His Eminence comes out fighting
CARDINAL GEORGE PELL has rebuffed the head of the Bureau of Meteorology, who had said Australia's highest-ranking Catholic was "misled" in his views on global warming.
Dr Greg Ayers told a Senate estimates hearing last month that the Archbishop of Sydney's argument against human-induced climate change was based heavily on a book by Ian Plimer, Heaven and Earth - Global Warming: The Missing Science, which had been discredited by scientists.
"The contents of the book are simply not scientific. I am concerned that the cardinal has been misled [by its contents]," the director of the bureau said.
But Cardinal Pell told the Herald the statements by Dr Ayers, an atmospheric scientist, were themselves unscientific. "Ayers, when he spoke to the House, was obviously a hot-air specialist. I've rarely heard such an unscientific contribution."
The cleric, who has questioned global warming in his Sunday newspaper column, even likened himself to the federal government's climate adviser Ross Garnaut when he expressed disappointment last week that the public debate on climate change was often divorced from scientific quality, rigour and authority.
"I regret when a discussion of these things is not based on scientific fact," Cardinal Pell said. "I spend a lot of time studying this stuff."
But Professor Garnaut had also said he was more certain the mainstream science supporting global warming was sound, and there was no "genuine" scientific dissent.
Cardinal Pell argued against human-induced global warming in a written submission to the hearing, claiming increases in carbon dioxide tended to follow rises in temperature, not cause them. He also stated, based on Professor Plimer's book, that temperatures were higher in Roman times and the Middle Ages.
Dr Ayers, a former CSIRO marine and atmospheric research chief who holds a doctorate in physical chemistry from Monash University, told the hearing Professor Plimer's book had not been peer reviewed and many of his assertions were not supported by scientific evidence.
He also cited one example in the cardinal's submission that referred to nitrogen in a list of greenhouse gases.
"That is not a greenhouse gas; it is 78 per cent of the atmosphere. You cannot have people out there telling the public that nitrogen is a greenhouse gas because it is not," he told the hearing.
Cardinal Pell told the Herald statements by Dr Ayers to the hearing were "all abuse and waffle about poor old Plimer", before defending the geologist as a man who "deals in many, many facts". But he was prepared to meet leading climate scientists to discuss the issue, he said.
Dr Ayers told the hearing the cardinal "may well become an ambassador for the quality of climate change science if he is exposed to the quality of the science that is done" in Australia.
Cardinal Pell made his comments to the Herald after a public lecture by the Vatican's highest judicial officer, Cardinal Raymond Burke, entitled "The Fall of the Christian West" in Sydney on Friday night.
Cardinal Pell had earlier told the 200-strong crowd about the value of the "years of study and professional devotion" undertaken by Sir Thomas More, who was executed for treason in 1535. "There's no substitute for knowing what you're talking about," he said.