+ Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney
3 Jan 2010
King Canute once took his fawning courtiers with him, set his throne down on the coast and commanded the tide to halt. As the tide advanced relentlessly he pointed out the limits to the power of kings. The earth, sky and sea obey only eternal laws, not man-made instructions.
Canute was a Viking, the King of England from 1016 to 1035, and of Denmark and then Norway; one of Europe's most powerful rulers. An equivalent of Canute would have been welcome at Copenhagen. While modern technology can work marvels, it is nonsense to claim we can limit future temperature rises to 2 degrees celsius rather than 4 or 5 degrees; and improbable that human activity can achieve significant global climate changes.
It is hostile and deceitful to claim that sceptics deny the reality of climate change. Everyone accepts that climates have changed over the centuries. The debate is about whether these changes are outside the regular patterns of the two Christian millennia, for example; and whether human activity is provoking a disastrous warming, or is even a powerful agent of temperature change.
Most politicians at the summit acted as though the scientific case was established, and the activists believed it. In fact, more and more evidence from long ago is suggesting we understand imperfectly why climates change, and that many factors as well as carbon dioxide contribute: for example, activity on the sun, the orbit of the earth and its wobbles, clouds, water vapour, oceans, volcanoes and bovine flatulence. Scientific evidence is not changed by governmental consensus, political will, or strong arm tactics.
It is a warning sign when one side begins to abuse their opponents, labels them as Nazis, fiddles with the evidence as at the University of East Anglia, and tries to censor and silence opposing scientific evidence and opinion, as has happened even in Australia. Those confident of their case do not need to bluster.
Do some of Al Gore's allies realise that their good ship has been holed beneath the waterline and is sinking? What else explains the hostility? We need more scientific debate, not less.
Chinese diplomacy, which scuttled Obama at Copenhagen, is like a slow moving bulldozer and makes George W. Bush look like a consensus politician. They might have acted for many wrong reasons, but probably did future generations a huge service by saving them from well-intentioned but useless expenditure of trillions of dollars.