Call of Conscience on Global Warming

The Catholic Committee of Appalachia (CCA) is distributing a DVD, “Climate Change: Our Faith Response,” to all 27 Catholic dioceses in the Appalachian region. The 10-minute DVD is intended for religious education classes and comes with a study guide to underscore the Church’s teaching about the care of creation and humanity’s responsibility for stewardship.

The message is clear — the time for debate is over. Prudent action for the sake of the common good will save millions, possibly billions, from disaster.

Funded in part by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the DVD was produced from video footage of a teleconference held in four locations around Appalachia in 2007 discussing the morality of global climate change. To model better stewardship, the conference rejected a central location in favor of a dispersed teleconference format to cut driving distances and lessen its carbon footprint. Speakers in Institute, W.Va., Richmond, Ky., Abingdon, Va., and Asheville, N.C., discussed the irrefutable science behind global warming, its effect on the poor and humanity’s moral responsibility to act.

The video clearly states that no credible scientist doubts the existence of global warming, unless that scientist works for an energy company. Corporations that forestalled action against global warming used a strategy developed by the tobacco industry during the early 1950s. That strategy demanded more evidence and greater scientific certitude, plus it ignored the big picture and questioned the details.

One graph in particular, dubbed the “hockey stick,” represents a Cartesian graph of temperature over time that appears nearly flat for a thousand years, then abruptly turns upward with the intense use of oil from the 1860s. The energy industry, by funding institutes and free-market think tanks, rallied scientists and statisticians to quibble over details to cast doubt on the ultimate findings. Yet, not one of the 900-plus papers published between 1993 and 2003 on global climate change disagreed with the big picture: The climate is changing and human activity is largely to blame.

Still, a 2006 ABC News poll showed that while 85 percent of those surveyed believe global warming is “probably” happening, 60 percent think scientists are still debating it. The “tobacco strategy” used by the energy industry succeeded in obfuscating the main outline of global warming and thus delayed the political will to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for nearly two decades.

The call of conscience comes from Appalachia because in the coalfields we see the direct effects of cheap energy on communities and people. Mountaintop removal (MTR), an aggressive mining practice that removes sometimes the top 500 feet of a mountain, is the cheapest way to mine coal, but the practice pollutes the water, buries the streams and destroys the ecosystem. Local folks, besides seeing the beauty of their beloved mountains destroyed, suffer cracked foundations from blasting and more frequent flooding from deforestation.

The sulfur dioxide coming from coal to generate electricity causes acid rain, smog, asthma, respiratory infections and lung disease. The Clean Air Task Force, commissioned by the EPA in 2000, found that coal-fired power plants account for 30,000 deaths per year in the U.S.

 “Live simply, so others can simply live” has direct application to the mountains. To waste electricity in Chicago (hence, to live extravagantly) produces more greenhouse gases for the atmosphere and pulls down a mountain in Appalachia.

The DVD (available from CCA) hopes to encourage a more intentional, creation-centered spirituality. John Paul II reminded us: “No peaceful society can afford to neglect either respect for life or the fact that there is an integrity to creation.”

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  • theshahids

    We are to be the stewards of the earth. But the statement, “The video clearly states that no credible scientist doubts the existence of global warming, unless that scientist works for an energy company.” is hogwash. The statement should read,”The majority of scientists who promote the existence of global warming get their funding from government entities and rely upon increased taxes for their livelihood.” Reputable scientists are leaving the global warming movement in huge numbers because the message has been usurped by reactionaries and doomsayers. The fact that all of the other planets in our solar system are also experiencing “Global Warming” should clue any logical thinker into realizing that 99.9% of this is a solar phenomena. The other .01% is us. Of course we should strive to make cleaner energy, but not because we are bullied into by a movement that VERY MUCH resembles Communism. By the way, if you think the US is the problem, you should research the environmental condition of our country since the 1950s to today. You should also watch the Olympics, and compare the US air quality with China. God help us all.

  • mkochan

    Your USCCB donations at work…

  • MyerhavenGM

    The comments above hits the nail on the head. There are many credible scientists who have concluded that global warming may be occuring, but rather from cyclical changes that occur on Earth. I agree that we need to continue our resolve to take care of the Earth, but to get swallowed into nothing more than a secular religion and furver is a waste of our energy and resources.

  • GabrielGale

    These misinformation campaigns need to stop. Here is the “one” scientist they were looking for (not employed by an oil company).

    http://www.dailytech.com/Myth+of+Consensus+Explodes+APS+Opens+Global+Warming+Debate/article12403.htm

    Let the stewardship continue, but let’s stop using reactionary language and start using real facts. Let’s support Cardinal Pell in his quest for truth on this issue:

    http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/new.php?n=12424

  • wgsullivan

    There is a great DVD put out by the Acton Institute promoting environmental stewardship contrasting ideas popular in the environmental movement. One particular fact stated is how the southern ice cap is growing at a rate not seen before contrasting the northern ice cap’s shrinking. Check out: http://www.acton.org

  • kippydee

    Did this committee get funding from Al Gore or something? They’re in the tank like the Old Stream Media is in the tank for Bam-Bam. What hubris to believe that “we” can stop a climate cycle caused primarily by the thermonuclear power of the closest star. Can “we” also stop the global warming occurring on the planet Mars? Sheesh.

  • terrygeorge

    Living in Appalachia, I can attest to the history of devastating effects of coal mining, lifeless streams, ruined water supplies and infertile soil, dangers of collapsing mines. Most of these are from historic practices or malpractices versus current practice. The CCA crying wolf about global warming is going to hurt this though, not help. Focus on global warming actually distracts people from the very real environmental issues of today. As for government action, 30,000 people killed a year by coal burning is still a lot less than 1,400,000 killed a year by abortion, so my vote, all true catholics, must remain pro-life! (we’re so close to a pro-life majority on the supreme court!).

  • MyerhavenGM

    I agree. Abortion should be number one on our agenda. Nothing else matters if we can’t stop the holocaust of our children.

    For an opposing web site on global warming:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_scientists_opposing_global_warming_consensus

    Apprently these scientists are not affraid of losing their govenmental funding by opposing the main stream.

    Bottom line is that is debatable at this point and our efforts should be focused on more important items.

  • Deelpe

    Please read Pope Benedict’s wise words:

    The Vatican has released the text of the pope’s annual world peace day message, to be delivered January 1, 2008.

    He writes: “Respecting the environment does not mean considering material or animal nature more important than man…. 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… it is essential to sense that the earth is our common home and… to choose the path of dialogue rather than the path of unilateral decisions.”

    Thank you Your Holiness! And shame on us for allowing the majority of at least two generations (so far) to be abysmally ignorant of good science. God created us to be critical thinkers. I choose to follow Him and not the likes of Michael Moore, Al Gore and Fr. Rausch.

  • Cyclist443

    It is one thing to mount an effort against pollution and misuse of the earth to protect our health and the health of God’s creation, but it is quite another to make alarmist claims that the earth is headed for destruction because of global warming and human causes are solely to blame.

    The article above states “One graph in particular, dubbed the “hockey stick,” represents a Cartesian graph of temperature over time that appears nearly flat for a thousand years, then abruptly turns upward with the intense use of oil from the 1860s.”

    That graph was based on flawed, manipulated, incomplete data, and in simple terms, is a fabrication and lie. It ignores data from the medieval warm period, a period that was almost if not as warm as the present day, relies on inferred temperatures from questionable tree ring sites for key time periods, and selectively edits other time series to make the graph come out with the shape they want. A complete treatment of the “hockey stick” graph is given in the book “Shattered Consensus: The True State of Global Warming” by Patrick J. Michaels, a noted author on this subject from the University of Virginia.

    I am ashamed that the US conference of Catholic Bishops, which should be promoting truth, has been hoodwinked by these fabricators of garbage science. Do not be fooled: just because the media reports that “all” scientists agree on something does not mean that it is “real” science. It is a little known fact that scientists often exaggerate or fabricate claims to gain attention, because in the academic world, grant money keeps you going and moves you up the academic ladder, and the best way to keep the grant money flowing in is to promote your research and make it seem like the most important thing to humanity at the moment.

  • terrygeorge

    Cyclist443, I strongly agree. Scientists promote themselves (ourselves, I counted myself as one) as purely driven by the factual truth. However, fallen human nature runs strong within the scientific community (perhaps because we cannot observe a conscience). It is common for scientists and scholars (and journalists, and politicians, and lobbyists) to ‘massage’ the data for their own selfish ends.

    Ever since the 2004 study showing Kerry to be the ‘most catholic’ politician in the senate, based on alignment with various USCCB position statements, I’ve distrusted the USCCB, or certain elements within it. It seemed as if someone had selected specific non-crucial issues to allow Kerry to get into that position. One in particular has stood out in my mind, something about banning the use of mercury. I’m curious to hear what their take on it is now… Is it still so important, especially since mercury is used in CFLs to reduce energy usage and CO2 emissions…

  • jrwessel

    I am somewhat surprised that most, if not all of the comments to this point have missed the second to last statement in Fr. Rausch’s article. “The DVD (available from CCA) hopes to encourage a more intentional, creation-centered spirituality”. I would like Fr. Rausch to clarify this sentence of his. Is he pushing a pagan spirituality himself, or just promoting it by pushing the DVD? It seems to me that a Christ-centered spirituality is what we’re after as Christians, is it not? Quite honestly, it seems to me like direct paganistic propaganda, on CE nonetheless! What is the world coming to !!!

  • terrygeorge

    Yes, jrwessel, that did escape our comments. thank you for putting it so succinctly. that is a problem that repeatedly keeps me at arms length from full environmentalism. may God help us to see rightly.

  • mkochan

    Jrwessel, would you rather not know?

  • jrwessel

    ’twas just a rhetorical comment (last sentence). Actually I was surprised to see this article, but just because of what I mentioned earlier. The rest of the globwarming jibberish is somewhat easily seen through. But, the exchange of a concept that is (apparently) not catholic (creation worship) made my eyes pop out. Since the column is under “The Edge”, maybe it is the appropriate place for it. Then again, do we need another section called “Over the Edge”? :-) I guess this article just hit me the wrong way. I have encountered enough “wackiness” in the Ohio,Indiana,Kentucky tri-state area and CE has always been my own little Catholic Escape and it really caught me off-guard. I sincerely hope Fr. Rausch can provide a clarification. In the meantime, I have already emailed Cardinal Rigali to see if we can keep the USCCB from supporting the jibberish.

  • Loretta

    MKochan,
    I like jrwessel’s idea.

    In the next version of CE, do you think there could be an “Over the Edge” section for articles that do keep us “in the know” about what is going on around us (the bad with the good) eventhough its overboard?

    I like the idea very much.

  • mkochan

    I think it makes a better “Catholic exchange” when we mix it up in this column sometimes. Besides our dear Appalachian priest hasn’t become a heretic by expressing himself on global warming (although there is that “creation-centered spirituality” stuff that I find suspicious), so regardless of all the nay-saying above, his remains an allowable Catholic opinion on the issue.

  • Joe DeVet

    When I hear Catholic voice nowadays (including Vatican officials) start lecturing on the moral imperative for taking action against global warming, I fear that we may have another Galileo incident. Seems that much of the problem was that the Church took sides prematurely in an open scientific debate, and suffered long-term embarrassment as a result. The same could be happening re the debate on “man-made global warming.”

    Another reason to be wary is that the “solutions” to the “problem” of warming are draconian measures which will surely have grave negative effects on economic development if implemented. For the rich, it will be inconvenient; for the poor, devastating. If we have a social principle of “preferential option for the poor,” then encouraging drastic action against “global warming” would make us a house divided against itself.

  • http://arkanabar.blogspot.com Arkanabar Ilarsadin

    What continues to amaze me about Christians who climb on the antrhogenic global warming bandwagon is how little their faith is, that God is good and continues to see to our needs. As many others have said, the bandwagon is calling for draconian government intervention, which is putting our faith in Caesar.

    I’m not one for spreading filth, pollution and poison. But I recognize that such environmentalism should come after society has sufficient resources to feed, house, clothe, bathe, and provide medical treatment to all (ours has far more resources than needed for this, but government often acts to inhibit effective distribution). But to indict combustion is to deny us the very tool which allows us to provide these things. It’s nearly impossible to make or move or power anything unless you’re burning something. CO2 is not a pollutant.

    I’ve posted about this on my blog a couple of times. Here are the URLs:

    http://arkanabar.blogspot.com/2007/11/global-warming.html

    http://arkanabar.blogspot.com/2007/10/truth-is-inconvenient-for-al.html

    The second one contains a link to a documentary on the global warming movement.

  • wgsullivan

    Just about every aspect of this discussion is covered and comes in a neat little book with an accompanying DVD for clergy at the Acton Institute. If you want to have something handy to pass on to those you feel need to see some real Christian teaching on true environmentalism check out the trailer at: http://www.acton.org/media/effective-stewardship-curriculum-trailer.php The trailer does not mention all the issues mentioned above but the DVD does. To order the book and DVD go to: http://www.acton.org/impact/clergy.php
    If you order you will receive a much more Christ centered view (to pass on) of environmental stewardship than the popular ideas the movement is known for today.
    This book and DVD are what the Bishops should be using instead of what was mentioned in the article.

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