Bishop George Browning of Canberra and Goulburn is convenor of the worldwide Anglican Communion Environment Network. He told the General Synod that the theological response to global warming is settled. “It has been since the Bible was written.” “It is wrong for the Christian community to see our faith as just being about human beings, because the sinfulness of humanity affects the whole created order.”
Bishop Browning also insisted that the science on climate change was settled, with no serious science doubting the reality of global warming and the human contribution to it.
The morality was also settled, he said. Christians needed to ensure that those who were most vulnerable to the effects of global warming were protected, whether they be farmers in the Riverina or people in Ethiopia or the Pacific Islands. Climate change impacted more on the poor than on the prosperous who had more choices, he said.
“But it is not inevitable that we will face an apocalyptic world”, he said. “We can do something about it, but we do not have much time.
“This is our core business; it is not just for ‘greenie’ Christians, but is the business of all the disciples of Jesus.”
A member of the Australian Anglican Environment Network, Mrs Rosie Catt of Grafton, told Synod it was not all “doom and gloom”. Something could be done about it, and now most synods and dioceses were taking the issue seriously. She presented impressive and encouraging examples of climate and environmental action in a number of dioceses.
Work is also done by the Environment Working Group of the General Synod.
Among the related motions passed was one calling on the Federal Government to receive climate change refugees from the Pacific Islands, and others calling for theological and liturgical resources from the Doctrine and Liturgy Commissions. Amid all this, the press largely picked up on a sideshow to the main issue, but at least it did get noticed that the church is responding to climate change imperatives.
Anglican leader and Pell in bitter row over climate, by Barney Zwart, The Age (25 Oct 07)
A bitter rift over climate change has developed between a senior member of the Anglican Church and Sydney Catholic Archbishop George Pell.
Canberra Bishop George Browning, the Anglican Church’s global environmental chief said Cardinal Pell was out of step with his own church and made no sense on global warming. Bishop Browning also criticised the Federal Government for its “utter obsession” with growth and warned that climate change refugees would be a bigger problem than terrorists in a century of desperate struggle.
At the national Anglican synod in Canberra yesterday, Bishop Browning attacked the cardinal for saying Jesus said nothing about climate change. “It’s almost unbelievable,” said Bishop Browning, who is the chairman of the Anglican Communion Environmental Network. “I wrote him a letter saying Jesus had an awful lot to say about the rich taking what belonged to the poor and about the heritage of the children, and as he spoke about both of these things he spoke about climate change.”
Later, he told The Age that Cardinal Pell was an exception even in his own church. “I frankly don’t know where he’s coming from or why he says what he does. It doesn’t make any sense to me. The contribution he should make as leader of the Catholic Church is muted because of his stance.” Cardinal Pell replied scathingly that church leaders should be allergic to nonsense. “My task as a Christian leader is to engage with reality, to contribute to debate on important issues, to open people’s minds and to point out when the emperor is wearing few or no clothes,” he said. “Radical environmentalists are more than up to the task of moralising their own agenda and imposing it on people through fear. They don’t need church leaders to help them with this, although it is a very effective way of further muting Christian witness,” he said. Cardinal Pell said he was sceptical of extravagant claims of impending man-made catastrophes. However, the Vatican accepts that climate change is a serious threat to the world.
Bishop Browning said Australian politicians “were driven by their obsession with growth. The future is about sustainability, not prosperity on its own. Prosperity without sustainability is economic death.” On climate refugees, Bishop Browning said that over millenniums people moved when their environment changed. “The 21st century will be a desperate struggle, especially for water,” he said. He said the science of global warming was settled and accepted even by US President George Bush.
“It is also settled morally. Jesus made it absolutely clear that the poor are not here to pay the bills of the rich, but that’s exactly what’s happening.”
He told the synod: “It’s not inevitable that humanity will face an apocalyptic world. To do something about it will cost us, but we will still have three meals a day and live in a comfortable house. We need to do it today. I want all of you to leave the synod today believing this is our core business, it’s not (just) something greenie Christians do.”
Meanwhile, Rosie Catt, of the Australian Anglican Environmental Network, said inaction on climate change amounted to genocide according to the United Nations definition. “If we know climate change is having that effect on the most vulnerable people and we can do something about it, are we not guilty of the destruction of a way of life, in whole or part?” she said.
Pell out of touch on climate-bishop,
Linda Morris, SMH 25 Oct 07
Australia’s most prominent religious sceptic of climate change, the Catholic Archbishop George Pell, was out of step within his church and the global Christian community on global warming, a leading Anglican environmentalist says.
The head of the Anglican Church’s international body on the environment, George Browning, said Dr Pell’s position on global warming defied scientific consensus and theological imperatives to protect the Earth and its future generations. It also made no sense and would be proven a mistake. Bishop Browning’s stance came as the Australian Anglican church prepared to adopt its strongest position yet on climate change, committing 23 dioceses to initiatives reducing their carbon footprint.
But Dr Pell said last night he had every right to be sceptical about extravagant claims of impending man-made climatic catastrophes. “There are many measures which are good for the environment, which we should pursue,” he said. “We need to be able talk freely about this and about the uncertainties around climate change. Invoking the authority of some scientific experts to shut down debate is not good for science, the environment, for people here and in the developing world or for the people of tomorrow. My task as a Christian leader is to engage with reality, to contribute to debate on important issues, to open people’s minds, and to point out when the emperor is wearing few or no clothes. Radical environmentalists are more than up to the task of moralising their own agenda and imposing it on people through fear. They don’t need church leaders to help them with this, although it is a very effective way of further muting Christian witness. Church leaders in particular should be allergic to nonsense.”
Bishop Browning supported warnings that climate change refugees would, in the future, pose a bigger threat to world security than terrorism by triggering massive population shifts. He also warned Australia had to dump the “language of drought” because it offered false hope to farmers by implying that after drought would come flood and a return to normal farming life. The warming of the planet had triggered irreversible climate changes that warranted fundamental changes in farming and investment practices.
Bishop Browning took issue with Dr Pell’s Easter message this year at which the cardinal said Jesus had nothing to say on global warming. He told the Anglican synod meeting in Canberra yesterday he had written to Dr Pell after the Easter message because he found his statement “almost unbelievable”.
Heat on Pell for cool air on climate change by Jill Rowbotham, The Australian, (25 Oct 07)
Cardinal George Pell yesterday came under fire for his sceptical view of climate change and for being out of touch with his community. Responding to the criticism from Anglican Bishop George Browning, Cardinal Pell said that church leaders “should be allergic to nonsense” and that his role was to “engage with reality”.
Bishop Browning told the Australian Anglican Church’s general synod in Canberra yesterday that the cardinal was out of touch with the Catholic Church as well as with the general community. “He is an exception even within his own church,” Bishop Browning said. “I frankly do not understand where he is coming from. The contribution he should make as leader of the Catholic Church in Australia is muted by these statements.”
Cardinal Pell replied that “radical environmentalists” were “more than up to the task of moralising their own agenda and imposing it on people through fear. They don’t need church leaders to help them with this, although it is a very effective way of further muting Christian witness,” he said.
He added that “church leaders in particular should be allergic to nonsense. I am certainly sceptical about extravagant claims of impending man-made climatic catastrophes. Uncertainties on climate change abound . . . my task as a Christian leader is to engage with reality, to contribute to debate on important issues, to open people’s minds, and to point out when the emperor is wearing few or noclothes.”
Bishop Browning, the chair of the Anglican Communion Environmental Network, said he had written to the cardinal after his remark at Easter that “neither did Jesus say anything about global warming”. “I told him: ‘I can’t believe you said that,”‘ Bishop Browning said. He said he had received a “gracious” reply from the cardinal, “but he did not say he had made a mistake”.
Bishop Browning, whose Canberra-Goulburn diocese stretches from Batemans Bay on the NSW coast as far as Wagga Wagga and Young in the drought-declared inland and includes many areas where people are under financial stress, argued that there was an inextricable link between climate change and human activities. He said the church should be leading efforts to ameliorate the consequences.
“Jesus had an awful lot to say about the rich taking what belonged to the poor and the heritage of children, and as he spoke about both these things, he spoke about climate change,” the bishop said. “People of belief should be in the vanguard of this movement.”
Bishop Browning made his remarks after introducing legislation that commits the church to reducing its carbon footprint.
Editorial by Michael Mullins in Eureka Street, vol. 17, no. 21 (1 Nov 07)
Cardinal Pell’s views on climate change are his own
Cardinal George Pell has made a name for himself as a denier of radical climate change.
In replying to criticism from the Anglican Bishop of Canberra and Goulburn George Browning last week, he accused ‘radical environmentalists’ of ‘moralising their own agenda and imposing it on people through fear’.
Then at the weekend, he devoted his Sunday Telegraph column to the topic, reaffirming that he is ‘certainly sceptical about extravagant claims of impending man-made climatic catastrophes, because the evidence is insufficient’. He argues there is nothing extraordinary about present circumstances, as ‘climate change has always occurred’ and scientists’ predictions of an ‘apocalypse’ due to global warming should be taken ‘with a grain of salt’.
Given such strong statements from the most prominent leader in the Catholic Church in Australia, some might infer that the Church denies the reality of climate change. That would certainly conflict with the thrust of Church teaching that climate change is a reality that requires a change in our way of life:
• Pope John Paul II said in 1990 that ‘when man turns his back on the Creator’s plan, he provokes a disorder’.
• The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace say ‘The climate is a good that must be protected and reminds consumers and those engaged in industrial activity to develop a greater sense of responsibility for their behaviour.’
• One of the stronger local church statements comes from the 2005 position paper of the Australian Catholic Bishop Climate Change: Our Responsibility to Sustain God’s Earth. The focus is not on the existence of climate change, but what to do about it: ‘Given the gravity of the problem, detailed and resolute responses need to be both swift and radical.’
In his Sunday Telegraph column, Cardinal Pell does not underscore his argument with theological justification, as he does with his position on other issues such as human cloning. This is proper because his views are his own. So it would be unfortunate if casual readers attributed to them the authority of the Catholic Church. They have only the authority of his personal opinions.
The Columban Justice Peace and Integrity of Creation institute has released guidelines for the federal election, warning voters against intimidation by ‘those who play on religion and people’s good will in their denial of climate change’. It refers to those with a literalist reading of Scripture who pervert the religious word ‘stewardship’ to sanction economic exploitation.
Cardinal Pell has not so far incorporated such a theological dimension into his argument. It is only fair to him, and the Catholic Church, that members of the public and other commentators do not assume that he has.