Saturday December 15 2007
“The Pope condemns the climate change prophets of doom,” roared the headline on Thursday. Basically if the Daily Mail goes out of business, I’ll have to give up this column. “Pope Benedict XVI has launched a surprise attack on climate change prophets of doom, warning them that any solutions to global warming must be based on firm evidence and not on dubious ideology.”
Jesus, did he? “The leader of more than a billion Roman Catholics suggested that fears over man-made emissions melting the ice caps and causing a wave of unprecedented disasters were nothing more than scare-mongering.” The pope is pulling no punches, and these criticisms have been taken up and propagated by every climate change crank in town, both online and in print. “The German-born Pontiff said that while some concerns may be valid it was vital that the international community based its policies on science rather than the dogma of the environmentalist movement.”
Golly. Now firstly, his message wasn’t mostly about climate change. You can read it for yourself, in its entirety, at qurl.com/popery. It is called the “the human family, a community of peace”, and it was mostly about development issues and the importance of family. It was also really nice, if somewhat mawkish and occasionally tinged with an edge of barely repressed censorious brutality.
He does mention the environment, and he is very cool on it indeed. “Humanity today is rightly concerned about the ecological balance of tomorrow.” Air guitar. He talks about equality and development issues, and it sounds to me like he respects the IPPR: “It is important for assessments in this regard to be carried out prudently, in dialogue with experts and people of wisdom, uninhibited by ideological pressure to draw hasty conclusions, and above all with the aim of reaching agreement on a model of sustainable development capable of ensuring the well-being of all while respecting environmental balances.”
And it looks like he respects Stern too: “If the protection of the environment involves costs, they should be justly distributed, taking due account of the different levels of development of various countries and the need for solidarity with future generations.”
In fact the pope rocks: “Prudence does not mean failing to accept responsibilities and postponing decisions; it means being committed to making joint decisions after pondering responsibly the road to be taken, decisions aimed at strengthening that covenant between human beings and the environment.”
But wait. According to the Mail: “The 80-year-old Pope said the world needed to care for the environment but not to the point where the welfare of animals and plants was given a greater priority than that of mankind.” Well, what he actually said was: “Human beings, obviously, are of supreme worth vis-à-vis creation as a whole. Respecting the environment does not mean considering material or animal nature more important than man.” Next sentence:”Rather, it means not selfishly considering nature to be at the complete disposal of our own interests, for future generations also have the right to reap its benefits.”
Sounds very sensible. Perhaps there is a special hidden code that only the Mail can understand? Mind you, if you’re looking for hidden messages, I was quite struck by the bit where he calls George Bush a penis: “It is essential… to choose the path of dialogue rather than the path of unilateral decisions. Further international agencies may need to be established in order to confront together the stewardship of this “home” of ours; more important, however, is the need for ever greater conviction about the need for responsible cooperation.”
And I think he’s talking about the Bali talks when he says: “The problems looming on the horizon are complex and time is short. In order to face this situation effectively, there is a need to act in harmony.” He then goes on to discuss how we should be courteous about the developing world’s need for energy. Seriously. The pope takes a right on, evidence based line.
Now obviously we’re all amused by the idea that the Pope wants everyone’s beliefs to be based on hard evidence rather than fanciful moralising ideology; and I fully realise that we’re talking about a man who sits on the fence over evolution (and I do remember that he wants to leave sweet little babies who could be saved by stem cell research to die tragically).
But nonetheless, you care what the pope thinks about global warming, and about the prophets of doom: because hundreds of millions of other people do. Out of sheer decency, if the pope speaks sense, at Christmas, I will raise a drink to the man.