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Cardinal Pell Questions The Price Of Climate Action

CATHOLIC Archbishop of Sydney George Pell has questioned the morality and cost benefits of imposing heavy financial burdens in the cause of curbing climate change. Last night Cardinal Pell presented the annual lecture to London’s controversial Global Warming Policy Foundation, chaired by former British chancellor Nigel Lawson.

“Whatever our political masters might decide at this high tide of Western indebtedness,” Cardinal Pell said, “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 2 per cent of the world’s industrial capacity and only 1.2 per cent of its CO2 emissions, while continuing to sell coal worth billions of dollars to Asia.

“In 1135, the water flow in the Danube was so low that people could cross it on foot. Somewhat earlier, the Rhine had suffered the same fate. Around the middle of the Little Ice Age, the year 1540 was the warmest and driest for the millennium in central Europe. Once again, the Rhine dried up.

“We can only imagine the excitement such events would provoke today.

“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 to 1320. Surprises such as these will continue into the future.”

This was why he supported the views of geologist Bob Carter and Danish environmental writer Bjorn Lomborg that money should be used to raise living standards and reduce vulnerability to catastrophes and climate change, in whatever form.

“We need to be able to afford to provide the Noahs of the future with the best arks science and technology can provide,” Cardinal Pell said.

“In essence, this is the moral dimension to this issue. The cost of attempts to make global warming go away will be very heavy. Efforts to offset the effects on the vulnerable are well intentioned but history tells us they can only ever be partially successful.”

The Australian, 27 October 2011