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Pell Mell

From Cardinal George Pell and Saint Augustine. Forced guest post.

From letter by Cardinal George Pell (Archbishop of Sydney) incorporated in Australian Senate Hansard:

I note however that the Bureau [of Meteorology] takes issue with my claims that temperatures were higher in Roman times and the Middle Ages; and that carbon dioxide levels were higher in most of history than they are today and follow temperature rises rather than cause them. I appreciate your offer to incorporate my response to the Bureau’s comments into Hansard and offer these few lines for that purpose.

1. Temperatures (cf. Answer 7): Professor Ian Plimer, in his book
Heaven and Earth: Global Warming the Missing Science (Connorcourt, 2009) summarises and cites the scientific evidence from pollen studies, drill cores and lake sediments to show that temperatures were 2 to 6 degrees C warmer around the world in the period from 250BC to 450AD (the Roman Warming). ......

The forests of Ontario are still not as diverse and productive today as they were during the Medieval Warming, because of the effects of the Little Ice Age (1280-1850). ......

2. Carbon dioxide (Cf. Answers 5, 6, 8, 9) In its answers on carbon dioxide, the Bureau claims that levels of CO2 are higher today than at any point in the last 800,000 years (although it concedes that levels were 10 to 20 times higher up to 350 millions years ago - Answer 8), that the increase in carbon dioxide has been caused by “the burning of fossil fuels and land use change”, and that the increase in CO2 levels “is responsible for most of the warming observed since the mid 20th century” (Answer 6). The Bureau refers to the data used by the IPPC, based on ice cores, which shows that carbon dioxide levels have risen by 38 per cent since 1750. But this ice core data reflects hardly any of the irregular variation of data on carbon dioxide in the air. Ernst-Georg Beck (In “180 Years of Atmospheric CO2 Gas Analysis by Chemical Methods”,
Energy and Environment 18:2 2007, pp. 259-82) has summarised “more than 90,000 accurate chemical analyses” of carbon dioxide in the air since 1812. He argues that the chemical data shows much greater fluctuations of CO2 levels, with high levels occurring in 1825, 1857 and 1942, when carbon dioxide levels were more than 400ppm (compared to 386ppm in 2009). The fluctuations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere demonstrated by chemical analyses cast strong doubt on the IPPC’s assumption that the level of CO2 in 1750 (less than 280ppm) represents a preindustrial equilibrium which modern society has destroyed. This is a questionable assumption. Nature is not static but dynamic, non-linear and chaotic (as Professor Plimer has observed). .......

...While there is a deal that remains unknown about the quantities of carbon dioxide which are released naturally from the earth (for example, from submarine volcanoes), CO2 from all sources, together with
nitrogen, methane and other gases contribute only 2 per cent of the greenhouse effect. ....

Finally, I am happy to stand by my claim that increases in carbon dioxide tend to follow rises in temperature, not cause them. Work on ice cores from Antarctica has shown that rises in CO2 levels follow rises in temperature, sometimes by as much as 200 to 800 years later. This makes sense, since warmer weather accelerates the release of carbon dioxide through increased weathering and the melting of ice (Plimer pp. 226-28, 424-25 & 448).


Thank you again for the opportunity to respond to the Bureau of Meteorology’s responses to your questions about my article. I would be happy to continue the discussion and to answer any further queries you might have.


With every good wish,

Yours sincerely,


From: St Augustine (Bishop of Hippo), as quoted by Martin Gardner in Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science:

It very often happens there is some question as to the earth and sky, or other elements of this world ... respecting which one who is not a Christian has knowledge .. and it is very disgraceful and mischievous and of all things to be carefully avoided, that a Christian speaking of such matters as being according to Christian scriptures, should be heard by an unbeliever talking such nonsence that the unbeliever perceiving him to be as wide of the mark as east from west, can hardly restrain himself from laughing.

and in the present

The reply to Cardinal Pell at the Senate committee by Dr Greg Ayers, head of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, was described by the chairman as the best twenty minutes of Senate estimates hearings in years. An account of Pell's response was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Communicated by Andrew Nut. Waikikamukau, NZ.