CNS's excellent coverage of the Vatican's seminar on global warming

I’d like to copy the whole article, but I’ll restrain myself and just pull about every other quotation, along with my comments in italics. Hopefully this adds some clarification to the discussion. You can read for yourself here.

First, things got somewhat rowdy:

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Despite being held in a cool, climate-controlled conference room, some early discussions at a Vatican-sponsored seminar on global warming and climate change got pretty heated.

The rifts and tensions still dividing the global debate on the causes of and remedies for drastic climatic shifts were gently simmering in the small microcosm of the two-day Vatican meeting.

The seminar, sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, gathered some 80 experts representing the scientific, political, economic and spiritual sides of the climate-change debate at the Vatican April 26-27 to discuss “Climate Change and Development.”

“I have to commend the planners,” said Lucia Silecchia, a professor of environmental law at The Catholic University of America in Washington, because “nobody can accuse them of bringing in a group of people who will agree with each other.”

Disagreements even spilled out into the corridor during the closed-door seminar’s first morning break when a Vatican official had to use his pastoral prowess to calm one participant.”

The scientific community has been so divided and so bitter” over the climate-change debate that experts who disagree with each other don’t talk to each other, Silecchia told Catholic News Service.

Martino made some good clarifications to reporters (that weren’t presented in most MSM reports I read):

Nonetheless, he [Martino] said, the Vatican is cautious about what sort of pronouncements it makes about global warming.

Church leaders are aware scientific findings can sometimes be skewed by special-interest groups or overblown by an audience-hungry media.

This tendency to take ambiguous scientific findings and skew them for gain comprises about 100% of my disagreement with the enviromentalist lobby.

The church does not want to curb sustainable development, especially in impoverished nations, nor does it see population control as a way to conserve dwindling resources. There is a middle ground, many church leaders say, that sees sustainable economic growth, the environment and human development as partners, not enemies.

But when 5 percent of the world’s population gobbles up 20 percent of the earth’s resources, lifestyle changes are important, said Cardinal Martino and Pope Benedict XVI.

I can agree with all of these points. So often, however, environmentalists propose exactly “curbing sustainable development, especially in impoverished nations” and “population control” (think the United Nations and their horrible-coercive programs) as the solution to limited resources (and I would add “failures in distribution” to the causes of global hunger and poverty).

Silecchia [ professor of environmental law at The Catholic University of America in Washington] said in some ways the environmental movement “has become its own new religion,” and this could be offset by a wider recognition of the church’s own tradition of God asking people to be stewards of creation.

That’s right. The best way to oppose the growth of this “new religion” is to demonstrate how the Christian tradition and Catholic church already provide guidance on issues of economic and ecological responsibility. We have the principles within our tradition and don’t need to be frightened by fear mongers.

Australian Bishop Christopher Toohey of Wilcannia-Forbes said the church’s message of hope and love of life can offer direction and inspiration, which “is somewhat missing” in the world debate.

“The church is not just another voice telling people to conserve energy and preserve the planet. It has the potential to bring its vast tradition to shed light on a troubled human family,” he wrote.

The church can “provide motivation, inspiration, love for life itself and for the earth and all of creation, to genuinely love those things and care for them,” he told CNS.

Instead of letting disagreements in the global warming debate continue to stall decisive action, “we have a Christian duty to live simple, responsible lives whether climate change is happening or not,” he said.

Amen. Whether climate change is happening or not (I remain unconvinced by those who argue that it is, drastically, and by demonstrable recent human activity), we do need to be good stewards of our property.

As a postscript, this AP coverage seems to have Martino admitting that global warming could actually be beneficial to humanity, or at least acknowledging that many people are of that opinion:

VATICAN CITY: Vatican officials closed a conference on climate change Friday that heard from scientists, ministers and religious leaders about the negative � and sometimes positive � impacts of climate change.

“Not all the scientific world is crying disaster,” Cardinal Renato Martino, who heads the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, told Vatican Radio at the start of the two-day conference he hosted.

“There are a good number of scientists who consistently don’t view these climactic changes in a negative light, and in fact say that these phenomena recur over the course of years and eras and sometimes they can have favorable results for agriculture and development.”

That said, some of the invited panelists were of the view that a warming planet is not all bad.

Among them was Craig Idso, chairman of the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change. The organization publishes the weekly online newsletter CO2 Science, which often reports on what it says are the benefits of increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Other invited guests disputed any benefits, saying the increase in global temperatures was dangerous to the Earth and its most vulnerable people. [More...]

Well, I’m happy to see that both sides of the debate were represented at the J&P;’s conference.

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