Catastrophic threat to civilisation, expert warns

This week CathNews presents the top stories from 2006. This story was originally published on 16 October 2006.

The Age reports that Dr Colin Butler, a senior research fellow in global health painted a grim picture of the catastrophic consequence of global warming as communities worldwide competed for scarce resources.

Inequality over access to resources, such as water and food, bred desperation and resentment, could potentially spark terrorism and war, Dr Butler said.

"People talk about it being bigger than terrorism but I think it interacts with terrorism and can stimulate conflict and potentially the collapse of civilisation.

"I know it does sound a bit alarmist but ... I think that you can analyse global terrorism, in part, as a reaction to global inequality."

He spoke about the impacts of global warming on human health and said that while the physiological effects of drought, famine, heat and cyclones were more tangible, the broader social consequences could be catastrophic.

Already the effects of global warming were being felt in the spread of malaria, and events such as the European heatwave of 2003 which killed between 30,0000 and 50,000 people in France and Italy, Dr Butler said.

But, in the event of a massive drought, where food and water became scarce, "what's to stop someone who's desperate, who sees the world as so unfair (becoming a terrorist)?" Dr Butler asked.

Dr Butler also did not spare the Catholic Church, saying that its "pro-natalism" approach to population control was no longer appropriate.

Meanwhile, following a similar conference in the US, the Archdiocese of St Paul and Minneapolisis launching a parish-based effort to find practical, socially equitable and close-to-home solutions to global warming, the Star Tribune reports.

The drive will organise parishioners to study global warming and develop ways to confront it in the community and through changes in public policy, said Matt Rezac, public policy manager for the archdiocese's Office for Social Justice.

The Global Warming Action Team will be similar to groups that have been working on housing and welfare issues in the archdiocese for years, Mr Rezac said. It is one of six global-warming initiatives in the country to have been funded recently by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, which in 2001 called for immediate action to address climate change.

"More and more, we're beginning to see this issue could have catastrophic effects on all of us," said the Rev Erich Rutten of Our Lady of Grace Church in Edina. "How we impact the environment affects other people - those around us and those in the future. That's directly a moral issue."


Climate change 'threatens civilisation' (Sydney Morning Herald, 14/10/06)

Climate change triggers war, warns expert (The Australian, 13/10/06)
Archdiocese confronts global warming (Minnesota Star Tribune, 15/10/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Climate Change Conference (Catholic Earthcare and Melbourne Catholic Commission for Justice, Development and Peace
Melbourne Catholic Commission for Justice, Development and Peace
Catholic Earthcare

Climate change on our doorstep, says Caritas (CathNews, 10/10/06)
Indigenous Aussies among first climate change victims (CathNews, 4/10/06)
Oceania bishops voice concern on climate change , AIDS (15/8/06)
Catholic leaders warn of 'environmental refugees' scenario (22/11/05)
Greenhouse gas emissions report 'alarming' (CathNews 21/11/05)
Catholic Earthcare highlights Vatican climate change intervention (CathNews 10/11/05)

5 Jan 2007