Last week the UK Guardian tried its best to deliver a lump of coal to Catholic skeptics of “climate change”. Here is what it looked like:
In 2015, the pope will issue a lengthy message on the subject [of climate change] to the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, give an address to the UN general assembly and call a summit of the world’s main religions.
The reason for such frenetic activity, says Bishop Marcelo Sorondo, chancellor of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences, is the pope’s wish to directly influence next year’s crucial UN climate meeting in Paris, when countries will try to conclude 20 years of fraught negotiations with a universal commitment to reduce emissions.
…Following a visit in March to Tacloban, the Philippine city devastated in 2012 by typhoon Haiyan, the pope will publish a rare encyclical on climate change and human ecology. Urging all Catholics to take action on moral and scientific grounds, the document will be sent to the world’s 5,000 Catholic bishops and 400,000 priests, who will distribute it to parishioners.
According to Vatican insiders, Francis will meet other faith leaders and lobby politicians at the general assembly in New York in September, when countries will sign up to new anti-poverty and environmental goals.
…However, Francis’s environmental radicalism is likely to attract resistance from Vatican conservatives and in rightwing church circles, particularly in the US – where Catholic climate sceptics also include John Boehner, Republican leader of the House of Representatives and Rick Santorum, the former Republican presidential candidate.
Cardinal George Pell, a former archbishop of Sydney who has been placed in charge of the Vatican’s budget, is a climate change sceptic who has been criticised for claiming that global warming has ceased and that if carbon dioxide in the atmosphere were doubled, then “plants would love it”.
For the liberal editors of the Guardian, apparently the only thing more important than saving the world from climate change is making sure some US Catholics get upset about it.
That’s why, even though the pope hasn’t published anything yet, it’s important to already use the mere possibility of this encyclical as an opportunity to bash some US Catholics and paint them as “angry” and reactionary.
The Guardian is careful to produce as many bogeymen as possible to be examples of powerful special interests bent on derailing the pope’s plans to help the poor — figures such as John Boehner, Rick Santorum and Cardinal George Pell.
It’s easier to get away with this sort of demagoguery in Europe because, besides bureaucracy, climate change is probably the most universal orthodoxy enforced on the continent. The Vatican’s participation in climate change fervor didn’t begin with Pope Francis. In 2007, for instance, Pope Benedict said: “Preservation of the environment, promotion of sustainable development and particular attention to climate change are matters of grave concern for the entire human family.”
Now, I would wager 99% of Catholics have no problem agreeing with preserving the environment and promoting sustainable development. All the controversy hinges on climate change, whether it is caused by human industrial carbon emissions, and if so, how to properly address it.
Let’s take a Grand Canyon-size skip over the question of whether climate change is happening and if it is, if human beings caused it and can fix it and simply try to answer the highly hypothetical question of how it should be fixed and what priority fixing it should be given.
This is when the whole house of cards comes tumbling down.
If the future of the human race comes down to the results of a UN meeting, we’re doomed. The UN is neither competent nor at all friendly to the interests of the Church. In fact, the UN is actively hostile to the positions and interventions of the Holy See on almost every issue from religious freedom to the meaning of marriage to the rights of the unborn — save for climate change. There would be great practical harm, I would argue, in legitimizing the UN and offering it the moral credibility of and association with the Church.
The UN is also, as I said, incompetent. Worse: it is actively counterproductive. To take just one glaring recent example, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has just done a 180 on biofuels. For decades we have subsidized and pushed biofuels like ethanol. Now the IPCC is is saying that biofuels harm the environment and push up food prices. James Conca writes in Forbes about the staggering consequences of the false push for biofuels:
In 2000, over 90% of the U.S. corn crop went to feed people and livestock, many in undeveloped countries, with less than 5% used to produce ethanol. In 2013, however, 40% went to produce ethanol, 45% was used to feed livestock, and only 15% was used for food and beverage
The United States will use over 130 billion gallons of gasoline this year, and over 50 billion gallons of diesel. On average, one bushel of corn can be used to produce just under three gallons of ethanol. If all of the present production of corn in the U.S. were converted into ethanol, it would only displace 25% of that 130 billion.
But it would completely disrupt food supplies, livestock feed, and many poor economies in the Western Hemisphere because the U.S. produces 40% of the world’s corn.
…In 2014, the U.S. will use almost 5 billion bushels of corn to produce over 13 billion gallons of ethanol fuel. The grain required to fill a 25-gallon gas tank with ethanol can feed one person for a year, so the amount of corn used to make that 13 billion gallons of ethanol will not feed the almost 500 million people it was feeding in 2000. This is the entire population of the Western Hemisphere outside of the United States.
In 2007, the global price of corn doubled as a result of an explosion in ethanol production in the U.S. Because corn is the most common animal feed and has many other uses in the food industry, the price of milk, cheese, eggs, meat, corn-based sweeteners and cereals increased as well. World grain reserves dwindled to less than two months, the lowest level in over 30 years.
Additional unintended effects from the increase in ethanol production include the dramatic rise in land rents, the increase in natural gas and chemicals used for fertilizers, over-pumping of aquifers like the Ogallala that serve many mid-western states, clear-cutting forests to plant fuel crops, and the revival of destructive practices such as edge tillage. Edge tillage is planting right up to the edge of the field thereby removing protective bordering lands and increasing soil erosion, chemical runoff and other problems. It took us 40 years to end edge tillage in this country, and overnight ethanol brought it back with a vengeance.
Biofuels now join the long and deplorable list of government-sponsored megaprojects undertaken for supposedly green reasons which only resulted in the manipulation of markets and the exploitation of the poor. Time and time again, green interventions promoted by the UN and its participating governments have harmed the very people and environments they were supposed to help.
The Guardian quotes these words addressed by Pope Francis in October to a “meeting of Latin American and Asian landless peasants” as a good encapsulation of his philosophy:
An economic system centred on the god of money needs to plunder nature to sustain the frenetic rhythm of consumption that is inherent to it.
The system continues unchanged, since what dominates are the dynamics of an economy and a finance that are lacking in ethics. It is no longer man who commands, but money. Cash commands.
The monopolising of lands, deforestation, the appropriation of water, inadequate agro-toxics are some of the evils that tear man from the land of his birth. Climate change, the loss of biodiversity and deforestation are already showing their devastating effects in the great cataclysms we witness.
If these are the evils that Pope Francis seeks to eradicate, his encyclical ought to be addressed to the bureaucracies of the United Nations and to governments which manipulate markets to their own advantage. Giving the United Nations and other international organizations more power and centralized authority is both imprudent and, I would argue, a violation of subsidiarity.
It is true that cash (or I would clarify, greed and power) dominate much of the world economy. The UN is certainly not immune from these dangerous influences. But the answer is to place God and the human person at the center of our moral and physical environment. It’s only with God and the human person in the picture that we can assign nature her proper place, because nature is not an end in itself — only God and human persons are ends in themselves. God gives us nature to serve man, not man to serve nature.
Now who in power at the UN do you think believes this?
The original sin of climate change is that it pits human beings and nature against each other. The United Nations sees people, and particularly poor people, as the problem, as consumers, which is why they funnel so much money into birth control and population suppression policies. That’s why those who hold power at the UN are the very last people we should be going to if we truly want to help the poor!
Again, preservation of the environment and promotion of sustainable development? No problem. But climate change and the blundering, malicious environment of the UN? No thanks.
The pope can do better.