    The annual ratio of record maximum to record minimum temperatures is now 2.04:1 and increasing. We can expect increasingly unstable and extreme weather events in the future, such as the flooding in Thailand and Cambodia and the drought in Somalia. Climate change is an ethical issue because of its impact on the common good. I think it’s irresponsible of the cardinal to use his bully pulpit in such an ignorant and potentially damaging way.

    • Sarto

      Good job, Margaret. He should just sign his name Joe. The hierarchy is fresh out of obeisance these days.

    • DanielC65

      Margaret’s rebuttal holds no substance. In fact, she does exactly what Cardinal Pell inveighs against. She makes unsupportable claims, dismisses and vilifies the opposing view without supporting herself with evidence, insults others, and makes easily rebuttable straw man arguments. First, the Cardinal makes his case rationally, referring to research by legitimate scientific sources, and his conclusions follow.
      1) Margaret claims the East Anglia scientists were exonerated. Not true, the so-called investigation was a total whitewash that it’s easily dismissed, and embarrasing to refer to.
      2) What other investigators found was not a conspiracy but erroneous information, falsified conclusions from the data, and the suppression of evidence.
      3) It now appears that GW has stalled since at least 1998.
      Without repeating the evidence provided in the article, it now appears that in the last 45 years, only 15 years support the warming hypothesis, and the last 10-15 years actually show a levelling off of GW. Massive economic dislocations will not be required.

  • Martial Artist


    And your source/authority for identifying all of the Cardinal’s errors would be?

    Pax et bonum,
    Keith Töpfer

  • Paul L.

    Are we causing the rising temperatures around the solar system too? Mars has lost a vast portion of its polar ice caps (co2) over the last 10 years too. Did we cause that? I’m not saying we are not having an impact, we surely are, but this feeding the ‘fear factor’ for political gain is where the real hot air is. I’m all for taking WAY better care of the natural world, but let’s stop using temperature changes, which are a cycle of the Sun and has been recorded for centuries, as a means of scaring people into voting for one party or another. Neither party has the monopoly on environmental protection, and it may well be that the Democrats are the bigger hypocrites about the whole thing. The first environment to be concerned with is the interior of the individual, the Soul. If that environment is polluted the rest of the world is a doomed. First things first; clean up the sludge pit that is the soul of the modern man. The natural world will only then be safe within the proper sphere of value and respect. BTW, I find it more than ironic that so many would simultaneously lead the charge for environmental protection AND abortion. It’s like the bumber stickers I see on the same car—‘War is not the answer’, and, ‘Keep abortion safe and legal’, on the same car! Talk about a hypocrite!

  • Linus

    Good for Cardinel Pell. An excellent analysis.

  • ricky

    there are 2 questions here:

    does the cardinal know enough science to refute something that seems to be self-evident: ask the people of australia, thailand and host of other places?

    does this same cardinal know enough Latin, english & theology & conciliar documents to shepeherd a translation of the Catholic liturgy for the english-speaking churches?

    Is there any “spirit” with him at all?

    excuse my arrogance, but how arrogant do you have to be to speak when silence would have done him just fine?

  • Joannie

    I agree with Cardinal Pell and to those of you who still think this is real and not a “hoax” like the head of the Weather Channel called it to Glenn Beck back in 2007, also to get more info check out Ice or better still Climate Depot website. I got my first evidence on this back in the early 1990’s when the late Zoologist Dr. Dixie Lee Ray wrote 2 great books on Environmental Alarmism called “Trashing The Planet” and “Environmental Overkill” in which she said these issues were being used by the Green (Socialist Parties) and they were then and are still now anti-human and anti-developement.

  • Jim E. Dubs

    It’s sad that you so simply the Galileo incident which has more to do with the events and politics of the Reformation and Sola Scriptura, then anything else. For it was Copernicus — aka Fr. Copernicus — not Galileo first promoted a heliocentric solar system; and it was the Holy Father who received the teaching as enlightened work.

  • Deacon Jason Miller, Ph.D., M.P.A.

    Another major problem with climate “science” – it is not able to be conducted using experimental methodology. Therefore, causality cannot be established. Experimental methodology requires random assignment, use of a control group, an experimental group, etc. These poor studies rely on correlation, naturalistic observation, statistical modeling, etc. That isn’t the fault of the researchers. It is the nature of the subject matter. To be able to conduct an experimental design on climate, you would have to take one planet in the exact same position as another planet, with the exact same environments, increase CO2 in one and not the other. If you can show that temperature increased as a result, then you have support for your theory – but you would have to replicate it to see if error entered in by chance. You can’t manipulate the variables like you can in physics or chemistry. Climate science is SOFT science, which is why it is so difficult to predict weather accurately – we all know that. Very very mushy and difficult to make definitive conclusions. But these strict methodologies are vital – they are what gets a rocket to the moon. If you don’t use those methodologies, your rocket will crash.

    Something else that always bothered me about the way these scientists speak – I have heard several of them say it is “settled science” or even a “fact.” That is always an indication of bias. The most staunch physicist would be very careful to say such things and would likely never say such things. For something to be settled, there has to be no probability of error (even the tiniest bit) and it has to be established for all time. Example “fact” – the sky is blue. When it is night? The sky is blue when it is not night. When it is cloudy? The sky is blue when it is not night and cloudy? The sky is blue during an eclipse? And so on and so on. Theories are refined as more information is collected. You can have a theory that has tons of support behind it, with no competing theories even coming close. That does NOT make it a fact.

    And please, before you take issue with me because I am a Deacon – social science (which is a soft science) is my profession. I use statistical modeling methods similar to what the climate scientists use regularly. I have no stake in this global warming, climate change, whatever you want to call it, debate. And you better believe I am extremely cautious about using language like “fact” loosely. I would get raked over the coals if I through around such language. Scientists should be skeptical of their work. That is a good and healthy thing – that is what drives good and thorough research. If that doesn’t occur, then group think sets in and can stifle real analysis.

  • TeaPot562

    The evidence cited by Cardinal Pell on the Medieval Warming period being worldwide is interesting. The pushers of the concept of AGW used to start the so-called “hockey stick” graph of global warming in 1000 A.D.; but had to abandon that when the higher temperatures before 1400 A.D. were pointed out to them.
    The Vikings were able to grow crops in southern Greenland from the time of Leif Ericson to about 1400 A.D, but had to abandon that colony after a succession of shorter, colder summers.
    Demonstrations of AGW now prefer to cite temperature changes from 1800 A.D. to the present.
    Tables and graphs can be used in a misleading fashion if the person selecting the starting point deliberately excludes data that contradict his thesis. The 1800 A.D. starting point is such a misleading choice.

  • Steve

    Poor Margaret is a poster child of the climate change zealot. Never consider the evidence,vilify those who disagree and cling to assumptions as if they were the word of God.

    • Paul L.

      Hey, they teach GW in school, it must be true, Right? ……Right?? They’d never teach anything false, that would be unthinkable, and surely they’d never teach anything that would be politically advantageous to the party that supports the teacher’s union…..right???? Teachers are the new saints of our culture, they’d never bend the truth to their advantage, surely they’re above that…..Right???
      It’s the same as the Aztec priest using the cycle of the eclipse to support his position/in with the gods. The ignorant are always impressed and overpowered, and then lead to the alter and sacrificed without even flinching. Margaret should look to the many examples of the abuse of science (human knowledge) over the course of mankind. She might become a bit more wary lest she find herself being offered up to the god of CO2. I’ve been around enough public schools in the last 5 years and can tell you, they are stuffing this agenda down kid’s throats at an alarming pace. They are busy breeding clones for their extreme Left agenda, not teaching them how to think, only what to think.

  • Margaret


    And your source/authority for identifying all of the Cardinal’s errors would be?”

    I read the peer-reviewed literature and follow the science closely. Cardinal Pell appears to be getting his erroneous information from the media because what he says clearly contradicts the scientific journals. It is simply fallacious to say that the atmosphere has been cooling since 1998. Every decade since 1950 has been warmer than the previous one. 2000 to 2010 was warmer than 1990 to 2000.

    • DanielC65

      Not true Margaret. The evidence clearly shows that at least three decades since 1950 have not been warmer than the previous one, including 2000-2010. The “cult of ignorance” argument is simply a vilification argument that actually reveals your frustration that the facts don’t support your case. Cardinal Pell clearly has a stronger scientific and rational mindset than you do, an needs no admonition.

  • Margaret

    There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”
    Isaac Asimov, column in Newsweek (21 January 1980)

    Cardinal Pell would do well to observe this. He should stick to theology and stop pretending to know anything about science.

    • Sarto

      You go, Margaret. Crisis offers a retro-intellectual climate and so it is great to see you firing back at the luddites.

    • Martial Artist


      Thank you for your reply.

      Pax et bonum,
      Keith Töpfer

  • Howard Kainz

    @Margaret: Why don’t you offer some examples of peer-reviewed journal articles arguing that the atmosphere has not been cooling since 1998? Some of us might like to look at this evidence.

  • Paul L.

    Did you know that Mars is losing its polar ice caps at a rate which coincides with ours here on Earth? What do those peer-reviewed journals you refer to say about this fact?

  • Margaret

    @Howard, Journal of Geophysical Research is one of the better journals. One has to subscribe to see the articles, but your local library may have copies. Every new edition contains interesting and pertinent articles. Even Scientific American would be helpful.

    A good place to start might be here:
    Select the “intermediate” version of “What the Science Says” and follow the links, which will lead you to several studies and articles. A similar blog that addresses some of the more common denier myths is:
    Again, follow the links if you are looking for scholarly and peer-reviewed articles.

    The peer-reviewed evidence supporting AGW is as overwhelming as the peer-reviewed evidence opposing it is non-existent. The science can indeed be said to “have been settled.” Does that mean it cannot change or new evidence won’t adjust current findings? Of course not. Anyone who disagrees with the science is free to publish an article disproving recent consensus. Surprise, surprise — that’s not happening! It’s amazing how much the well-funded PR machines of Koch brothers and Exxon are able to influence public opinion by peddling ignorance and falsehoods that contradict disciplined scientific study.

    You may have heard of Richard Muller’s BEST (Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature) Project? Muller was at one time somewhat skeptical of the methods used for taking Earth’s temperature, so he offered to undertake a comprehensive analysis of the process, which was, in part, enthusiastically funded by Koch. Ooops. Muller, who believes his study is the most thorough yet, confirmed that the earth’s atmosphere is warming rapidly. His results, which have been submitted for publication to four peer-reviewed journals, can be found at:

    Sorry, but I’ll take the hard science over Cardinal Pell’s loose and poorly researched article any day.

  • Margaret

    @Paul L, this is one of those common and often irrelevant denier myths debunked in the links I provided to Howard.

    • Paul L.

      How Margaret, you better tell NASA! They have it all wrong then, see for yourself. Myth?? I think you may be the irrelevant piece in this puzzle. Check it out,

      Better tell them to change their finding to fit your point of view.

    • Sarto

      Margaret, if these jokers were really interested in the truth they would Google Global Warming and the Science of Climate Change as I just did and do some reading for themselves. Don’t dignify their nonsense. Let them show some intellectual curiosity and so some reading for themselves.

    • Paul L.

      There is no such thing as ‘hard science’ where climate is concerned, Margaret. That’s why we use computer models to calculate estimates of the changes. If it were hard science we would have no use for these very complex computer models, they would simply do the math like any other ‘hard science’ and the results would be consistent.

  • Sadly, Elizabeth, I fear it is you who have been reading the journalists and not the science.

    The BEST data confirm that we have had a standstill of temperature through the last decade – a point confirmed a while back by non other than Phil Jones, he of the CRU scandal.

    Strange that we haven’t had any warming in a decade, isn’t it?

    I find it interesting that you base your criticisms of America on a guy who wrote stories about galactic empires and self-aware robots. Now THAT is surely a tremendous critique of our society!

  • Howard Kainz

    @Elizabeth: Skeptical Science seems to be something like he Skeptical Inquirer, a magazine that specializes in showing that all things supernatural are humbug. Anyway, I checked one of their references to the journal, Geophysical Research Letter, September issue. The article there is concerned with ocean warming. But, if I read it correctly, it admits a lack of significant surface warming during the last decade. It says, for example, “The aerosol forcing, inferred as a residual in the atmospheric energy balance, is estimated as −0.8 ± 0.4 W m−2 for the 1980s and early 1990s. It increases in the late 1990s, as is required for consistency with little surface warming over the last decade.” So there might be a mixed message here.

  • kendallpeak

    There is a terrible crisis, you can’t personally observe the crisis, you must take my word for it. You must turn over your wealth and freedom to me to save you. This scam is as old as mankind itself.

  • Nick

    Is this the same Margaret who sometimes posts this same clap-trap at The American Spectator website?

    If not, almost everything you wrote is demonstrably false.
    Anthropogenic Global Warming is a proven HOAX. Those who promote it are AGW Hoaxers.

  • Diogenes

    Listening to Margaret, Sarto and rest is like listening to Protestants claiming their bible is more holy than the Catholics!!!! AGW clearly is dogma to her and her ilk. REAL scientists say, “Here is the data, run the experiment yourself.”

    As a former meteorologist, one key item I learned in dynamic meteorology is:
    1) All, repeat, all computer weather forecast models, if run out to extreme forecast times (beyond 30 forecast days, in general) show only what bias and assumptions that were built into the model. Any “weather” in the model (deviation from standard barotropic flow) gets smoothed out.

    Assumptions? Things like gravity, solar radiation, CO2 exchange between ocean/air and air/plants, area of planet with vegetation, atmospheric density, evapotranspiration, planetary albedo…. Bias? Barotropic vs. Baroclinic vs. Isentropic equations, rate of heat exchange between oceans/atmosphere, and more.

    All of these items cannot be measured, averaged, analyzed like temperature, humidity, air pressure. The model builder has to use an educated guess for these values and put them in the equations used in the model.

    One could put together a barotropic model on a home computer that would “prove” the planet will go into an ice age next year due to not enough grasshoppers in Africa, or put together a baroclinic model that will “prove” that the earth will get hot enough to melt lead next year due to too many Republicans and so on and so forth. Today, every meteorology student has to build a primitive weather forecast model on their own computer, then tweak it to cause rapid cooling, then rapid warming, etc. so they learn what effects assumptions, bias and limiting factors have on the computer models.

    That, exactly, is what the professors at East Anglia (and elsewhere) did. They took a hypothesis, and built a computer forecast model that would “prove” it.

    I don’t buy it. Too many independent variables, any one of which could throw off the forecast model by orders of magnitude.

    BTW, is “Margaret” really Margaret R. Pippen, who co-authored “Surface Ozone Measured at GLOBE Schools in the Czech Republic: A Demonstration of the Importance of Student Contribution to the Larger Science Picture” in the April 08 edition of the BAMS?

    I do not trust the so-called “scientific” journals, or the articles within. No dissent, no challenge allowed. It’s one thing to disagree with experimental results, but when I see I am reading nothing more than propaganda told by the same people month after month, trouble lies dead ahead.

    When the AGW true believers do a Jonestown style mass suicide (over 500 adults and children at a pop), then their movement will get cred. Otherwise, this is nothing more than a “brights” vs. “mundanes” struggle for who gets the goodies in an ever more competitive world.

    (SIDEBAR: Why does doing a mass suicide prove anything? Key assumptions: Humans cause AGW; less humans, less AGW. AGW, if not slowed, will kill off 90% of humanity within the next 70 years. Therefore, killing yourself now is the only logical answer since if you try to live, you cause more AGW which will kill you shortly, i.e. you are already dead.)

    • Sarto

      I am so happy I discovered Inside Catholic and it is a joy to visit it regularly. I feel like a colleague of mine who as an anthropologist in the South Pacific. He would find these little pockets of people who deserved a long and systematic study. I will email him and ask for some advice as I observe this peculiar group suffering from that ancient klingon disease called mind-lock.

      • Paul L.

        Sarto, you could google it, that is your preferred method of scientific study, remember? Hey wikipedia is right up your ally too. You intellectuals are so far beyond us poor cave men. We actually think for ourselves, what a primitive concept!

    • Martial Artist


      In addition to the sheer number of independent variables, the models are subject to issues associated with the number of scales of variability, the lack of resolution of initial and boundary conditions resulting from a spatially and temporally sparse network of observing stations, and the scale at which terrain is modeled.

      Finally, it never ceases to amaze me that the pro-AGW folks seem never to address the paleohistorical variability of earth’s climate. It is as if they can only view things from the perspective of the “seven day forecast.”

      Pax et bonum,
      Keith Töpfer

  • Excellent point, Diogenes. Chaos Theory was invented because a guy had a computer program designed to predict the weather. Every time he ran it (using the same variables) it came up with a different answer. This is too complex a system to reliably predict. And those same models were used with old data to try to predict our current climate – and all twenty of them failed miserably.

    These climatologists are getting the results they want. Funny how lucrative predictions of doom can be; climatology was a backwater, a branch of meteorology. Now it’s big business.

    You say;

    “I do not trust the so-called “scientific” journals, or the articles within. No dissent, no challenge allowed. It’s one thing to disagree with experimental results, but when I see I am reading nothing more than propaganda told by the same people month after month, trouble lies dead ahead.”

    And the editor of Remote Sensing resigned after publishing a paper by Spencer and Braswell that refuted AGW theory. Interesting, since this is precisely what the CRU e-mails said would happen. The editor did not issue a retraction, he did not publish a challenge to S and B, he resigned. There is coercion here, and it comes from the big guns at CRU, GISS, and the other big alarmist organizations. And, of course, Spiencer and Braswell had to go to Remote Sensing because of a boycott by Nature and other, more prestigious journals. Also, it has nothing to do with peer review; Roger Pielke Sr. reviewed this paper and found it “quite robust”. Pielke isn’t exactly a carnival sideshow.

  • Tom

    Why worry?
    The truth will come out one day, one way or the other, as it did with Galileo and Copernicus, does not matter what prevailing opinions are. The history of science is full of novel ideas that were first refuted. Many many scientist that were shut up, because what thye said went against prevailing wisdom. I do not know enough about this topic, but I can say that anyone can nowadays download large arrays of data, including weather data, and do the scientific work required, even from a lap top. Did Cardinal Pell do this? Does he have the training to analyze such data? Did he take the time to look at the raw data and learn the tools to analyze these? If not, why not? So I guess this is a green light for some one like me, without formal theological training to pontificate at will on matters of the Church (…oops, wait a minute, I already do that, so fair is fair, the Cardinal can state his opinion on this matter, but without the hard work of scientific analysis, its just an opinion, the same way my statement on theology are).

  • Margaret

    @Paul L, read the links I provided above. The issue of possible local warming on Mars is not relevant to the current temperature spikes on Earth. Those links deal with several other denier myths (it’s the sun; CO2 leads not lags, there’s no consensus, etc.). Much of the confusion comes from media articles that confuse or misrepresent the science.

    Science in not about opinions. Everyone can (and does!:-)) believe whatever they want to about AGW, but unless one can back up that opinion, it’s not science, and the facts remain. When one looks at the credentials of the organizations and scientists that overwhelmingly support the reality of AGW, one would need to be very sure of oneself to disagree. I note how very sure of themselves some of those who disagree appear to be, but when one compares their arguments and credentials with those of the vast majority of serious scientists, well, I know which side I find more convincing.

    I still wonder, though, why this unscientific nonsense keeps cropping up on conservative religious sites. Opposing AGW is not an article of religious faith.

    • Nick

      You didn’t answer my question, are you the same Margaret who sometimes posts this same clap-trap at The American Spectator website?