On Climate Change, Catholic Leaders Must Believe in Miracles

Published November 13, 2015

For the first time, “Catholic leaders representing all regional and national bishops conferences” have come together in a “joint appeal.” According to reporting in the New York Times, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Mumbai, India, called the October 26 meeting at the Vatican a “historic occasion.”

What brought all these Catholic leaders together for the first time? Not the refugee crisis in Europe. Not the plight of Christians in the Middle East. Not to meet over the church’s current scandalous finances. Not a prayer meeting or a Bible study. It was climate change and the climate aid funds, which take from the rich countries to give to the poor, promoting renewable energy.

Regarding climate change, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, archbishop of Munich, and one of the signatories to the “joint appeal,” said: “The church can learn from the world”—even though biblical teaching admonishes believers to be “not of the world.”

Maybe the laity gets it better than the clergy. Polls indicate that fewer than half of Catholics believe climate change is caused by human activity.

Together, Marx and his fellow leaders drafted a ten-point specific policy proposal for, as the document says: “those negotiating the COP 21 [United Nations climate conference] in Paris,” November 30–December 11. Saying they are looking out for “the poorest and most vulnerable,” these church leaders want “a fair, legally binding and truly transformational climate agreement.” They call for “a drastic reduction on the emissions of carbon dioxide.”

Within the ten points of the “joint appeal,” number four demands a goal of “complete decarbonisation by mid-century.”

Point five addresses bringing people out of poverty and calls for putting “an end to the fossil fuel era, phasing out fossil fuel emissions, including emissions from military aviation and shipping and providing affordable, reliable and safe renewable energy access for all.”

Calling climate change a “moral issue,” Thomas G. Wenski, archbishop of Miami, acknowledged: “We’re pastors and we’re not scientists.”

So, what do actual scientists say about their proposal to phase out fossil fuel emissions and provide affordable renewable energy access for all?

With a similar goal, Google launched a project in 2007 known as REstate: “At the start of RE

In the 2014 article chronicling their four-year project, the scientists conceded: “By 2011, it was clear that RE

More recently, Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, made a similar acknowledgement. In an interview with The Atlantic magazine, he talked about how wind has “grown super-fast, on a very subsidized basis” and solar “has been growing even faster—again on a highly subsidized basis,” yet solar photovoltaics are “still not economical.” Gates admitted: “we need energy 24 hours a day” but “the primary new zero-CO2 sources are intermittent.” He says that due to “the self-defeating claims of some clean-energy enthusiasts” that are often “misleadingly meaningless,” the public underestimates how difficult moving beyond fossil fuels really is—which he says will take an “energy miracle.”

Surely the Catholic leaders really do care about “the poorest and most vulnerable.” If they do, rather than calling for the unrealistic “end of the fossil fuel era,” they’d call for the “climate aid” to be spent on “improved public health, education and economic development,” as recommended by noted economist Bjørn Lomborg.

Lomborg, in the Wall Street Journalstates: “In a world in which malnourishment continues to claim at least 1.4 million children’s lives each year, 1.2 billion people live in extreme poverty, and 2.6 billion lack clean drinking water and sanitation, this growing emphasis on climate aid is immoral.” Yet, the Catholic leaders call climate change “a moral issue.”

Citing a U.N. survey of more than eight million people, Lomborg says, “respondents from the world’s poorest countries” who were asked “what matters most to you?” ranked “action taken on climate change” dead last. Their top priorities included “a good education” and “better health care.” In response, Lomborg states: “Providing the world’s most deprived countries with solar panels instead of better health care or education is inexcusable self-indulgence. Green energy sources may be good to keep on a single light or to charge a cellphone. But they are largely useless for tackling the main power challenges for the world’s poor.” He calls the emphasis on climate aid “terrible news” and says it “effectively means telling the world’s worst-off people, suffering from tuberculosis, malaria or malnutrition, that what they really need isn’t medicine, mosquito nets or micronutrients, but a solar panel.”

In addition to switching the focus from “decarbonisation” to priorities that will really help the world’s poor, Lomborg emphasizes: “The people need access to affordable, reliable electricity today.”

Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson, who advised Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment, has said: “Real change only comes from dialogue.” Yet, time and time again, climate alarmists refuse dialogue with scientists and other experts whose views disagree with theirs and instead try to silence them with threats and legal action.

The bishops want to protect the poor from climate risks, but the risks from poverty are much greater and more immediate than those from climate change, and the global treaty the bishops want would slow, stop, or reverse economic growth, destroy jobs, and raise energy costs, harming everyone—especially the poor and elderly. And, by depriving developing nations of the abundant, affordable, reliable energy they need to rise and stay out of poverty, they are condemning them to more generations of poverty, disease, suffering, and death.

Those who agree that “this growing emphasis on climate aid is immoral” might want to sign the “Forget ‘Climate Change’, Energy Empowers the Poor!” petition, which urges President Obama and the U.S. Senate to refrain from embracing any global agreement to limit carbon dioxide emissions to fight global warming.

Turkson says the church’s influence on public policy should be “grounded in realities, not ideas”—yet clearly what the church leaders are calling for will require not reality, but a miracle.