Pope Francis, Put A Lid On It. Please.

Pope Francis has already caused consternation among knowledgeable Catholics with his criticisms of economic freedom. Some have tried to defend him or reinterpret his words, but it is hard to sugarcoat the fact that he is instinctively hostile to free enterprise. Perhaps this is because, as a native of Argentina, he has never seen free enterprise at work and doesn’t understand what it can do for the average citizen.

Now Francis has taken on the global warming cause. Again, it is hard to interpret his words as representing anything but ignorance of the relevant science. Catholic Online reports:

This March, following a visit to the Philippines, Pope Francis will publish an encyclical on the environment that insiders say will tackle the issue of global warming head on. Pope Francis is hoping to have some impact when world leaders meet to discuss climate change in Paris next year. …

The publication will be a reminder to American political conservatives that Pope Francis defies all attempt to label him as one thing or another. He is neither conservative, nor liberal, but he is Catholic.

This sort of thing is said smugly. But political views are not shaped merely by good will. The differences between conservatives and liberals turn mostly on what public policies produce the best results. That is an empirical question that can only be answered in the light of knowledge. I am afraid that Francis is utterly unqualified to make this sort of empirical political judgment.

The coming encyclical is informed by the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the world’s single-longest running scientific mission. The institution has already affirmed that global warming is real and a threat to people around the world, especially in developing nations.

The statement that “global warming is real” is stupid. Global warming and global cooling both happen–they alternate–and they are both real. For the last seventeen or eighteen years, however, there has been no global warming. Beyond that, there is strong evidence that on balance a warmer world is better for people, not worse.

Some conservatives argue that the best way to cope with climate change is to increase the pace of industrialization and development to generate the massive amounts of capital that experts anticipate we will need to effectively cope with the threat. The problem is the only way to harvest that capital is to tax the makers of wealth, something conservatives generally oppose.

“Harvesting capital” is what liberals love to do, to the ruination of all non-cronies. Many conservatives, like me, argue that the optimal policy toward the Earth’s climate is to do nothing at all, since we don’t influence it to an important degree.

Then, there is the problem of placing such capital in the hands of governments which are notorious for corruption and inefficiency.

Sanity briefly pokes through the clouds.

Liberals, on the other hand, prefer to slow or even halt development in favor of “green” solutions. The moral issue is that these solutions can keep developing regions economically depressed, further entrenching poverty.

Exactly. Stalling progress in developed nations is a bad thing, too.

Neither solution appears practical from a moral standpoint without some kind of added guidance.

Really? So what is that additional “guidance,” and why is the Pope qualified to give it?

[U]nmistakable signs of global warming are emerging around the world. Sea level rise, melting ice caps, and other unusual, but generally predicted weather phenomena have been observed.

This is just wrong. Sea level has been rising for more than 12,000 years. Currently, sea ice is at the highest level recorded in modern times. The globe is not, in fact, warming, although it certainly could in the future. “Unusual” weather phenomena are not being observed to any notable degree. On the contrary, we are living in a time in which extreme weather events are at a relatively low level. The Pope has no idea what he is talking about.

And while the actual climate refuses to cooperate with climate change models and their dire predictions, the trend appears unmistakable.

Another brief moment of partial sanity. The climate models are politically motivated and lavishly funded to the tune of billions of dollars by governments in search of more power. The models are not competent to predict anything accurately; they are falsified by experience. So why are we talking about the global warming that they forecast, but is not occurring? And how is the trend “unmistakable,” when it isn’t happening?

The cause is also beyond doubt. Humans are dumping quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere faster than nature can absorb it, leading to global warming.

Ridiculous on multiple levels. The Earth’s climate is always changing, and has been for millions or billions of years. As it happens, we are living in a relatively cool era. It has been warmer for around 90% of the time since the end of the last Ice Age, 12,000 or so years ago. So, could it get warmer? Of course it could. Is it obvious that any such warming is our fault? Not at all. Again, the Pope and his “science” advisers are not well enough informed to be helpful.

The most practical solution will be to find a way to reduce emissions while planting trees to absorb existing CO2 from the atmosphere, since CO2 also happens to be plant food.

At this point, let’s be charitable and draw down the curtain. CO2 “happens” to be plant food? Well, yeah, that is the basis for pretty much all life on Earth. The Pope might want to go back to the Book of Genesis.

I am a Lutheran, not a Catholic, but my understanding is that the Pope’s statements are deemed infallible only when he pronounces ex cathedra, and that the sort of ill-informed scientific nonsense that he now contemplates would not be entitled to any such deference. Nevertheless, even the Pope’s most casual comments may be influential. It therefore behooves Francis to either 1) learn what he is talking about when it comes to climate science–probably a poor idea, since the field is in its infancy and there is no consensus about virtually any important proposition, or 2) go back to saving souls and keep his mouth shut about the climate. I recommend the latter course.

So does Michael Ramirez:


Michael Ramirez is way smarter than Francis, when it comes to issues of public policy. Maybe we should start a movement to make him the next pontiff. Assuming, of course, that he is Catholic.