Pope Francis has the opportunity to put the human person back in the center of climate concerns
The secular media, which is no friend of the Catholic Church, seems to specialize in misrepresenting the views of its prelates. Pope Francis has been particularly ill served in this regard and, at the same time, seems to shrug it off. So it is hard to know what to make of The Guardian’s story that the Holy Father is preparing to address global warming and lobby for decisive international action to combat climate change. Is it just the secular media attempting (once again) to sensationalize the papacy (and sell newspapers)? Or is it really on to something?
Here’s what we know:
We know that Pope Francis, like his predecessor, Pope Benedict wants us to be good stewards of the wonderful planet that God has given us. (But who doesn’t?)
We know that Bishop Marcelo Sorondo, chancellor of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences, has spoken of the pope’s wish to influence next year’s UN climate meeting in Paris.
We know—again from Bishop Sorondo—that the pope wants to convene an ecumenical meeting to discuss climate issues, human ecology, and what Sorondo called “the tragedy of social exclusion.”
And we know that there is an encyclical being drafted on these matters, although no one seems to know exactly what’s in it, since it is still in its early stages. The Vatican has so far not officially given any hint the encyclical will cover the theme of climate change, only that “human ecology” will be a major topic.
I, for one, am looking forward to the Holy Father’s contribution to the debate on man and the environment. Here are some points I hope he’ll present:
First, I hope that he will point out that, while we are to be good stewards of the environment, this does not mean that we are to worship it. Many of the radical environmentalists behave like the animists of old, regarding trees and rocks as living spirits. Others are, in effect, pantheists, viewing the entire earth, or even the cosmos as a whole, as a gigantic living organism.
Only man is made in the image of God, I imagine the Pope saying, and only God, the creator of both man, the earth, and the universe that surrounds them, is worthy of worship. This would put things in their proper perspective and help to save souls from modern-day green heresies.
Second, I hope that the Pope will emphasize the good news that the pace of global warming is far lower than the original UN climate models predicted. In fact, the models’ prediction of a 2.80C rise over the course of a century were off by half.
It turns out that the earth’s climate is far more complicated than was originally thought, and that we simply do not know how much impact human activity will have on the climate compared to the planet’s natural warming and cooling cycles.
This means that we have more time to gather data, to improve faulty climate models, and to reach international understandings than was once thought. There is no need to hastily conclude a treaty in Paris next year drastically reducing carbon dioxide emissions on the basis of extreme warming scenarios that have simply not come to pass.
The Pope should invoke the great Catholic scientists of the past, from Copernicus to Mendel, in arguing for the need for cautious, careful science. Propaganda is no substitute for hard science, he should argue, and is a misuse of the intelligence that God has gifted us with and trusted us to use.
Third, I am greatly looking forward to his discussion on “human ecology,” where I anticipate that he, like Pope Benedict, will put the welfare of human beings at the very center of Catholic concern for the environment.
The poor and powerless must not be made scapegoats for environmental problems. Above all, they must not be deprived of the resources that they need to improve their lives.
Poor people need access to energy if they are to improve their lives, and that means, like it or not, burning hydrocarbons, at least initially. The burning of wood for food, coal or natural gas to heat homes, and gas and diesel to power cars and trucks is inescapable if we want to help such people escape dire poverty.
If the use of such energy is rationed or restricted, this will disproportionately impact the poor, and will help keep them mired in poverty.
The same logic applies to countries as a whole. I trust that the Pope will remind the world that the only way that peoples and nations lift themselves out of poverty is by doing the hard work of producing goods and services themselves. This, too, requires access to energy.
A drastic restriction on the use of fossil fuels will have little impact on climate, we now know, but would prolong the global recession, and would do dire harm to poor countries.
Climate treaty supporters know this, and so they argue that wealthy nations must subsidize the costs that poor nations will bear under such a treaty.
But the forced transfer of wealth from developed to undeveloped countries will not jumpstart development any more than forced wealth transfers within countries cure poverty. All they do is create privileged classes of political elites with an interest in perpetuating their own personal “poverty” gravy train.
A climate treaty that raises the cost of the energy that the poor need to improve their lives would create exactly what the Pope apparently wants to avoid, namely, the “tragedy of social exclusion.” By raising the cost of energy to prohibitive levels, the poor would be excluded from prosperity. Forever.
Fourth, I would pray the Pope would strongly argue that no solution to environmental problems should involve the sacrifice of human lives.
This is no idle concern. For some time now the radical environmentalists have regarded babies as little more than “carbon dioxide emitters.” At the same time, climate change has been used to justify the targeting of poor peoples for elimination through population control programs.
The program laid out by the radical environmentalists—the restriction of fossil fuels—would eliminate the best opportunity for the poor to make economic progress—and then use their continued poverty as an excuse to eliminate them.
The Pope should point out that this is nothing more than the latest deceit of eugenicist-minded population controllers, who continue to want more babies from the "fit" and fewer babies from the "unfit." These categories are today defined more in terms of wealth than race, but the end result is the same: poor people of color are targeted for elimination.
To understand just how radical this movement is, the Pope should say, you need look no further than China. Climate change enthusiasts at the UN actually applaud China’s brutal one-child policy, which they see as having rid the planet of 400 million little carbon emitters.
They are willing to overlook the forced abortion of tens of millions of babies. They express no concern that over the fact that China is building one coal-fired power plant a week to increase its energy supply. They are even willing to overlook the irresponsible release of thousands of tons of real chemical pollutants into the atmospheric commons each year by Chinese factories.
Why do the radical environmentalists give China a pass on pollution? Because it is killing its young in such large numbers. They know that China’s demand for energy will eventually drop when its population goes into irreversible decline.
Let us hope that Pope Francis’ forthcoming encyclical reflects the more sensible voices that surround him. Cardinal George Pell, the former archbishop of Sydney who manages the Vatican’s budget, has pointed out the obvious fact that global warming has largely ceased (something even the radicals tacitly admit, otherwise why change the name to climate change?), and that carbon dioxide is a vital nutrient necessary for plant growth and food production.
If the Pope’s forthcoming encyclical debunks the false gods of radical environmentalism, displays a sound understanding of both basic science and economics, and raises a crucial moral issue—it is immoral for the wealthy countries to wage war on the populations of the poor nations—it will do a mighty service to the truth.
Steven W. Mosheris the President of the Population Research Institute and the author of Population Control: Real Costs, Illusory Benefits.