William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Give Up Carbon For Lent?

You don’t really need this, do you?

Ought to be easy to give up carbon for Lent, as the Global Catholic Climate Movement suggests1. Step one: don’t exhale and don’t eat—your breath and food are chock full of carbon. Step two: die.

Think how much smaller your carbon “footprint” would be!

But enough hilarity. It’s important to understand groups like the Global Catholic Climate Movement because we’re going to be hearing a lot more from them after Pope Francis releases his promised ecological encyclical.

Encyclical? A device used by popes to offer advice that need be contemplated most seriously but which do not establish dogma. Catholics must be extremely careful when disagreeing with an encyclical, giving these documents the benefit of most doubt. The rare exceptions are when encyclical content wanders into subjects which are not areas of Church expertise. Like whether climate model forecasts are any good and, if not, should their predictions be heeded. Nobody knows whether Pope Francis will head that direction, but it is doubtful.

Anyway, what gets me is how some Catholic groups award themselves authority they do not possess, and write on such things as “Catholic Teachings and Statements on Climate Change and Creation Stewardship“. There are no Catholic teachings, in the sense of dogma or required beliefs, on global warming, though plenty of Catholics, including popes, have made remarks on these subjects.

For instance, the GCCM quotes from Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical Caritas in Veritate, but it puts ellipses into some strange places. The GCCM starts “The environment is God’s gift to everyone, and in our use of it we have a responsibility towards the poor, towards future generations and towards humanity as a whole…” with the ellipsis theirs. Here is the remainder of the original paragraph which the GCCM skipped:

When nature, including the human being, is viewed as the result of mere chance or evolutionary determinism, our sense of responsibility wanes. In nature, the believer recognizes the wonderful result of God’s creative activity, which we may use responsibly to satisfy our legitimate needs, material or otherwise, while respecting the intrinsic balance of creation. If this vision is lost, we end up either considering nature an untouchable taboo or, on the contrary, abusing it. Neither attitude is consonant with the Christian vision of nature as the fruit of God’s creation.

This strikes an agreeable balance: and the rest of the encyclical is as subtle an analysis, which in no way can used to justify a monolithic, powerful world government regulating every possible aspect of human life. Yet some folks anxious for more governmental control are hungry for any kind of support they can glean.

For instance, the GCCM blames, as many ignorant of how the climate works, typhoon Haiyan (which struck the PI) on global warming. They say, the “impacts of extreme weather on the vulnerable and marginalized become clear”. Clear? How? Only the press and activists say things like this. You don’t get it from models, which in any case are busted, nor from observations. False information mistakenly called “science” is passed around and believed implicitly because the false information is consonant with the desires of many. Is that how science is supposed to work?

The GCCM says “we recognize that conversations about the climate crisis have historically been more about intellectual arguments than about the profound spiritual and moral implications of our failure to care for God’s creation.” They are about intellectual arguments because that is how we decide whether we even need to worry about the moral implications of global warming. If the level of global warming is intellectually determined to be trivial, or the positive benefits of an atmosphere richer in carbon dioxide outweigh the negatives of slightly northern hemisphere warmer winter nights, then we need do nothing.

Strike that. One thing we can do is to stop turning our food into fuel for guilt-ridden spoiled Westerners. It’s because corn is turned into fashionable “lifestyle” go-juice that food prices increase. We in the States can mostly afford it—except the price increases swell the ever-growing food stamp roles, which, in turn because somebody has to pay for this largess, increases the number of the less well off. Food-as-fuel makes it economically tempting for the poor in other countries to carve out more jungle to grow crops with which to feed their families.

On these subjects, false dichotomies premised on falsities abound. Example? “Global warming is a crisis, therefore the only solution is larger government.” That’s bad enough, but to pretend a saying like that is a “Catholic teaching” and must therefore not be doubted is disturbing.

We didn’t do much today, but over the next couple of months, we’ll have to look at these groups more closely.

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1Incidentally, what a nice blog theme they have. And thanks to Pewsitter where I learned about this group.

22 Comments

  1. Seriously, these are the people who claim to know science? I am truly horrified. A bit horrified at the politics in religion, but that’s always been. After all, the power is in the politics, not the churches. No church grows huge without politics. Rather unflattering behaviour, but since churches are businesses, it’s not unexpected. (One’s local church may not seem to be a business, but short of Jehovah Witnesses, all churches have buildings, paid ministers, etc. They are businesses.)

    How sad for religion that they so easily sell out to the profiteers and greed of groups that clearly do not like humanity. Backing human-haters is a very bad strategy for a group professing God made and loves us. It will, in the end, do immeasurable damage to the message. Only the people at the top will benefit and that will be all in ill-gottn money, certainly not in serving God.

  2. Then there are outfits like this

    First there was Social Justice, now there is Eco-Justice:

    http://www.racinedominicans.org/

    They have Solar Electrical / Solar water heating and a small wind turbine.
    They go on and on about Climate Change and how they expect to be 90% carbon free!

    Oh! And WE Energies of Wisconsin footed about 70% of the bill … but we could all none-the-less save the planet this way and by extension have Eco-Justice and Social Justice if only we’d understand easy it is to be fossil free (well 90% free)

  3. Really need to go to the Eco-Justice Ctr part of the above:

    http://www.racinedominicans.org/eco-jaboutus.cfm

    Oh and Step 3: Don’t decay (or be sure some one is left to sequester you)

  4. The important question about any organization claiming to use solar/wind is “Do you have a power line going into your building?” If they do, there claim is a complete and probably deliberate lie. Only buildings with no powerlines can make any claims about saving the planet. Everyone else uses exactly the same electricity. Sure, the turbine will generate energy when the wind blows, but it’s such a tiny amount as to be completely insignificant. Most such “greens” have no comprehension that the CO2 (NOT carbon) used to make the turbine cannot possibly be offset by the tiny amount of energy that turbine makes. I doubt they even care.

    This is an interesting take on using things like typhoons to drag people into fearing global warming:
    http://www.mrctv.org/blog/climate-skeptic-obamas-weather-witchestrying-legislate-what-pagans-do#UtZrjR:Mun

  5. Sheri,

    My local power company has offered to power my house solely by Green Power. At nearly double the cost no less. I have no idea how they separate the Green power from the Black and Radioactive powers but they claim it can be done. Of course, they wouldn’t lie about it. 🙂

  6. DAV

    It’s simple and obvious

    They use a SMART GRID

  7. John: I was not aware that a smart grid could somehow compensate for the 95% of the time “green energy” is not available. I thought it just knew when you weren’t washing clothes at 2 am to conserve power during peak hours. 🙂

    DAV: Your power company hopes you are not so curious and skeptical that you would dare ask about this!

  8. John B(),

    Using electrons with different colors probably also helps.

  9. Sheri,

    I sincerely doubt the power company really cares how much power you use as long as you pay for it. The real impetus behind the Smart Grid was to cut the cost of reading the meters. I did get them to admit they can cut off electricity remotely so it’s conceivable they could implement rationing.

    The same company provides natural gas (here anyway) and I watched the installation of the “smart” part of meter. It is only connected to the readout dials and contains no valve. So, at least for gas, it’s not for rationing. Incidentally, a the upgrade was a second upgrade to the meter from a previous one also called “smart” — I guess that means the meter is twice as smart as it was originally.

  10. RE: “There are no Catholic teachings, in the sense of dogma or required beliefs, on global warming, …”

    DON’T YOU [yet] RECOGNIZE that “Global Warming”/”Climate Change” alarmism IS-A-RELIGION!?!!?!

    Continuing with the quote: “…though plenty of Catholics, including popes, have made remarks on these subjects.”

    Told ya so.

    Going on: [“… false dichotomies…”] …”“Global warming is a crisis, therefore the only solution is larger government.””

    Larger [meaning more intrusive & controlling] Government is always the solution with religions — for centuries the Catholic Church weilded considerable influence alongside monarchs…a power that has waned… Islam incorporates both religion and governance.

    And, now, we see Christianity via the Pope, incrementally latching onto & incorporating the religion of Climate Change with a brand of Christianity. This is consistent with religion [more precisely religious institutions as opposed to faith/doctrine] & political power throughout recorded history–the two have, with recent history being the rare exception, ALWAYS gone hand-in-hand.

    This should come as no surprise at all. If anything, the rapidity with which this latest Pope is doing this (directly & by “delegating” fiat [“silence is consent”] to those who claim to be speaking for or consistent with the Church) — relative to the historically glacial pace of such innovations.

  11. They say, the “impacts of extreme weather on the vulnerable and marginalized become clear”.

    A wise English teacher told me long ago never to trust writers who said something was “clear.” They were trying to get you to agree with them just before they made an unwarranted leap in argument. Ever since, the alarms have gone off whenever I saw the word.

  12. DAV, where I live the electricity supplier has tried to encourage households to sign up for something they call peaksaver plus. It’s a smart thermostat that the utility can remotely adjust. Part of the program involves the utility adjusting your air conditioning at times of peak power usage which happen to coincide with when you need your air conditioning the most.

  13. There’s an important question here that goes beyond a Papal endorsement of the AGW thesis (or not), and that is “When should the Church meddle in science?”
    Are the mistakes with Galileo to be repeated? And I’m not talking about bioethics. In those cases, the science isn’t judged, but rather whether the bio-engineering resulting from the science should be applied to humans, to be specific whether such bio-engineering applications violate the Church’s teaching on the sanctity of life and the human person. For example, as I understand it, the Church ok’s gene therapy for healing, but not for enhancement.

  14. I should Cardinal Schonbrun got into some difficulties awhile ago by apparently, in a NY Times article, endorsing Intelligent Design. After criticism from the Vatican astronomer and other Catholic scientists, he backed off that stand. The point is the Church should not take a position on interpretations of science (if they do not challenge Church dogma) nor on the truth or falsity of scientific hypotheses that are not settled. St. John Paul II agreed that evolution (the descent of species) is a scientific fact, but that there are various theories for the mechanism of evolution.. And any theory that said the human spirit was due to material factors or “an epiphenomenom (sp?) of matter” would not be in keeping with Catholic teaching.

  15. I can think of at least three Catholic teachings that fit here, but you guys really wouldn’t like two of them. Suffice to say, stewardship of the earth is the third.

    JMJ

  16. Sander van der Wal

    February 18, 2015 at 5:00 pm

    A bit of tanget, but why do people only care about Earth as Gods Creation? There’s an entiere Universe out there, which is as much Gods Creation as Earth is supposed to be.

  17. Sheri,

    In California, they care.

    That’s not surprising. California buys most of its electricity and pays a hefty price for it. They made the decision years ago to stop increasing in-state capacity. So now they have the cloud of rolling blackouts hovering over their heads. I don’t feel any sympathy towards idiots but do admit there are likely people in the state who would have done otherwise but couldn’t.

  18. Steve E,

    Yes. Some places are beginning to experience usage nearing (and sometimes exceeding) capacity — like California does. We have something similar to peak usage control here but it’s not aggressively marketed. It’s just available. I don’t know anyone who has it. From what I understand though, the Smart Meter’s capabilities do not include regulation by limiting. It seems to be an on/off capability.

    Frankly, for the difference in cost, it doesn’t seem worth surrendering my control to some outside party.

  19. Endorsing “stewardship of the earth” doesn’t necessarily mean that one is onboard with the agenda of “let’s raise everyone’s taxes to create yet another federal bureaucracy to prod in the corners of human existence that hitherto, had been untouched.” I am pretty sure that Genesis was mute on the need for taxes to battle “climate change”.

    It is possible to be politically conservative and at the same time be cautious about one’s purchases (fewer consumer goods; less plastic; less packaging), make do with what one has (mending clothes; darning socks; and reusing items), and be smart about energy use (walking instead of driving; shutting off the lights when not in use; turning off the tap while toothbrushing). It just might be possible that conservatives care about “conservation.”

    (Evil-capitalist) timber companies plant trees, and manufacturing firms are constantly on the lookout for ways to reduce waste (i.e., cut costs). I find the whole “since-you’re-conservative-then-you-must-not-care-about-the-environment” slander to be tiresome. It is possible to be both, and still have reservations about the wisdom of new taxation schemes.

  20. DAV,
    I agree, unfortunately where I live we had no choice on smart meters, but we do have a choice on the peaksaver program. Energy policy here in Ontario, Canada has been a disaster, so much so that the cost of electricity is often the cheapest part of my bill. Global adjustment charges wipe out any benefit that may be realized from time of use price differentials of off peak power.

    As for carbon footprint, we closed our last major coal plant last year. 75% of our power comes from hydro and nuclear and the remaining 25% comes from gas, oil and wind. We probably wouldn’t have as high a use for gas and oil if we didn’t have to support the wind capacity.

  21. We should lobby all true believers become “carbon free”. So all true believers should go on a carbon free diet. Then, they should buy cheap little mouth respirators that absorb all there emitted carbon dioxide.
    The “carbon” issue would be fixed in a week.

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