The Disconnect between Pope Francis’ Climate Views and His Concern for the PoorAlan Carlin | September 17, 2015
Pope Francis will visit the US next week, so it may be timely to examine his recent pronouncements on climate.
Throughout his Encyclical “On the Care of Our Common Home,” Pope Francis stressed how important it is to avoid harming the world’s poor and to facilitate their rise out of poverty. Yet his support for the principal policy recommendation of climate alarmism–by saying that fossil fuel use “needs to be progressively reduced without delay”–would do just the opposite. In order to rise out of poverty, humans must substitute mechanical energy for human and animal energy. This is the lesson of the Industrial Revolution, prior to which most of the world’s population was indeed poor. Anything that impedes this substitution or makes it more expensive decreases the rapidity with which the poor will rise out of poverty. Yet that is exactly what the prescriptions of climate alarmism to use only high cost sources of mechanical energy, mainly solar and wind, has and will do.
Adverse Environmental Effects of “Renewable” Household Fuels in Less Developed Countries
In addition, the use of wood and animal dung as household fuel, which is widespread in less developed countries, results in air pollution which is one of the adverse environmental risks that the poor are subjected to in these countries despite their “renewability.” The use of low pollution fossil fuels or electricity generated using fossil fuels (including coal) in electric generating plants with good air pollution controls is clearly better from a public health viewpoint than the use of wood or dung in individual homes.
In addition, there has long been a positive relationship between many measures of environmental quality and increases in economic development at higher levels. In other words, the best way to improve environmental quality is to increase development beyond a certain level. The availability of reliable, low cost electricity such as that provided by fossil fuel generated electric power is essential for rapid economic development and thence environmental improvement.
The climate alarmists claim that emissions of CO2 disproportionately adversely affect the poor. This may or not be the case, but no scientific case has established that human-caused CO2 emissions adversely affect humans, although they clearly help plants which humans depend on for food. An overwhelming case has been made that reductions of CO2 emissions will adversely affect the poor throughout the world.
It therefore follows that the Pope’s advocacy of helping the poor and his endorsement of the climate alarmist “solution” of reducing fossil fuel CO2 emissions are inconsistent. If he wants to help the poor of the world, he should be advocating increasing use of fossil fuels to make it possible for them to reduce their poverty. This applies to both developed and less developed countries. The adverse consequences of using much more expensive non-hydro “renewable” sources of power as advocated by climate alarmists is much greater in the less developed countries, but are still quite significant in the developed countries.
The non-papal aspects of these comments are discussed in much more detail and with many references in my new book, Environmentalism Gone Mad, available from the book website, and in recent posts such as here.