Lack of Environment

A blog on the politics and psychology underlying the denial of all our environmental problems

Fostering denial in the C of E (Part 2)

with 7 comments

This is the second half of my rebuttal of the ideologically and theologically prejudiced denial of climate science by the Rt. Rev. Peter Foster, Bishop of Chester.  The first half was published yesterday (and should be read first in order to understand the context and what it is that I am reviewing).


Having reduced the evidence for ACD to something that is contingent and uncertain, Bishop Peter describes concern over ACD as “climate alarmism”.  However, use of such a pejorative term (implying that there is no cause for alarm) can only be justified by belief that the modern consensus regarding climate science is unreliable, unreasonable, or unreal.  This in turn requires that the majority of climate scientists must be either stupid, wrong, or deceitful.

Bishop Peter’s next target is computer models, which he describes as expensive and complex; and cites the data-mined, de-contextualised, emails illegally obtained from the CRU/UEA (a.k.a. ‘Climategate’) as evidence of scientific malpractice and/or dishonesty. He then takes a swipe at all the vested interests “springing up” who have a reason to engineer “alarm”.  Unfortunately, the reality is that the fossil fuel industry is by far the largest vested interest – receiving tax credits and subsidies many times greater than either academia or the green economy.

Next, Bishop Peter attempts to minimise the significance of a 0.8 Celsius rise in temperatures over the last 100 years by reference to the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) and Little Ice Age (LIA); and attacks the validity of the famous Hockey Stick graph (i.e. in the IPCC’s 2003 reports).    However, these concerns (that current warming is not unprecedented) have been widely debunked; so I will not attempt to do so again here.

Next on Bishop Peter’s list of ‘expert’ witnesses is the Professor of Earth Sciences, Ian Plimer; and his book Heaven and Earth, which is a lengthy re-statement of a variety of contrarian ideas and second-hand opinions including the “volcanoes are causing the warming” and  “CO2 is plant food” memes).  Unfortunately (for Plimer and Co.) this has also been widely discredited (e.g. here by Michael Ashley in The Australian newspaper).   With regard to the latter meme, recent research has repeatedly found that any positive effects of CO2 increase are irrelevant when account is taken of negative impacts of increased temperature and shortage of water – as experienced in the USA this year.

Once again, Bishop Peter equates concern over ACD with religious belief – something that, in doing my MA research, I found to be most common amongst economists.  This suggests to me that Bishop Peter is merely repeating arguments fed to him by his friends at the GWPF.  Whatever the case may be, equating concern over climate change with religious belief is yet another fallacious argument; as it requires great faith to dismiss all the evidence for the reality of the problem.

Next, Bishop Peter completely mangles the truth that secular humanists fool themselves that we can control Nature, in order to bolster a fallacious argument that it is foolish to think we can have any impact on our climate.  This is swiftly followed by the argument that the ACD problem, even if it were proved to exist, is probably too costly to fix:  Yet more economic rationalism from the GWPF me thinks; and completely at odds with the view of most commentators today –  that ACD is a problem we can no longer afford to ignore.  Sadly, economic arguments will always be the last bastion of denial of science – especially if doing something to stop things getting worse will impact negatively on massive vested interests in the maintenance of “business as usual”.

Next, Bishop Peter turns his attention to carbon capture and storage (CCS), correctly observing that, despite much talk, it is still little more than a concept. However, if CO2 is not the cause of the problem – who cares?  Surely, then, CCS is an irrelevance; a complete waste of time and money?  I am afraid I am at a loss to understand the point being made.  What is clear, however, is that Bishop Peter believes that we should burn fossil fuels simply because they are there (because God has provided them for us to do just that).

Nearing the end of his walk-through of debunked contrarian ideas, Bishop Peter laments the fact that UK government policy “is in a mess” and admits that the use of hydrocarbons is unavoidable for some purposes.  I agree – aviation is an obvious example.  However, that leaves huge scope for substitution in other processes; what we lack is the political will to take action.  However, what Bishop Peter completely fails to do is to acknowledge that policy is a mess because policy inaction is the goal of those that deny that burning fossil fuels is damaging our environment– and always has been.  Denial of responsibility is a tried and tested business strategy, pioneered by the manufacturers of organic pesticides and the tobacco industry.

In his final paragraph, Bishop Peter calls for “a non-political debate” about policy.   However, this is a tacit admission that he thinks climate change is a hoax and a politically-motivated conspiracy designed solely as an excuse to tax people more heavily.  In his final sentence he even claims that expenditure on the “unproven” science is hurting the poorest in society.  Sadly, this is yet more reality inversion – what is now hurting the poor the most is the consequence of decades of denial orchestrated by the fossil fuel lobby.

And so it can be seen that, in the course of less than 1000 words in the Church Times, Bishop Peter neatly affirmed his support for all six pillars of climate change denial, namely that:
1. Global warming is not happening.
2. Global warming is not man-made.
3. Global warming is not significant.
4. Global warming is not necessarily bad.
5. Global warming is not a problem.
6. Global warming is not worth fixing.

Just one problem with that hypothesis; most scientists, economists and environmentalists have long since concluded that it is.  Therefore, for his part in peddling such scurrilous misinformation, I believe Bishop Peter should be truly ashamed of himself.


In light of the comment made on yesterday’s post by thefordprefect (referring to the irrationality of a certain Evangelical Declaration on Global Warming), it seems appropriate for me to repeat part of my response here:

Not all Christians are fully signed-up members of The New Flat Earth Society…  The Evangelical Climate Initiative (2006) is (or was?) an alternative viewpoint: One endorsed by many Christian charities; including the UK’s Tearfund (i.e. The Evangelical Alliance Relief Fund).

7 Responses

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  1. Really good analysis, very well written. Despite the best efforts of people like the Bishop, I think the tide is turning back towards a belief in climate change within public opinion, albeit too slowly. I really don’t know how people like the Bishop can be so obtuse; and with such certitude.


    19 October 2012 at 11:14

  2. Regarding religious belief and climate change, I’ve come across a video you might like (if you haven’t seen it already):


    20 October 2012 at 09:40

    • Thanks JP. I have not seen this before but, this is a very clear evocation of the position of both Rev Foster and Bishop Foster. I would like to think that, outside of the USA at least (where 50% of the population are still Young Earth Creationists [YECs]), the majority of Christians do not think like this. I can, however, only repeat something else I said to theforedprefect… Sadly, this is what happens when ideology gets in the way of science; and when prejudice robs intelligent people of their ability to perceive the nature of reality.

      However, despite such intransigent obscurantism, I believe there is reason to be hopeful. This is because, even among YECs, there is a growing realisation that Christians are called upon to be good stewards of the environment: The leader of a Church I used to attend many years ago campaigns tirelessly to promote this view (1); and has even written an excellent thesis on the subject (2):
      1. My Journey Towards Environmentalism (22 May 2012)
      2. Towards a Christian Approach to the Environment (2 July 2010).

      Personally speaking, I believe that James Hutton carried out a mercy killing on YEC thinking in the 1790s (i.e. over 200 years ago); and I am horrified by the fact that, having been stitched back together in the 1920s and brought back to life in the 1960s, this Frankenstein monster is still with us. However, even so, if we can wrestle from its grasp a utilitarian and fatalistic attitude to the environment – that will be a major step forward.

      Martin Lack

      20 October 2012 at 11:11

      • I would think that religious groups (without any kind of political leaning) would be supportive of climate action. Like you said, being good stewards of the planet, but also looking out for your fellow human.


        21 October 2012 at 10:15

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