Monday, December 21, 2009

Copenhagen: so what?

My second piece reflecting on Copenhagen has just gone up at the Centre for Public Christianity (a.k.a. CPX). You can read the first one back here. My new piece was written towards the end of last week and attempts to reflect on some of the positive outcomes to this much anticipated gathering, even though at the time it was looking like little of worth was going to come out of it. And it is important to remember, that sadly (but not unexpectedly) that turned out to be largely true.

Baby permitting (we're still waiting, which is quite apt, given that it is Advent), I'll write a third piece in the days ahead that presents a more critical and reflective view on "where to from here?".


David Palmer said...

Hello Byron,

What does one do Christmas Eve?

Well write on global warming it appears in my case. Actually I’m about to go o’seas for a month and I’m just finishing off a few things.

I was directed to your blog a week or so ago when reading Mark Thompson’s posting, “The serious challenge of environmental responsibility”. I have just posted a response on Mark’s blog and also expressed my view on Copenhagen on the SydAng website (

I thought I might share a few thoughts concerning what you have written and we might have a bit of a dialogue though I’m away all of January.

I must say although I don’t share your agreement with the CO2 human induced global warming thesis, I found your notes to be thoughtful with a conscious effort to connect with your Bible derived convictions.

I’m sure if we worked through texts such as Genesis 1:28, 2:15, the priority to be given to the neighbour, especially the neighbour in difficulty we would have a common understanding. In recent years the Presbyterian Church of Victoria has opened up a meaningful relationship with the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP) in Malawi and Zambia centred around better equipping rural pastors for ministry as well as building an orphanage and school for children whose parents have died of AIDs and other causes.

I don’t share your confidence that we can draw a straight-line relationship between human sourced CO2 emissions and global warming though I agree that global warming has occurred during the past 100 years and if continued poses a threat to the current way of life, and disproportionately so for some countries and regions. I think the prime focus of Governments should be on funding research into renewable sources of energy as well as continuing/increasing targeted aid for specific measures to alleviate misery in Africa and other needy places. The last thing I would do is hand out $100 billion to African Governments, but then I don’t think our Government, whatever the political strip, will do that either. Part of being made in the image of God, with the remit to subdue, work and guard the creation, is that the human race has been remarkably adept at adjusting to changed circumstances. If global warming (or cooling such as occurred in the little ice age) occurs we will make the necessary adaptations. We might need to find new homes for the 11,000 inhabitants of Tuvalu. My ancestors last century from the impoverished Scottish highlands were grateful to find a new home in Australia. Just as there are unintended consequences of every action taken in good faith, so there are silver linings to every disaster.

Anyway, I’m a sceptic when it comes to drawing straight line relationships between CO2 emissions and global warming. I note you have participated in marches in favour of 350ppm CO2. I think that if we ever set out to achieve 350ppm we would do so much damage to the poor and defenceless not only in Africa but Australia too that we certainly couldn’t be said to be loving our neighbour. Why shouldn’t we encourage, be supportive of economic development in China, India, Africa. Why shouldn’t we support the provision of cheap carbon based electricity generators for villages and small towns and coal fired power stations, even one a week in China, if it helps their people climb out of poverty and poor health?


David Palmer said...

Part 2

You quote with approval Andrew Cameron, “Too little scepticism is gullible, but there comes a time when too much scepticism is a crippling disconnection from reality”. Leaving aside the first point, it all depends how much is too much and even more importantly, “what are we talking about?”. I would suggest when you are talking about trillions of dollars in investment in alternative technologies that are very expensive and to which a portion of the population have a moral objection (nuclear); are very expensive, are still small scale and incurably intermittent (wind and solar farms) or unproven (carbon capture and storage) you want to be very certain of the science before embarking on such uncharted waters.

I note your assertion of “a growing and highly successful misinformation campaign of climate change denial that is muddying the waters with outdated, pseudo-scientific and de-bunked claims” coupled with something of a whitewash of the climategate. This won’t do. Nor does the statement, “How does even a least charitable reading of these emails, mainly involving around six scientists at one centre, discredit the work of more than three thousand contemporary climatologists in dozens of countries?” stand up to scrutiny The reference to “three thousand contemporary climatologists” I take to refer to those with a hand in the 2007 4th IPCC report. There is documented evidence (somewhere in my 8 lever arch files of global warming material if I can find it) that the total number across all disciplines fell well short of 3,000, and as for “climatologists” as you put it, they were a small fraction well represented in the leaked emails as persons preventing the publication of material challenging the IPCC (their own) orthodoxy as well as engaging in the manipulation of data. The man at the centre of this scandal, Prof Phil Jones has (been) stood down, an enquiry is underway and no doubt in due course we will hear more. Even better the UK Met Office and the CRU at East Anglia University have bowed to public pressure and agreed to publish data subset and code after several years of refusal to do so in defiance of the UK freedom of information legislation.

One result of this scandal is that I think we will find more peer reviewed papers finding their way into the journals. Here is the link to one such new paper arguing that CFCs and cosmic rays are the most likely cause of global warming, not CO2. ( Hans van Storch, one of the men maligned in the leaked emails has had an article published in the WSJ this week arguing that the affair “reveals a concerted effort to emphasize scientific results useful to a political agenda”. I think this has been one of the deplorable features of the whole global warming sage: the partisanship of scientists prepared to shade their scientific findings (think of the now discredited Michael Mann hockey stick which tried to eliminate the medieval warming period) to advance the cause of more CO2=more global warming. The link to van Storch’s op-ed is


David Palmer said...

Part 3!

So, yes, I’m sceptical, but I’m willing to give the planet the benefit of doubt to the extent of recognising global warming as an issue that needs addressing . I’m grateful for the failure of Copenhagen because I think greater attention will swing back to the science and the practicality, cost and benefit of proposed measures to address the issue. I thank God Rudd didn’t get his CPRS through Parliament (fancy calling carbon, a vital ingredient of life a pollutant!). I think on this issue Byron we might be in agreement, a good note to finish on: cap and trade schemes are bad, bad because no one understands them, bad because they are open to manipulation and corruption, witness the EU scheme. They are a kind of wash tub in perpetual motion: things piling in and out who knows where and why. If new money is required to fund the Mildura solar farm and other new technologies, then let Governments propose an up front, clearly defined new tax.

Anyway, I look forward to engaging further with you, if you would like to sharpen axes together!

May God bless you Byron, you and your family. We lived in the UK through 4 winters and they were never easy, but an English Christmas was always very special, and perhaps snow this year! My wife and I will listen to carols tonight, read the Christmas story and join the folk at South Yarra PC in worship of the new born King, Saviour of the world and coming King.

jessica smith said...

David, thanks for your thoughtful response. I am keen to reply in full, but given my new situation, it may be a little while before I get a chance to do your comments justice. Grace & peace, Byron.

David Palmer said...



I've just posted a brief response on Mark's blog - he emailed me his paper.

I'm not back on deck much before mid Feb, so no hurry but I look forward to engaging with you in due course.

byron smith said...

This is undoubtedly the best comment on Copenhagen I've seen.