Pope’s Climate Policies Would Hurt the Ones He Loves

Published August 27, 2019

The Mills Brothers, among dozens of others, sang “You Always Hurt the One You Love.” Somebody should tell Pope Francis this doesn’t have to be true if the world follows a sensible energy policy.

On June 14, Francis met with the CEOs of British Petroleum, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Occidental Petroleum, and Royal Dutch Shell at the Vatican to promote schemes to mitigate what he says are the catastrophic effects of manmade global warming.

Speaking to the oil executives, the Pope said “today’s ecological crisis, especially climate change, threatens the very future of the human family, and this is no exaggeration.” Placing a price on carbon dioxide emissions is “essential” to the goal of stopping global warming, the Pope said.

“Faced with a climate emergency, we must take action accordingly, in order to avoid perpetrating a brutal act of injustice toward the poor and future generations,” Francis said at a separate conference sponsored by the University of Notre Dame.

‘Inconvenient Facts’

Francis is apparently ignorant of the many inconvenient facts indicating his notion of pending climate doom is mistaken. His ignorance is compounded by the large amount of information on climate change he believes to be true but is just not so.

To bolster his argument in support of immediate action, Francis argued wildfires, droughts, and extreme weather are increasing. If we can prevent these terrible catastrophes, Christians should strongly consider embracing measures to limit or end fossil fuel use, Francis said.

Reviewing the data concerning Francis’s claims about extreme weather, however, reveals inconvenient evidence showing so-called extreme weather events are not increasing and an impending planetary doom is not in the offing.

Il Papa is apparently unaware the modest increase in temperature over the past century and a half has been associated with a huge decrease in severe-weather-related deaths around the world. In the United States, deaths related to weather events have declined by 98 percent over the last 80 years. Heat-related deaths are outnumbered by those due to cold by as much as 20 to one, indicating modestly warmer temperatures would spare many millions from premature death.

In addition, contrary to the Pope’s assertions, the United States Drought Monitor shows the area of the United States affected by drought is at its lowest since data collection began.

Mistaken Sea Level Fears

Francis has also expressed concern greenhouse-driven warming will drive sea levels to dangerous and unprecedented heights, leading to mass migration and the inundation of entire islands.

Contrary to his belief, the oceans are nearly at historic low levels based on long-term tide gauges and proxy data going back to the end of the last ice age more than 10,000 years ago. Some of the lowest sea levels during our current interglacial period (Holocene) occurred in the mid-1800s and have increased by a little more than a foot since then, at a rate of less than 0.1 inch per year. This rise is due to the beneficial warming that started in the late seventeenth century.

To confirm this, Francis needs only to stroll from the Vatican to nearby Portus Traiani Felicus, one of the many Roman ports constructed during or shortly after the time of Christ that are now well inland and meters above our modern sea level. This ancient period of naturally driven high sea levels was due to high temperatures during the Roman Warm Period when citrus was grown in England as far north as Hadrian’s Wall. 

Check Your Library

The Pope’s own voluminous library within the Vatican undoubtedly has information chronicling the close relationship between temperature and the human condition historically.

Contrary to alarming reports from the United Nations and the media, past warming periods were correlated with times of great prosperity and bountiful harvests. Before climate science became politicized, warming periods were known as “climate optima” because they were beneficial to both the humans and the planet.

The rise and fall of temperature is closely tied to the rise and fall of civilizations. Cold periods have historically been correlated with crop failure, famine, pestilence, and mass depopulation, just the opposite of what the Pope has stated.

Advancing the Poor

Currently, it is estimated pollution from dirty, inefficient cooking and heating fuels—often dung—leads to about 1.6 million premature deaths each year. Nearly half of the world continues to cook with solid fuels that give off a poisonous cocktail of particles and chemicals, which could be avoided through the use of the fossil fuels, such as natural gas, the Pope wants to ban.

If the world’s governments adopt the fossil fuel restrictions Francis is calling for, the poor he intends to help would be harmed the most. Abandoning low-cost, reliable energy provided by fossil fuels and embracing expensive, intermittent “green” energy, as the Pope proposes, would force the poor to do without economic development for decades and to pay more for energy than is necessary—policies that would only hurt the ones he loves.

Advancing the human condition requires full use of all of God’s Creation. Reliable, inexpensive energy is part of the solution which can lift billions of people out of systemic poverty and disease.

Instead of promoting misguided, harmful policies in a vainglorious attempt to control global temperature—a fool’s errand in any case—Christian leaders should embrace responsible environmental stewardship and energy policies that allow the expanded use of fossil fuels and make energy’s benefits more affordable for everybody, especially the impoverished.

Gregory Wrightstone ([email protected]), a geologist and policy advisor to The Heartland Institute, is the author of Inconvenient Facts: The Science That Al Gore Doesn’t Want You to Know.