This week Pope Francis will host a gathering of executives from major oil companies and investment firms at the Vatican to have a dialogue on climate and more specifically on transitioning away from fossil fuels. Already confirmed to attend were leaders of BP, ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell and mega-investment firm Black Rock. That these major companies would attend such a meeting shows just how successful the constant world-wide drum beat of climate alarmism has been. I doubt that these oil executives would agree to bring the rope to their own hanging, but they certainly appear to be ready to negotiate the terms of their own demise.
This pope has a long history of supporting the notion of catastrophic man-made global warming and using his interpretation of biblical teaching to support it. In 2015 he wrote his encyclical Laudato Si, on climate change and man’s responsibilities to the planet as a warning to his flock of the dangers of our “sins of emission” through our use of fossil fuels and in praise of renewable energy and living a more spartan existence. This more than 100-page manifesto reads like it could have been co-authored by Al Gore, Karl Marx and Chicken Little and depicts an Earth that is spiraling quickly into man-made climate hell which can only be saved by radically reducing our carbon footprint and curbing our wasteful habits.
The document contains bitter condemnations on human failures that are supposedly harming the planet including the usual litany of a lack of clean water, soils that are despoiled by pesticides, increasing air pollution, desertification and drought, to name a few. In it he states that we must, “… hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor. These situations have caused sister earth, along with all the abandoned of our world, to cry out, pleading that we take another course. Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last two hundred years.”
The encyclical professes to speak for the poor but in truth, it will be the poor that will bear the brunt of the very policies the Pope endorses. Pope Francis’ endorsement of climate agreements like the Paris Climate Accord will necessarily limit and reduce the availability of inexpensive, reliable energy that can help lift the billions of the poorest out of staggering poverty. Nearly a billion people do not have the benefit of electricity and another 2 billion have very limited access to the energy standards we expect in the western world. In addition, the living standards of all peoples benefit from inexpensive, dependable energy from fossil fuels.
The Pope recommends that we move away from low-cost, reliable energy provided through fossil fuels and embrace expensive, intermittent “green” energy. In developed countries, the poor pay a higher percentage of their income on energy than others, so in effect, the policies proposed are a regressive form of taxation with higher costs to the poor than the wealthy. It is estimated that pollution from dirty, inefficient cooking and heating fuels, often dung, lead to about 4 million premature deaths a year. Policies such as that proposed by Francis condemn these unfortunates to more generations of poverty, disease and despair.
The Pope has it exactly backwards. A prospering of the human condition requires full use of all of God’s Creation. Reliable, inexpensive energy is part of the solution which can lift billions of God’s creatures out of systemic poverty and disease. Instead of promoting fruitless and harmful policies to control global temperature, Christian leadership should embrace responsible environmental stewardship, make energy and all its benefits more affordable, and thereby free the poor to rise out of poverty.