Were we talking about a political leader we would be discussing the damage he had done to his reputation. Since we are talking about Pope Francis the damage involves his authority, not only as leader of the world’s Roman Catholics, but as one of the world’s most respected voices on matters of faith and morals.
We do not know exactly why he chose to enter the debate about climate change. And we certainly do not know why this pope came down against the Industrial Revolution. After all, capitalism and industry have raised more of the world’s people from abject poverty than has any other human institution.
Pope Francis has no special authority in the world of political economy. He cannot be counted as an authority on climate science. This means that he had to rely on advisers, most prominent among them was Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, a radical environmentalist and an atheist.
The Washington Post describes him:
For advice, he [Pope Francis] turned to a number of scientific advisers who support the consensus that human activity is warming the Earth. They included Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, founding director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany.
A professed atheist, Schellnhuber nevertheless saw a chance for a massive coup in the climate debate if a sitting pope issued an ode to Earth and the ills of carbon emissions. But not everyone, he said, seemed to want the encyclical to take sides.
Surely, the encyclical was a victory for Schellnhuber. If you do not have the power to affect your radical agenda, you do well to hijack the mind of someone who does. It could be a high-tech oligarch, or it could be a political or religious leader.
Writing in the Telegraph, Christopher Booker has a more downbeat view of the Pope’s leading climate advisor:
How forlorn in light of all this looks that would-be well-meaning 300-page document in which the Pope, under the spell of his chief scientific adviser, a fanatical German climate activist called Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, calls for an end to use of the very fossil fuels which keep the Vatican’s own lights on. In asking us to pray for that global climate treaty, Pope Francis solemnly trots out all those familiar plaints about “melting polar ice caps”, “rising sea levels”, unprecedented droughts, “extreme weather events” and the rest of that greenie litany which has no basis in honest science whatever.
The outside world is no longer listening to this claptrap. But it is not just the world outside the West which is beginning to call the shots. Reality itself is now knocking loudly at the door.
Booker is arguing that for all the gnashing of teeth about greenhouse gasses in the West, the greatest producers of said emissions, India and China do not really care what the Pope or Western intellectuals think.
Indian and Chinese leaders need to feed their people and to grow their economies. If the West wants to consign itself to a lower status, they will be happy to pick up the slack.
In Booker’s words:
Similarly, the last desperate throw by the EU and the US to achieve a world agreement next December to “halt climate change” is not going to succeed, not just because the “science” on which it is based is so increasingly questionable, but because the emerging powers of the East, led by India and China, are simply not prepared to go along with it. If the West wishes to commit economic suicide, so be it. In their own national interest, they are not willing to follow.
Why stake authority and reputation on something you have no power to change?
Also, Michael Goodwin takes the pope to task for wasting his time on matters that are beyond his competence, while ignoring issues where he ought to be a beacon:
At a time when blood is flowing like rivers around the globe, when Christians are being persecuted and when genocide and oppression are spreading, the world’s foremost religious figure ventures too far afield and gets lost in the socialist weeds.
Francis has shaken up the Vatican by showing a common touch, and you don’t have to be Catholic to admire his compassion for the poor and downtrodden. But his contempt for capitalism and anything resembling free markets strikes an un-religious chord, and he makes himself easy to dismiss when he complains the Earth “is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.”
His tone echoes that of an earnest high-school student who casually mixes anecdotal facts with preconceived notions to draw sweeping conclusions. The result is an unpersuasive mash-up beneath the pontiff’s stature.
Like all planners of utopia, he apparently believes the way to help the poor is to demand ever more government control and redistribution. But he also denounces the universal desire for the very fruits he wants to redistribute, so his ultimate goal is unclear.
Most troubling of all, Francis calls for dramatic action on climate change by adopting both the views and the language of the most strident greens. He demands “sustainable” development and denounces “obstructionists,” “special interests” and “selfish” leaders.
At times he sounds like he spent a week at communist summer camp, as when he shows contempt for even air conditioning. Let’s see how many greenies want to follow him over that cliff.
Goodwin believes that the encyclical will not produce the intended effect:
In the end, the treatise has the opposite impact of what was intended. Instead of using his office to start a conversation about changing the “throw-away culture,” the pope paints himself into a partisan political corner.
His incomparable authority on religious matters is not automatically transferable to other areas, so his overreach undermines confidence in his judgment. At this troubled time in history, fresh doubts about the pope are just about the last thing the world needs.
As for the larger issue, namely, that Pope Francis was trying to initiate a global conversation about climate change, one notes, with some chagrin, that he excluded from his deliberations all of those who dissent from the radical environmentalist agenda.
Even a Frenchman named Philippe de Larminat, a man who believes that the climate is changing but who does not believe that it has been caused by human activity, was excluded from the deliberations.
The Washington Post reports on the efforts of those who hold to a different opinion:
In late April, the Chicago-based Heartland Institute, a free-market group that serves as a hub of skepticism regarding the science of human-caused global warming, sent a delegation to the Vatican. As a Heartland news release put it, they hoped “to inform Pope Francis of the truth about climate science: There is no global warming crisis!”
It was meant to coincide with the same April meeting that de Larminat was trying to attend. Heartland’s activists were not part of the invited contingent, either, Heartland communications director Jim Lakely said.
“It was a side event,” he said. “We were outside the walls of the Vatican. We were at a hotel — literally, I could throw a football into St. Peter’s Square.”