An encyclical letter is considered to be the most significant form of papal teaching for the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics. Tragically, the June 18 encyclical letter on the environment from Pope Francis is riddled with contradictions and mistakes.
In the letter, “On Care for a Common Home,” Francis emphasized the importance of considering “a variety of opinions” about the problems we face:
Given the complexity of the ecological crisis and its multiple causes, we need to realize that the solutions will not emerge from just one way of interpreting and transforming reality. … No branch of the sciences and no form of wisdom can be left out … this Encyclical welcomes dialogue with everyone.
But not only has the Vatican failed to meet this standard, the members of the Heartland Institute delegation that traveled to Rome to urge the Vatican to reconsider its position on climate change and sustainable development in fact received the polar opposite of the encyclical letter’s recommended treatment.
Says international child’s rights attorney Elizabeth Yore, a participant in the April 28 Heartland outreach:
Our opinions were not only ignored, but we were scoffed at and demeaned by high-level Vatican officials who called us deniers, Tea Partiers, and funded by oil interests.
Three members of the Heartland team were approved to take part in the news conference associated with the Vatican’s April 28 climate meetings. One, Marc Morano of the Climate Depot news service, described the experience:
The Vatican failed to treat Delingpole, Monckton, and myself with the same decorum as the other journalists. We were singled out and harassed at the April 28th climate summit in Rome.
Concerning the pontiff’s assertion in his encyclical that he wants to “encourage an honest and open debate,” Yore responded:
Based on our personal experience in Rome, there is no interest in hearing the other side of the science debate by the Vatican.
In his encyclical, Francis acknowledged the Vatican’s lack of expertise about climate change, writing:
On many concrete questions, the Church has no reason to offer a definitive opinion; she knows that honest debate must be encouraged among experts, while respecting divergent views.
The Vatican’s contradictions extend beyond its behavior: they even appear within the encyclical letter itself. The Pope stresses open dialogue, as in the quote above, but then the pope references “obstructionist attitudes” ranging “from denial of the problem to indifference,” supporting Yore’s contention that he in fact has no patience for divergent views on the topic.
Francis also contradicted himself by including numerous definitive opinions about climate change in his letter. After describing the science in a manner as overconfident as Al Gore’s – he even mistakenly calls carbon dioxide “pollution” — the pope concluded:
We know that technology based on the use of highly polluting fossil fuels — especially coal, but also oil and, to a lesser degree, gas — needs to be progressively replaced without delay.
Had Francis followed his own advice to listen to other points of view on global warming, he would have learned of the strong evidence that much of the climate change material in his encyclical is misguided.
For example, emeritus professor of meteorology Dr. Richard Keen of the University of Colorado-Boulder has since said:
Sections 23 and 24 of the Encyclical refer to numerous hypothetical disastrous consequences of climate change, or “warming.” But none of these projected catastrophic consequences are anywhere to be found on the real Earth.
Keen, an expert reviewer for the latest UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, explained that there has been no global warming over the past 18 years. He continued:
Over the past two centuries humans have, through productive and beneficial endeavors, added one molecule of CO2 to each ten thousand molecules of air. Attempts at curtailing those human endeavors to remove that molecule would be flawed policies that will fail to solve a non-existent problem.
In his encyclical, Francis taught that “human life is itself a gift which must be defended from various forms of debasement.” He writes about “the moral imperative of assessing the impact of our every action and personal decision on the world around us.” The pope cited Saint Francis of Assisi, whose name he took as his “guide and inspiration” when he became the leader of the Catholic Church: “I believe that Saint Francis is the example par excellence of care for the vulnerable.”
Yet by promoting the idea that CO2 emissions must be reduced to prevent dangerous climate change, His Holiness unwittingly supports outcomes that hurt the world’s most vulnerable people.
For example: as a result of the expanded use of biofuels in an attempt to reduce emissions, 6.5% of the world’s grain now goes to fuel instead of food. This is causing food price increases that are a disaster for the world’s poor.
The growing demand for biofuels is also creating problems for indigenous land owners in developing countries, especially those in Indonesia and Malaysia where 90% of the world’s palm oil is grown. In a February 2015 open letter to the European Parliament endorsed by 197 civil society organizations from Asia, Africa, and Latin America, it was asserted:
The destruction of forests and fertile agricultural land to make way for oil palm plantations is jeopardising the food sovereignty and cultural integrity of entire communities who depend on the land as their source of food and livelihoods.
The pope wrote:
The replacement of virgin forest with plantations of trees, usually monocultures, is rarely adequately analyzed. Yet this can seriously compromise a biodiversity which the new species being introduced does not accommodate.
This is a good point. Yet he does not does not seem to recognize that his support of the climate scare is the precise cause of this accelerated destruction of virgin forests to make way for monoculture plantations that provide palm oil for biodiesel.
In his encyclical, Francis supported the replacement of fossil fuels with renewable energy. But, again, he either does not understand or ignores the tragic consequences of policies that focus on government support of renewable sources, wind power in particular.
Ontario provides a particularly appalling example. One consequence of the government’s climate change plans has been the erection of 6,736 industrial wind turbines (IWT) across the province, the most recent of which are as tall as a 61-story building. Yet only 4% of the province’s power came from wind energy in 2013 and 1% from solar, while together they accounted for 20% of the commodity cost paid by Ontarians. Despite massive government subsidies for wind power, electricity rates in Ontario have soared, mostly affecting the poor and seniors on fixed incomes.
In his encyclical, Francis wrote:
In assessing the environmental impact of any project, concern is usually shown for its effects on soil, water and air, yet few careful studies are made of its impact on biodiversity, as if the loss of species or animals and plant groups were of little importance … [the] Catechism of the Catholic Church … firmly states that “it is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly.”
Well, industrial wind turbines needlessly kill millions of birds and bats.
Ontario’s situation has even drawn the attention of the Spain-based group Save the Eagles International, a member of the World Council for Nature, which on May 23 issued a news release titled: “Migrating golden eagles to be slaughtered in Ontario.” The release showed that some of the turbines planned for Ontario are being placed directly in the path of migrating golden eagles, which are already an endangered species, and millions of other birds.
The consequences for people living near IWTs can be severe as well.
Besides a significant loss in property value, health concerns abound. A particularly tragic example is occurring in the West Lincoln and surrounding regions of Southern Ontario. There, despite the objections of local residents, wind developers have received approval to install at least seventy-seven 3 Megawatt IWTs, each up to 609 ft. tall, the largest such machines in North America. One resident, Shellie Correia of Wellandport, Ontario, has a particular reason to be concerned. Her 12-year-old son Joey has been diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder and it is crucial that he live in an environment free from excessive noise.
Ordinarily, the quiet countryside of West Lincoln would be an ideal place for Joey. But now, as a result of Ontario’s Green Energy Act, the primary focus of which is climate change mitigation, an IWT will be sited only 550 metres from their home. Correia explained in her January 2015 presentation before the government’s Environmental Review Tribunal:
On top of the incessant, cyclical noise, there is light flicker, and infrasound. This is not something that my son will be able to tolerate.
Carmen Krogh, Correia’s science expert, wrote in her May 13, 2013 open communication with Canada’s Minister of Health:
“Vigilance and long term surveillance systems regarding risks and adverse effects related to children are lacking. … This evaluation should take place before proceeding with additional approvals.”
But the approvals go ahead anyways. As Correia told the Tribunal:
“The common theme [was] that no one was able to help, because of the Green Energy Act.”
The drive to reduce CO2 emissions makes it difficult for developing countries to finance the construction of hydrocarbon-fueled power plants to pull their people out of poverty. For example, in 2010 South Africa secured a $3.9 billion loan to build the massive Medupi coal-fired power station only because developing country representatives on the World Bank board voted for approval. The U.S. and four European nation members of the board abstained from approval because of their concerns about climate change.
They apparently wanted South Africans to use wind and solar power instead, sources too expensive for widespread use even in wealthy nations.
The Pope also does not seem to understand that — because of the unfounded confidence that humans control Earth’s climate — only 6% of the one billion dollars spent every day across the world on climate finance goes to helping vulnerable people cope with climate change. The rest is spent trying to stop phenomena that may, or may not, happen in the distant future.
This is immoral, effectively attributing more value to the lives of people yet to be born than those in need today.
In every case just described, the possibility of affecting climate change in the distant future takes precedence over the health and well-being of people today. Francis is gravely mistaken to support this unfolding public policy disaster.
It was not until 1835 that the Catholic Church’s ban on Nicholas Copernicus’s book, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Bodies, originally published in 1543, was finally lifted and people could read that the Earth revolved around the Sun, not vice versa. Pope John Paul II explained in 1992 that theologians who condemned those promoting Copernicus’ theory were restricted by the knowledge available to them at the time.
Pope Francis has no such excuse.
With Heartland and other leaders in the climate debate explaining the problems with his June 18 Encyclical letter, let’s hope it doesn’t take three centuries for the Church to admit to their errors this time.