VATICAN CITY, April 29
Michelangelo would not have made it in the fashion industry. In the pouring rain on an unseasonally cold day in Rome, the Gilbert-and-Sullivan gaiters and spats of the Swiss Guards, designed by Michelangelo in uncharacteristically garish taste, luridly striped in two-inch bars of blue and yellow, were liberally spattered with mud from the limousines of visiting dignitaries.
James Delingpole of Breitbart London, Marc Morano of Climate Depot and Monckton of Brenchley and Climate Change Weekly presented their credentials at the South Gate of the Vatican.
We had gotten ourselves accredited as journalists to cover the latest climate change conference jointly organized by the Pontifical Academies of Sciences and Social Sciences.
That had been a comic operetta in itself. I had submitted impeccable credentials some days previously but had had no reply. We visited the Press Office of the Holy See (open from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. sometimes) and asked why there had been no acknowledgement.
“Ah, well, we only answer applications that request a reply.”
“But we had requested a reply”.
“Um, sometimes we don’t send a reply even if it is requested.”
The Holy See governs a fifth of the world’s population on the budget of a parish council. It does its best, bless it.
Anyway, we had gotten our accreditation and there we were at the gate, surrounded by rococo Classical architecture on a monumental scale. The colonnades embracing St. Peter’s Square have been repaired and cleaned in recent years. They look as though they have just been built. Don’t miss them next time you’re in Rome.
The guard gestured to a convenient corner by the gate and said, “Wait over there with the others.” Half a dozen dripping scribblers were already waiting, stamping their feet to stave off the bitter global warming of that late-April day.
A gaggle of schoolchildren appeared, shepherded by a trio of flustered teachers, and formed a disorderly line at the Rome Police security checkpoint not far from the gate. A recent bomb threat had put everyone on high alert.
The Swiss guard waited till the children had completely clogged the security checkpoint, then singled out the three of us and ordered us to go to the back of the line behind the children.
If we could not get through the gate by 10 a.m., we knew we’d be excluded from the Press group escorted around the back of St. Peter’s and into the Casina Pio IV, the “Cottage of Pope Pius IV.” Think “Hamptons cottage.”
The immense and stately Neoclassical building floats amid the nail-clippered lawns of the Vatican Gardens. But at this rate we weren’t going to get to see it.
The line of squeaking bambini centimetered forward. I looked back at the Swiss Guards. They were staring at us. Why? I wondered. And why, in particular, had they not sent us straight to the security checkpoint before and not after the long line of schoolchildren had materialized?
I looked away from the guards for an instant, and in that instant the other journalists who had been waiting outside the gate were whisked inside to join those who had already passed through. None but us had been sent through the checkpoint first.
The ploy to keep us out — if that is what it was — was thwarted by Heaven. A dark raincloud passed over. The heavens opened. The police — not in on the plot — took pity on the children waiting in line and waved them all through, and us with them. We’d have been delayed a fatal ten minutes otherwise.
We dashed past the Swiss Guards and joined the group of journalists just as it was marched briskly off up the south flank of St. Peter’s and round the apse to the Vatican Gardens.
We entered the Cottage by the garden door and found ourselves in a tall room with a dazzling marble and stucco ceiling painted in restrained, elegant hues.
We waited for a few minutes there. Behind us, La Stampa was demanding to photograph Ban Ki-Moon, and the London Times was murmuring into its cellphone that skeptics had been allowed in. The Vatican press officer who had cleared our credentials jumped. He was visibly startled that we were there, and expressed astonishment that we had succeeded in getting in.
Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.
We were ushered up the dark, stone servants’ staircase to an anteroom. I knew my way around, for I had attended a scientific conference at the Pontifical Academy before. I went through to the main entrance hall and from there into the conference chamber.
Rows of cardinals, bishops, and activist scientists were already in place. So was the President of Italy. Ban Ki-Moon was delivering his opening platitudes about the need for “sustainable development.” Even he looked bored by what he was saying.
Yet the Sekjen also looked like the cat that had gotten the cream. For more than half a century, the Catholic Church had stood firm against the U.N.’s depopulation program (now called “sustainable development”) that promotes contraception and abortion, both of which Catholic teaching forbids.
Now, the ramparts had been stormed, the defenses had crumbled, and the Pontifical Academy of Sciences has given the Church over to the forces of darkness.
Under the new regime of Pope Francis, here was no less than the Secretary General of the U.N., promoting the dismal notion of “sustainable development,” preaching about the imagined dangers of climate change, talking of two, three, four or more degrees of global warming, and claiming — falsely — that the poor had more to lose by a warming planet than the rich.
At length Ban Ki-Moon concluded. Cardinal Turkson, who is said to have drafted the papal encyclical, then made a generally statesmanlike and sensible speech on the need for “stewardship and solidarity” to which few on either side of the debate could have taken much exception. If the encyclical takes the same measured tone, all may yet be well.
Ban Ki-Moon and his retinue rose and left. I followed them out and, in the corridor moments later, I found myself face to face with him.
I shook him by the hand and told him: “Secretary General, be careful of climate change. It may not be anything like as bad as you have been led to believe.”
The U.N. has long seen climate change as an opportunity to expand its power and wealth at the expense of the taxpayers of its member-states. From the outset, only one side of the argument has been permitted at U.N. HQ in New York: the extremist side.
Now, on a rainy morning in the neatly manicured Vatican Gardens, and perhaps for the first time, Ban Ki-Moon had met a climate skeptic.
He returned my handshake warmly, as every seasoned diplomatist must (he was Korea’s secretary of state before moving to the U.N.). He even managed an uncertain smile. But he looked startled, and not a little afraid.
His fear stemmed from the growing awareness among the world’s governing elite that it has gotten climate change plumb wrong and that the Heartland Institute is going to let the people know the truth.
No small part of his startlement arose from the most unfortunate aspect of the Vatican’s current climate summit. Monsignor Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, had invited more than 100 eminent scientists from all over the world to attend — but not one was a climate skeptic.
The deck was stacked from the start. These were the people who were going to advise the Pope on what his forthcoming encyclical letter on climate change should say. And Mgr. Sánchez Sorondo had made sure His Holiness would hear only one viewpoint — a viewpoint that events are already proving to be scientifically incorrect.
The contrast with the reign of the previous Pope could not have been starker. Pope Benedict had made it plain that it was not for the Church to take sides in the scientific debate on climate change and that, while it was the duty of the faithful to have respect for the natural environment and for their fellow-creatures, skeptics should not be excluded from the debate.
Cardinal Renato Martino of the Roman Curia had held a climate conference at the Vatican in 2007. Though the keynote speaker was the true-believing alarmist David Miliband, brother of Britain’s wannabe Prime Minister Ed Miliband, skeptics had also been invited.
Chief among these was Professor Antonino Zichichi, Italy’s most eminent scientist, who had succeeded in isolating a form of anti-matter using an apparatus resembling a giant biscuit-tin long before the Large Billion Collapser at CERN in Geneva had found it. Zichichi, founder and president of the World Federation of Scientists, is a natural philosopher and particle physicist in the classical tradition that insists on evidence and data rather than predictions and politics.
Skeptics at the 2007 conference included Dr. Cal Beisner, a leading Protestant theologian, who talked more sense than the Catholic theologians present; Professor Fred Singer, the rocket scientist and climatological physicist who had founded the U.S. satellite weather service; Sonja Boehmer-Christensen, the redoubtable editor of the learned journal Energy & Environment; and me.
None of the above were invited this time. Instead, a Who’s Who of the climate-extremist movement were there.
Martin Rees, the British Astronomer Royal, was sitting up front. During his term as President of the Royal Society, he had issued a fatuous statement on climate change that flew in the face not only of the scientific facts but also of the Society’s rules, which forbid it to take sides in any scientific controversy.
At the insistence of several Fellows, the statement had to be withdrawn and replaced with something less absurdly prejudiced.
Jeffrey Sachs, the economist who has said skeptics have blood on their hands because more and more people are dying from extreme weather events, gave a keynote speech predicting doom if even the smallest change in temperature occurred.
As speaker after speaker mouthed the frankly totalitarian climate-extremist platitudes that are now expected of all who aspire to the governing class, not a single murmur of dissent was heard.
The opening panel session was chaired by Peter Raven, a fanatical true believer and IPCC lead author. Instead of introducing the panelists and letting them talk, he announced that he was making an opening statement.
The Heartland Institute, he said, was in town attempting to oppose the conference and prevent it from influencing the Catholic Church.
Mr. Raven then gave a rather garbled history of climate change theory, beginning with Arrhenius, but carefully not mentioning his paper of 1906 in which he had cut by two-thirds his original 1896 estimate of the global warming to be expected from a doubling of atmospheric CO2 concentration.
He mentioned Bert Bolin and the foundation of the IPCC, but did not say its founding document requires it to assume that manmade climate change is potentially catastrophic.
He said no science was more scrutinized or more certain than that of the IPCC. Hundreds of authors wrote its reports, which were then thoroughly reviewed by experts. Yet he was careful not to explain that IPCC authors have the power to ignore and override the reviewers. He was meticulously silent about the failure, over and over again, of all of the IPCC’s principal predictions.
Then, he said, each government individually decides whether to approve each IPCC report. He somehow failed to mention that most of the government representatives who vote on IPCC reports have no scientific qualifications or knowledge.
He skated nowhere near the numerous errors and dishonesties in which the IPCC has been caught out. Nothing was farther from his lips than any mention of the IPCC’s reduction of its medium-term global warming predictions by almost half.
He said the most recent IPCC assessment report had found that climate change was occurring. He did not say it had been occurring for 4.5 billion years. He said the world had been warming and humans were the cause. He did not say it had not been warming for more than 18 years.
Nor did he say that only 0.3% of the abstracts of 11,944 papers published in the reviewed literature over the 21 years 1991-2011 had even gone so far as to say most of the 0.7 K global warming since 1950 was manmade.
He said, “I don’t know about you, but I can’t imagine a scientific finding better established than that warming is happening and humans are bringing that change about.” Not a single dissenting voice was heard among the carefully chosen delegates.
Having given this breathless, incomplete, and shamefully partisan account of the state of climate research, Peter Raven delivered his verdict on Heartland’s intervention in Rome in the following remarkable passage:
It is perhaps a measure of the venality of these people that they wish to attack the science… it is because of these groups that no meaningful action has yet been taken … In order to get these people to change their point of view, it isn’t enough to hold up pieces of paper: it is necessary to invoke morality, love, concern for the human race, leadership from religions, from each church, from Pope Francis. Nobody is going to change the minds of those who believe it to be economically costly for them. We must show them the consequences.
This ill-conceived outburst was a visible sign of the panic to which the followers of the New Religion have been reduced by the ever-widening gap between their lurid predictions and unexciting reality.
Mr. Raven having come to a stop, the panel maundered on with a succession of gaseous halations, issued in that earnest tone of synthetic concern that establishes one as a player on the international stage.
A Dr. Dasgupta, who described himself as an “economist,” said that “environmental resources are underpriced,” and that “one of the things we want to do is changing the moral climate” by treating the environment as a capital asset and accounting for its depreciation by setting a “carbon price.” He said $100 a ton was an underestimate. He did not say that, even in a market that the EU does its level best to rig, the average price of the right to emit a ton of carbon was just one-tenth of his “underestimate.”
The president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences said that even the tiniest increase in global temperature would do untold damage…
At that point my shorthand note was rudely interrupted. For Mgr. Sánchez Sorondo, with whom I had lunched at the Pontifical Academy a couple of years previously, recognized me in the body of the kirk and sent a flunky to find out what I was doing there.
He then sent another flunky for my credentials from the Vatican Press Office and, having read them, summoned a third flunky to ask me to leave the conference chamber and join the rest of the journalists watching on video screens outside. Journalists like me, said Flunky 3, were not supposed to be in the auditorium.
The carbon footprint of all those flunkies must be quite something.
As I left, I was accosted by one of the most prominent Catholic journalists in Rome. What, he asked, had I made of the conference?
I said I was disappointed that only those on one narrow side of the scientific debate had been invited. I mentioned Cardinal Martino’s even-handed approach in 2007, whereupon the Cardinal’s representative, who was standing nearby, introduced himself.
Later that day, I saw the journalist again. At lunchtime, he had asked Mgr. Sánchez Sorondo how he had selected the participants for the conference, saying they had all seemed to reflect only one side of the scientific debate. He pointed out that at the 2007 conference Cardinal Martino had heard both sides.
Mgr. Sánchez Sorondo looked at him searchingly and said, “I see that you have a sotto-agenda, a hidden agenda.”
The journalist replied: “You know me better than that. But it is my rule to hear and report both sides — not a bad rule for you too, Monsignor.”
Mgr. Sánchez Sorondo, by now furious, sniffed that the Pontifical Academy of Sciences did things differently from the curia, of which Cardinal Martino is a member.
Well, the Academy shouldn’t do things differently. It should hear both sides. The audiatur et altera pars principle is one of the two principles of natural justice that the Church, as well as the law, is bound to uphold. The Academy will not serve the Pope well if it is a mere yes-man. It ought at least to be able to find the courage to say, “Up to a point, Lord Copper” to the pontiff when necessary.
The Church has never really recovered from the reputational damage it did to itself by its foolish decision to demand that Galileo should not say the Earth goes around the Sun. Will it recover from the Pontifical Academy’s repudiation of the scientific method and its improperly one-sided approach to the climate question? On verra.
Half a mile from the conference, Cal Beisner’s Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation was launching its own initiative to bring the Catholic Church back within the realm of science. Cal released a letter to the Pope from some 200 signatories (and counting), inviting him to appreciate that the fastest way to lift people out of poverty and hence to stabilize the world’s population was to let them use cheap, abundant fossil fuels to generate electricity.
At the end of the day, it was evident that Heartland’s mission to Rome had made an impact on the increasingly fearful politico-scientific establishment. Peter Raven’s outburst revealed just how much pressure They are under as They see the ever-widening gulf between the predictions that started this profitable scare and the failure of global temperatures to respond as predicted.
As we left the Via della Conciliazione, the rain-clouds had gone with the Sekjen, and the sun shone full on the honeyed marble of St. Peter’s. The forces of darkness had left. Hope had returned.