“The belief in man-made global warming”, observed the climate-change sceptic Christopher Booker recently “has become for many a new religion”. It is undoubtedly the case that those who believe in whatever analysis the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) comes up with tend to do so as though this body were infallible (despite the fact that some of its most confident pronouncements have been shown to be false, one or two ludicrously so). Mr Booker cites in support of his observation a lengthy document published by the Methodist Church, which it is proposing for discussion as official Methodist policy. They decide these things at a conference, it seems; thank the Lord (literally) that the Catholic Church has other means of deciding “official” Catholic belief.
The document is called Our Hope in God’s Future and it contains, among much else, the following: “The theological task is to reflect on modern scientific accounts of the threats presented by climate change in the context of affirming the triune God as creator and redeemer of the universe. The scientific analyses of climate change and the role of human carbon emissions are well-grounded. It is now intellectually and morally irresponsible to fail to acknowledge and address the urgent need for radical cuts in greenhouse gas …. ” “What is required of God’s people,” it says later, “is repentance.” The first step must be “confessing our complicity in the sinful structures which have caused the problem”.
Well, Cor. And excuse me, but what authority does the Methodist Conference have to pronounce that “The scientific analyses of climate change and the role of human carbon emissions are well-grounded” and that it is “irresponsible” to fail to acknowledge this? Maybe it’s true and maybe it isn’t (I’m saying nothing): but it is disputed by some that there is any consensus on the matter even among scientists; and even if there were, the history of science is the history of one collapsing consensus after another. 100 years ago, Eugenics was the great scientific “consensus” (Chesterton was the one major figure to stand against it). Following that consensus, in 1902 H G Wells wrote that the “swarms of black, and brown, and dirty-white, and yellow people, who do not come into the new needs of efficiency” would “have to go”.
So maybe the Methodists might care to reign in their self-righteous shafts against the “irresponsibility” of those who fail to acknowledge a clear link between the rise in greenhouse gases and an inevitable and dangerous rise in mean global temperatures. After all, there are not lacking those who blame global warming on a rise in population (which they sometimes amiably describe as “popullution”): maybe some of those “swarms of black, and brown, and dirty-white, and yellow people” will just “have to go” if the problem is to be solved.
Or maybe we might like to “reflect” theologically on why exactly there was no mean global warming between 1998 and 2010 at all, despite the continuing rise in man-made CO2? The difficulty in explaining this away was one of the embarrassing problems referred to in those very interesting leaked emails in East Anglia. Maybe the Methodist conference would like to make an infallible declaration about that?