Papal persuasion and some unlikely plaudits

The blog’s not in the habit of making nice comments about Popes partly, of course, because there have been so few of them that would warrant it. But Pope Francis deserves much credit for achieving a significant shift in US opinion on climate change.

The George Mason University Centre for Climate Change Communication undertakes a number of longitudinal attitudinal studies on the subject and their latest, The Francis Effect: How Pope Francis changed the conversation about global warming, shows that more Americans, and more American Catholics, are worried about global warming than six months ago; and more believe it will have significant impacts on human beings. See

It appears some of the change can be attributed to the Pope’s teachings as “17% of Americans and 35% of Catholics say his position on global warming influenced their own views of the issue.” The study was designed to allow a “within-subject” look at a nationally representative sample of American adults’ attitudes before the release of the Pope’s climate change encyclical and after the Pope’s recent visit to the US. Among the key findings were:

“More Americans say that the issue of global warming has become very or extremely important to them personally (Americans: from 19% to 26%, +7 points; American Catholics: from 15% to 23%, +8 points).

“More Americans think global warming will harm people here and abroad. More think global warming will cause a great deal or moderate harm to people in developing countries (Americans: from 48% to 63%, +15 points; American Catholics: from 45% to 62%, +17 points). More think global warming will harm the world’s poor (Americans: from 49% to 61%, +12 points; American Catholics: from 42% to 62%, +20 points). More think global warming will harm future generations of people (Americans: from 60% to 70%, +10 points; American Catholics: from 63% to 74%, +11 points).

“More Americans (from 48% to 57%, +9 points), and more American Catholics (from 45% to 58%, +13 points), think global warming will harm people in the United States a great deal or a moderate amount.”

Significantly Americans are now more likely to see global warming as a moral, social fairness and religious issue with 42% of US Catholics seeing it as a moral issue although for the social fairness and religious measures the total proportion holding the views  is only less than a third and a bit more than a tenth respectively.

Of course one shouldn’t get carried away because there are still an awful lot of Americans, particularly powerful ones, who are climate change denialists and very, very nasty with it. The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) published a paper in June this year which was an “updated global surface temperature analysis.” It concluded that the suggestion of smaller trend increases over the past 15 years when compared with the past 30 to 60 years was “no longer valid.” The view that the globe was actually cooling was a key argument by leading Australian scientific thinkers such as Maurice Newman and Andrew Bolt.

The NOAA findings riled Representative Lamar Smith, the Texas Republican who heads the House of Reps Committee on Science, Space and Technology and who is a fervent climate change denialist in yet another example of that well-known phenomenon – only in America. The NOAA provided the Committee with the methodologies, the raw and corrected data and the personal accounting of the rationale but Smith still insists (like the Aristotelian’s looking at sunspots through Galileo’s telescope) that the results are fudged. Now Smith is demanding all the personal correspondence between all the scientists involved because: “The American people have every right to be suspicious when NOAA alters data to get the politically correct results they want and then refuses to reveal how those decisions were made. NOAA needs to come clean about why they altered the data to get the results they needed to advance this administration’s extreme climate change agenda.” His view was echoed by the usual suspects in the US media. The full, so sad, details can be found in a 2 November 2015 physicstoday newsletter by Steven T. Corneliussen article (to which the blog was alerted by John Spitzer) at

The blog has lately been making a habit of saying nice things about unlikely people as well as the Pope lately. Speaking at the recent annual Whittaker Memorial Committee commemoration of the fatal shooting of Gallipoli veteran Alan Whittaker and the 1928 dock strike the blog started by saying it wanted to say something good about John Howard. To an audience of retired waterside workers, trade union officials, ALP members and others it wasn’t an auspicious start and the blog could see faces falling and angry lines and expressions moving across faces. The initial reaction quickly changed when the blog revealed that John Howard had funded the wonderful book World War One: A history in 100 stories which features the Alan Whittaker story along with lots of other great stories which serve as a useful antidote to official Anzackery. (See previous blogs).

Another useful antidote to Anzakery was the recent Guardian article by Paul Daley on the $552 million being spent by the government on Anzackery which might be better spent on living veterans. As one of the blog’s fellow veterans said when forwarded the link – “Amen to that – the dollars splashed around to provide photo opportunities for PMs and AWM Directors is very distasteful to veterans, let alone an average citizen.”