Why We Went to Rome

Published June 10, 2015

On April 28, Pope Francis convened a “summit” on global warming and sustainability at the Vatican in Rome. Observing that only alarmists and advocates of population control were on the program, we decided to send some real scientists and other experts to Rome to provide a different opinion. Our presence generated global press coverage, much of it positive, but also some controversy.

Our delegation to Rome consisted of the following individuals, all of them willing to travel a great distance on short notice and participate without honoraria:

E. Calvin Beisner, Ph.D., national spokesman for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation

Hal Doiron, former NASA Skylab and Space Shuttle engineer

Richard Keen, Ph.D., meteorology instructor at the University of Colorado

Christopher Monckton, chief policy advisor to the Science and Public Policy Institute (SPPI)

Marc Morano, executive editor and chief correspondent, ClimateDepot

Tom Sheahen, Ph.D., vice chairman of the board of directors of the Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP)

Elizabeth Yore, J.D., former general counsel at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Virginia

Jim Lakely and Keely Drukala, Heartland’s director and deputy director of communications, respectively, traveled to Rome as well and managed the complicated and last-minute logistics of the trip.

We created a webpage at where we posted news releases and opinion-editorials expressing our concern that the pope was being misinformed and offering links to research and commentary focusing on the relationship between faith and the environment.

Following the event and safe return home of our delegation, we posted all the presentations and video from the event on the website.

Global Press Coverage

The Vatican and United Nations seemed to be shocked that anyone would criticize their bias or the lack of scientific credentials of their speakers. Their reaction to our presence helped us generate extensive world-wide attention, not all of it positive of course.

We appeared at or in the American Spectator, Associated Press, Breitbart, Christian Science Monitor, ClimateWire, Crux, Daily Caller, Guardian, International Business Times, National Catholic Register, National Catholic Reporter, National Review, New York Times, NPR, Reuters, Scientific American, The Telegraph, The Independent, Townhall, USA Today, Vatican Insider, Washington Post, and probably hundreds or even thousands of other print and online outlets.

All of our writing and speaking relating to the pope and the Catholic Church was respectful and focused narrowly on the science, economics, and politics of climate change.

What We Achieved

Our presence in Rome enabled us to achieve quite a lot. For a surprisingly modest cost (about $32,000, not including staff time or overhead), we appeared in many stories in the mainstream media about the pope’s summit. Often, we were the only people quoted who disagreed with the message global warming alarmists had hoped would come out of the summit.

We circumvented the boycott on reporting the views of global warming skeptics that groups such as MediaMatters and DeSmogBlog try to impose on mainstream media. Many of the biggest media outlets in the world, including The New York Times, Washington Post, and NPR, covered us. Some even avoided the temptation to label us “deniers” or “Koch-funded.” Most, however, could not resist.

While reaching millions of people via mainstream and alternative print and email, we especially raised our profile among Catholics around the world. If we hadn’t been in Rome, it is unlikely Catholics would have seen or heard any criticism of the pope’s embrace of radical global warming alarmism. We gave Catholics a reason to care about the global warming debate by warning them the pope was being misinformed.

Other groups noticed our efforts and amplified our message, producing hundreds of posts on blogs and other websites and thousands of comments on news stories and social media “chatter.” We got the attention of Catholics for certain, but also many other people of faith and those who write on religion and environmental topics.

During the summit, our presence was discussed at length by one of the lead speakers at the event. After the event, a high-ranking Vatican official denounced global warming “deniers” for criticizing the pope’s upcoming encyclical on global warming and sustainability and Jeffrey Sachs, a speaker at the summit, singled us out for criticism in a widely circulated essay (to which we replied).

What’s Next?

Since the summit, the Vatican has announced it may delay the release of its long-planned encyclical on global warming and sustainability and that the document may be down-graded to the equivalent of a “white paper.” It is impossible to know if our efforts were responsible for those decisions … but it is unlikely they would be made were it not for the sizeable outcry and protest our presence generated.

Given the nature of the Vatican’s response to our presence, we believe Pope Francis was made aware of our presence and the scientific case we were making. Whether we influenced his opinion or changed his mind is unknowable, but getting his attention is the first step if this is ever to be achieved.

Our trip to Rome alerted us to the existence of millions of Catholics who are worried their pope is being misled regarding the science and economics of climate change. We made many new friends in the Catholic community and are adding thousands of new contacts to our email and mailing lists.

We will continue to follow Pope Francis’s public statements about climate change and provide a reasoned and compassionate response when appropriate. However, The Heartland Institute makes an affirmative effort to avoid addressing social issues or engaging in debates over religious doctrines, so there is a clear limit to the extent of our involvement.

If you are a person of faith – Catholic or otherwise – and interested in the climate change debate, or know someone who is, please visit and watch the videos and read some of the commentaries there, and urge your friends to do the same. Then talk about this topic with your friends and neighbors, fellow church members, and priest or minister.

Share the good news with them: Global warming is not a crisis!