Global Warming: Between calamity and hope

The 2012 Climate Action Summit held recently over three days at the University of Western Sydney presented a bold challenge to Catholics who are serious about applying their faith.

GET REAL about the inevitable consequences of global warming was the message of half the presenters.

GET ACTIVE to head off the worst case scenario was the message of the other half.

For people of faith: (1) seeking the truth and (2) commitment to conversion could be titles for the two sets of messages.

The voice of God the Creator is in messages like these for people with ears to hear. To read the Summit presenters please click here.

Resource and business manager, Ian Dunlop has been involved with getting nations to face the realities of super-development practices since the 1975 Club of Rome meetings on 'The Limits of Growth'. He calmly but strongly stated that both campaigners and politicians have failed to present to the public the realities of our Global Warming’s stark consequences. We are now in an emergency and Big Business has long had its plans for climate change adaption ready. But slack regulations and distorted public opinion have let them off the hook.

Dunlop holds that the most realistic planners have been the insurance industry and the military. Some Queensland towns expanded on flood-plains will no longer be given insurance and long term military planners see a massive social collapse, forcing the migration of millions of survivors as river deltas flood, particularly in Asia.

A collection of the most reliable scientific estimates say:

  • The 'official' international objective of limiting warming to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels is likely to produce 1-5m sea level rise this century, wiping out cities like London or Shanghai in their present form
  • The 'business as usual' policies will lead to temperature increases of over 4 degrees Celsius, and if all earth’s accumulated land ice melts, sea levels will rise by over 60m.

As readers we might object that this is calamity talk. We might say it breeds despair. But, as people dedicated to truth, it is the reality. Frantic shouts of ‘liar’ will not change the facts. However, the same Summit offered hope based on urgent action.

Phil O'Neill, a Professor specialising in communication and cooperation, reminded the Summit of success stories where the government passed regulations and the public accepted them for the common good. These stories break the myth, the lie, about the public not wanting any regulations to address global warming. The government regulated for anti-smoking measures that changed personal behaviour and public expectations. Intervention was understood and accepted. The same happened with the outlawing of lead in petrol, CFCs in refrigeration, organic-chemicals associated with birth defects. The idea of government regulation is not the problem but its purpose must be explained truthfully.

Richard Bawden, Professor of Sustainable Futures at the old Hawkesbury Agricultural College, explained that sustainable living does not just happen. The process of change must be understood at a personal level. Most people work from the experiential as their world view evolves. Change starts with an interest, then finding out more before taking action. It is a practical relationship embracing intellectual understanding and moral aims. People work from the ego, through technological understanding and ecological belonging to only then come to holistic living. It is a long road to get value changes in the individual and society.

Lesley Hughes, a Professor specialising in bio-diversity from Macquarie University, member of the Federal Climate Commission, mother and hopeful grandmother discusses the trusted and practical progress that is taking place, based on public consultations including hearings in key localities around Australia where climate change impacts are most obvious and jobs most threatened - giving a sign of hope.

Walter Jehne, lecturer at Australian National University is now committed to organising farmer groups. His stories of hope focus on new farming methods to sequester (bury) carbon in soils. Active carbon reduction goes beyond even the quest for alternative energy sources. Australia has 500 million hectares of land under management so the potential is enormous.

It might be a good time to remember Catholic Earthcare Australia (CEA). Early this May, Archbishop Adrian Doyle led a Mass at the Mary McKillop chapel in North Sydney to celebrate CEA’s 10th anniversary. The celebration had special significance for the Columbans. At the bishops’ instigation, in 2002 St Columbans Mission Society hosted several days of deliberations at our seminary in North Turramurra before CEA was established. Some thirty advisors from all States shared visions of God’s earth, offered their diverse expertise, and came up with practical ways forward for ecological conversion in Catholic communities. Earth matters for God and the followers of Jesus on mission.

For more information on the Climate Action Summit 2012 please visit:

Fr Charles Rue worked in Korea and Jamaica. He works in the areas of justice, peace and ecology.

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