Papal Climate Conference, Statement Ignore Evidence

Published May 27, 2015

Pope Francis hosted a one-day conference, “Protect the Earth, Dignify Humanity: The Moral Dimensions of Climate Change and Sustainable Development,” as a prelude to his promised encyclical on climate change.

Many representatives from the United Nations, particularly from its Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), were invited to attend the April 28 event to help formulate and inform the official concluding statement of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.

Scientists who are skeptical sufficient evidence exists to conclude human activities are responsible for recent climate changes were not invited to the papal conference.

The papal declaration asserts humans are causing dangerous climate change, stating, “Human-induced climate change is a scientific reality, and its decisive mitigation is a moral and religious imperative for humanity.”

Skeptics Respond

A contingent of skeptics assembled by The Heartland Institute, publisher of Environment & Climate News, unsuccessfully attempted to obtain an audience with the pope to present the case against the claim humans are causing catastrophic climate change.

Upon returning from Rome, Hal Doiron, Ph.D., a retired NASA space engineer and member of The Heartland Institute contingent, expressed concern about the lack of scientific balance in the views presented to Francis.

“I am concerned that those in the Vatican responsible for organizing this conference did not want any views expressed that would challenge the advice to Pope Francis being provided by political leaders of the United Nations,” said Doiron. “Global control of fossil-fuel burning by a world governing body sanctioned by the U.N. is a serious issue to be debated in each country considering living under the rule of such a governing body. To have the entire excuse for such a governing body be based on the weak and unproven hypothesis of a possible global climate disaster is very disturbing to me.”

Comparing model predictions to observed trends, Doiron said, “In spite of record rates of fossil-fuel burning over the past 18 years, the global average surface temperature has not increased at all, in sharp disagreement with the continued rapid warming predicted by the U.N.’s climate models.”

Lehr: Threats Are Exaggerated

The Pontifical Academies’ final declaration expresses concern the world’s poor “face dire threats from climate disruptions, including the increased frequency of droughts, extreme storms, heat waves, and rising sea levels.”

Heartland Institute Science Director Jay Lehr says the pope’s concern about extreme weather events is misplaced.

“Sea levels are rising at approximately the same rate they have for the past 500 years and rate of rise is lower than the average rate of rise for the past 14,000 years,” Lehr said. “Also, droughts are not more severe, nor are they happening more often than they have historically.

Lehr says recent hurricane data is cause for relief rather than alarm.

“Globally, the five-year running sum of tropical cyclones since 1970 is the lowest it has been in the 45-year record,” Lehr said. “It’s been nine years since the last Category 3 storm made landfall in the United States, the longest period between major hurricane landfalls since 1900. I guess the pope’s advisors forgot to share this good news with him.” 

Speaking ‘Outside of His Authority’

Noted climate researcher Lord Christopher Monckton argues the whole premise of the pope’s conference was misguided.

“The business of the Holy See is saving souls by upholding the two great sources of Divine Revelation: the Holy Scriptures and the 2,000-year tradition of the Catholic Church,” Monckton said. “Popes will be heard with respect if they speak within the bounds of that tradition, only on matters of faith or of morals. It is their obligation to be silent on everything else.”

 Commenting on the pope’s authority to talk about science, Monckton said, “Nothing in the missio canonica given to St Peter and his successors permits any pope to opine on any matter of legitimate scientific debate.

“If the pope were to make any pronouncement—in either direction—on whether our enrichment of the atmosphere with carbon dioxide might be as apocalyptically disastrous as carefully selected speaker after carefully selected speaker at the Vatican conference suggested, history would record him as having perpetrated no less an error than his predecessor who imprudently countenanced the imposition on Galileo Galilei an obligation to declare Earth does not orbit the Sun,” Monckton said. 

H. Sterling Burnett ([email protected]) is managing editor of Environment & Climate News.