Pope Francis Goes Off the Rails

By Rich Lowry Published on June 18, 2015

A quasi-religious movement now has a genuinely religious leader.

The pope’s encyclical on the environment is being hailed for its embrace of science, although it is about as scientific as the Catholic hymnal.

Pope Francis writes that Sister Earth “now cries out because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her.” Really? Is that what the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says?

The Catholic Church brings comfort and meaning to the lives of countless millions. That doesn’t mean that climate science, economic policy and cost-benefit analysis are its core competencies. No one has ever said: Yes, but what did Gregory VII do to fight the onset of the Medieval Warm Period?

All that matters to the media, though, is that Pope Francis has taken an apocalyptic climate alarmism and given it the imprimatur of the Vatican. The same people who dismiss the pope on more central moral matters, like the dignity of life, are now attributing to him an authority that might have made Pope Innocent III, who challenged kings, blush.

The document could have benefited from an editor cutting out the bizarre ramblings. The pope writes of “harmful habits of consumption,” including “the increasing use and power of air conditioning.” He argues that “an outsider looking at our world would be amazed at such behavior.”

That’s assuming the outsider lives in a very cool climate, or doesn’t mind sweating. Anyone not so lucky probably thinks the inventor of air conditioning should be canonized.

While the pope pays lip service to technological advances, he doesn’t truly appreciate their wonders. The Industrial Revolution was a great boon to humankind. Consider the unrelieved misery — the disease, the poverty, the illiteracy — before around 1800, when if you weren’t an aristocrat, a general or a bishop, your life was probably nasty, brutish and short.

“The average person in the world of 1800 was no better off than the average person of 100,000 B.C.,” Gregory Clark writes in his book A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World. “Life expectancy was no higher in 1800 than for hunter-gatherers: 30 to 35 years. Stature, a measure both of the quality of diet and of children’s exposure to disease, was higher in the Stone Age than in 1800.”

But at least when everyone died at a much earlier age, we weren’t engaging in the ravages of the planet that so exercise Francis. This sinful assault on the Earth, by the way, largely consisted in taking otherwise completely useless glop from the ground and using it to power economic and technical advances that enriched average people beyond anyone’s imagining. This is obviously a secular miracle of the highest order.

And the bounty hasn’t ended. Something like a billion people have been lifted out of poverty in places like India and China in recent decades as they have embraced markets and global trade. The pope should be delighted, except he has a blinkered view of capitalism as a zero-sum game benefiting only the privileged.

In this vein, he writes of the “ecological debt” that exists “between the global north and south.” Well, if we are going to speak of debts, the global north gave the global south the modern world. (You’re welcome.) The best thing that can happen to developing counties now is that they can follow our example of economic growth driven in part by cheap energy.

For all that the pope portrays modern development as a long exercise in environmental devastation, it is the advanced countries that have the cleanest water and air, and are best prepared to adapt their way around any far-off environmental challenges.

His encyclical will be portrayed as the best thing the church has done since Pope Leo dissuaded Attila from sacking Rome, but on climate change, it merely bends to the fashions of the hour.


Rich Lowry can be reached via e-mail: comments.lowry@nationalreview.com.

© 2015 by King Features Syndicate

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  • Guest

    Great article. Someone needs to additionally write about the doublespeak in the encyclical and how the world-government tyrants/communists use partial truths (like the Pope’s mention of abortion) to further their agenda. The mentioning of abortion was simply to appease some, prevent backlash, and fool them into promoting the document overall simply because it mentions abortion.

  • Barbara

    That ‘nasty, brutish, and and short’ argument doesn’t have science behind it. Many people lived to a ripe old age – for all of recorded history – and there are the bones left behind to prove it. What killed many people, early in life, was infection, accident, and injury. If you got through those mine fields you could live until 80 – just like today. The many early deaths because of infection especially skewed the numbers. Please stop using this argument – it’s been debunked already!!

    • Atlas Shrugged

      But what brought those modern drugs and medical techniques that let us navigate that mine field today?

      Penicillin has been around for thousands of years, yet it was the industrial age that discovered it.

      Fossil fuels power the labs and tools and machines which allow scientists and doctors to create the tools to navigate those minefields.

      Technology also gives us the plentiful food to be healthy enough to resist illness and recover from injury.

      And while you mock the idea of surviving to age 80 without AC, think of the tens of thousands who die every summer and winter from heat and cold today, then imagine the hundreds of thousands who must have perished back when there was none.

      Heck, just think about something as simple as water – we take fresh water for granted but imagine a world in which every sip of water from a stream or well was a risk due to all of the contaminants, microbes and other crap in it.

      Going back to medicine, it’s the industrial age that lets us mass produce it and transport it to every corner of the world.

      Think about the last time you were really sick or badly hurt and now imagine having to get to the hospital via horse and buggy over a dirt road. Now imagine doing it during the winter in 20 degree weather with a foot of snow.

      Sure, a lucky person could live to 80 a thousand years ago, but 99 other unlucky people never reached 40.

      Screw luck – I want AC and aspirin.

      • sixlittlerabbits

        To point out that even in olden times, some people lived a long time is not to deny the advances of modern medicine, air conditioning, etc, or to suggest we forgo them.

        Life is worth living even in primitive situations, while people who live in developed countries should not have their right to life attacked because others lack the advances of development. The Christian solution would be to extend the blessings of development to those who lack them.

        This encyclical is beating a dead horse. The Pope seems to have become the unwitting dupe of the discredited global anti-life “population controllers,” despite his claim of being inspired by Francis of Assisi.

  • WebsterCat

    The pope writes of “harmful habits of consumption,” including “the increasing use and power of air conditioning.” He argues that “an outsider looking at our world would be amazed at such behavior.” Maybe the Pope knows a little something about those “outsiders” he is speaking of? Tom Horn The Coming Alien Savior Deception

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