Letter to the Editor

Re: Article: ‘Exposing the ‘modern green religion’
Catherine Sullivan

Note that all references and links in this article were viewed on 23rd May, 2022 or 18th June, 2022.

I am writing to express my shock and unease at an article published on the website of the Catholic Archdiocese of Tasmanian describing a presentation from Professor Ian Plimer to the Christopher Dawson Centre.  I did not attend the presentation but trust that the article was an accurate summary of the presentation.

My reasons for distress at the presentation (as summarised) include the following: 

  1. The article directly undermines the Papal Encyclical Laudato Si and His Holiness Pope Francis;
  2. The article quotes Professor Plimer insulting fellow scientists;
  3. The article presents disproved claims about climate science;
  4. The article quotes Professor Plimer’s inaccurate comment that ‘pretty well all of the world’s cobalt goes into e-vehicles’.  
  5. Professor Plimer was ‘found to have breached standards by the Australian Press Council’.
  6. The article indicates that Prof Plimer fails to show compassion for the many people who have already suffered from climate change and those who will suffer in the future;
  7. The article was published close to an election in which climate change was an issue, and the ideas presented as facts closely align with those of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation;
  8. The article demonstrates that Prof Plimer supports a dubious conspiracy theory,;
  9. Professor Plimer has been a director of a number of mining firms.  Did he acknowledge a possible conflict of interest in his presentation.

1. Criticism of Papal Encyclical. 

Laudato Si is a call to humanity to “promote the principles of integral ecology and to begin together the journey towards ecological conversion”. (Francis, 2016).  It contains poetry and science, compassionate acknowledgement of both the suffering planet and suffering humanity as well as practical ideas for the future of our earth.  I have no doubt that the Holy Spirit has inspired this beautiful and challenging document.  I am particularly distressed that the criticisms of a papal encyclical by an avowed atheist has appeared just before Laudato Si week in the ‘official website of the Archdiocese of the Catholic Church in Tasmania … under the authority of Archbishop Julian Porteous”.  Professor Plimer has published book disparaging His Holiness (Heaven and Hell: The Pope Condemns the Poor to Eternal Poverty).  The very fact of his publication of such an insulting book should surely have meant this speaker was unsuitable to be promoted by the Diocese and the CDC.  

2. Insult to Climate Scientists

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, rather than being a ‘modern green religion’, is a panel representing 195 countries.  The latest report from the IPCC was authored by 234 scientific leaders of national panels, who examined and reported on 14,000+ papers. Their responses are then peer reviewed (Conversation, 2021).  Rather than accept the research provided by the IPCC, Professor Plimer refers to the UK based Global Warming Policy Foundation.  The board of the foundation comprises a ‘who’s who’ of British aristocracy: ex-politicians, lawyers, economists, an accountant and an Anglican Bishop, but no scientists except for the chair, a social anthropologist with expertise in sport and exercise.  

3. Disproved Claims in Article

The article indicates that Plimer claimed: ‘Pretty well all of the world’s cobalt goes into electric vehicles’.  This is untrue.  Prior to 2021, the majority of mined cobalt was used for lap-tops and mobile phones.  Last year this was reversed, with e-vehicles using 34% of mined cobalt at 59,000 tonnes while 42,000 tonnes were used in lap-tops, tablets and mobile phones.  To the shame of all of us using such technology, cobalt is mined under terrible circumstances in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Approximately 40,000 of the 100,000 cobalt miners n the DRC are child slaves. (Hermes, 2017)  The situation regarding cobalt mining in DCR is truly terrible, but this must be remedied by the Singaporean, Swiss and Chinese mining companies whose greed and lack of ethics are responsible for the slavery of children.

Cobalt is also mined in Australia in a far more ethical but undoubtedly more expensive manner.  Surprisingly, Prof Plimer has failed to promote Australian cobalt mining in the article.

One child slave is one too many, yet the number of child slaves involved in cocoa harvesting in West Africa is approximately 2.1 million.  Our cheap chocolate is produced by the blood, sweat, tears and sometimes lives of child slaves.  Death by chocolate indeed! (Macquarie U., 2020)

Plimer’s dubious claims have received many rebuffs by climate scientists and meteorologists. including the 2012 Cook article Accurate Answers to Professor Plimer’s 101 Climate Change Science Questions. (Cook, 2012)

Plimer claims that: “In the last 38 years the temperature hasn’t changed‘. The graph below disproves this assertion.

Temperatures in the last 100 years:

Photo source: Change-in-the-global-temperature-of-the-Earth-according-to-NASA.png (872×679) (k100.space)

Plimer claims there is no evidence that human emissions have contributed to climate change

In its Fifth Assessment Report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of 1,300 independent scientific experts from countries all over the world under the auspices of the United Nations, concluded there’s a more than 95 percent probability that human activities over the past 50 years have warmed our planet.https://climate.nasa.gov/causes/

Photo Source: GHGConc2000-large.jpg (800×570) (epa.gov)

This  graph , based on the comparison of atmospheric samples contained in ancient ice cores and more recent direct measurements, provides evidence that atmospheric CO2 has increased dramatically since the Industrial Revolution compared to paleo-climatologic (past climate) measurements over the past 800,000 years. (Credit: Luthi, D., et al.. 2008; Etheridge, D.M., et al. 2010; Vostok ice core data/J.R. Petit et al.; NOAA Mauna Loa CO2 record.) 

5. In 2020 Professor Plimer was ‘found to have breached standards by the Australian Press Council’. The comments of the Press Council are measured, careful and worth reading. (Australian Press Council , 24 July 2020).

6. It appears that Professor Plimer fails to show compassion for the many people who have already suffered from climate change or those who will suffer in the future.

Here in Australia we have suffered increasingly ferocious wild fires and floods, with the resultant deaths, physical and psychological costs.  In addition, the devastation  to our biodiversity have been enormous. The WWF estimates the loss of about 3 billion animals lost in the 2019-2020 fires!

The effects on the developing world are also likely to be severe, as the below article indicates.

7. The article was published close to an election in which climate change was an issue, and the ideas presented as facts closely align with those of the Pauline Hanson’s One Nation.  

8. The article supports a dubious conspiracy theory

Professor Plimer claims that climate scientists (and activists) are part of a wider socialist agenda to ‘attack everything that is precious’.  Is coal-fired pollution something precious??? No evidence was provided for Plimer’s opinion of a green conspiracy.
Green Is the New Red: The Metamorphosis of Communism – TFP.org

9. The article does not refer to Prof Plimer’s background as a director of a number of mining companies and consequent possible conflict of interest.

Journalistic ethics suggest providing information concerning Professor Plimer’s links with mining companies: Plimer is a director of seven mining companies.  He is also a director of Rinehart’s Roy Hill Holdings and Queensland Coal Investments  https://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Ian_Plimer 

10. The article does not provide the usual disclaimer for such controversial ideas, thus inferring that the Diocese endorses the criticism of a Papal Encylical and  the supports Plimer’s  disproven suggestions. As an active and involved Catholic, I do not appreciate the dubious and inaccurate ideas of an atheist climate change denier being promoted just before the entire Catholic Church celebrates the anniversary of Laudato Si

In order to provide balance to the views of Professor Plimer that actively disparage Pope Francis and his encyclical, I challenge the CDC to invite one of the following: 

a climate scientist who is engaged in the replacement of fossil fuels in the developing world (e.g. Prof Jamie Pittock), or the current Caritas Australia Pacific Program Director (currently Connor McBride I believe).  Prof Jamie Pittock is the son of Dr Barrie Pittock, a Quaker and a Nobel Prize winner for his contribution to climate research.  Prof Pittock has researched and managed irrigation projects in the Mekong delta and in several African nations. Caritas Australia produces an annual report detailing ‘the impacts of a changing climate on millions of people across the Pacific, including rising sea levels, erosion and disasters’ (Caritas, 2022).  

Yours in Christ

Catherine Sullivan

References, all viewed on 23rd May, 2022 or 18th June, 2022