GM-supporting cardinal encourages climate change scepticism (14/5/2007)

A couple of month's back, GM-supporting Cardinal Renato Martino, who heads the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace of the Roman Catholic Church, was interviewed - in a programme that went out on British TV - about the Church's attitude to environmental issues, particularly climate change.

Martino came across very badly, even arguing it didn't matter how many air miles he did because they weren't the Vatican's planes! The Radio Times in a review of the programme described Martino as "a senior cardinal who... comes across as shifty, complacent and faintly sinister. The man the Holy See puts forward as its top dog on climate change chuckles at the thought of how may air miles he must clock up every month. No, really."

Now Martino has organised a Vatican meeting very much in the style of his Vatican conferences on GM. The big difference, though, was that whereas critics of GM and the biotech industry found it hard to get their voices heard at the GM events Martino hosted, climate sceptics were out in force for his Vatican event. Indeed, Martino not only provided these invited panelists with a platform, he also gave the sceptics a disproportionate amount of speaking time.

He also used the concluding speech of the conference to launch an attack on "current forms of idolatry of nature", arguing that man's immortal soul meant he "cannot be equal to other living beings, nor considered a disturbing element to the naturalistic ecological balance."

"The Church", Martino concluded, "is confident in Man and in his ever new capacity of finding solutions to problems posed to him by history. Such capacities allow him to often reject the ever recurring, gloomy and unprobable catastrophic predictions".

Martino also tried to spin global warming as positive. "Not all the scientific world is crying disaster," Martino told Vatican Radio at the start of the two-day conference.

"There are a good number of scientists who consistently don't view these climatic changes in a negative light, and in fact say that these phenomena recur over the course of years and eras and sometimes they can have favorable results for agriculture and development."

By contrast, as the Associated Press reported, Pope Benedict XVI sent a message to the conference saying he hoped that the initiative would contribute to "encouraging research and the promotion of lifestyles and production and consumption models that respect creation and the real needs of sustainable progress for people."

Benedict also spoke out about the need to care for the environment on Sept. 1, when the Italian Catholic Church celebrated its first Earth Day. In that message, he lamented the deterioration of the planet that had made the lives of the poor "especially unbearable."

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