For the first time, “Catholic leaders representing all regional and national bishops conferences” have come together in a “joint appeal.” According to reporting in the New York Times, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Mumbai, India, called the October 26 meeting at the Vatican a “historic occasion.”
What brought all these Catholic leaders together for the first time? Not the refugee crisis in Europe. Not the plight of Christians in the Middle East. Not a prayer meeting or a Bible study. It was climate change.
Regarding climate change, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, archbishop of Munich and one of the signatories to the “joint appeal,” said: “The church can learn from the world”—even though biblical teaching admonishes believers to be “not of the world.” Polls indicate that less than half is Catholics believe climate change is caused by human activity.
Together, Marx and his fellow leaders drafted a ten-point specific policy proposal for, as the document says that “those negotiating the COP 21 [United Nations climate conference] in Paris,” November 30–December 11. Saying they are looking out for “the poorest and most vulnerable,” these church leaders want “a fair, legally binding and truly transformational climate agreement.” They call for “a drastic reduction on the emissions of carbon dioxide.”
Within the ten points of the “joint appeal,” number four demands a goal of “complete decarbonisation by mid-century.”
Point five addresses bringing people out of poverty and calls for putting “an end to the fossil fuel era, phasing out fossil fuel emissions, including emissions from military aviation and shipping and providing affordable, reliable and safe renewable energy access for all.”
Calling climate change a “moral issue,” Thomas G. Wenski, archbishop of Miami, acknowledged: “We’re pastors and we’re not scientists.”
So, what do the “scientists” say about their proposal to phase out fossil fuel emissions and provide affordable renewable energy access for all?
With a similar goal, Google launched a project in 2007 known as RE<C (Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal)—which “aimed to develop renewable energy sources that would generate electricity more cheaply than coal-fired power plants do. The two scientists responsible for Google’s effort, Ross Koningstein & David Fork, both Stanford PhDs, state: “At the start of RE<C, we had shared the attitude of many stalwart environmentalists: We felt that with steady improvements to today’s renewable technologies, our society could stave off catastrophic climate change. We now know that to be a false hope.”
More recently, Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, made a similar acknowledgement. In an interview with The Atlantic magazine, he talked about how wind has “grown super-fast, on a very subsidized basis” and that solar “has been growing even faster—again on a highly subsidized basis,” yet solar photovoltaics are “still not economical.” Gates admitted: “we need energy 24 hours a day” but “the primary new zero-CO2 sources are intermittent.” He says, that due to “the self-defeating claims of some clean-energy enthusiasts” that are often “misleadingly meaningless statements” the public underestimates how difficult moving beyond fossil fuels really is—which he says will take an “energy miracle.”
Surely the Catholic leaders really do care about “the poorest and most vulnerable.” If they do, rather than calling for the unrealistic “end of the fossil fuel era,” they’d call on the “climate aid” to be spent on “improved public health, education and economic development,” as recommended by noted economist Bjorn Lomborg.
Lomborg, in the Wall Street Journal, states: “In a world in which malnourishment continues to claim at least 1.4 million children’s lives each year, 1.2 billion people live in extreme poverty, and 2.6 billion lack clean drinking water and sanitation, this growing emphasis on climate aid is immoral.” Yet, the Catholic leaders call climate change “a moral issue.”
Citing a U.N. survey of more than eight million people, Lomborg says “respondents from the world’s poorest countries” who were asked “what matters most to you?” ranked “action taken on climate change” dead last. Their top priorities included “a good education” and “better health care.” In response, Lomborg states: “Providing the world’s most deprived countries with solar panels instead of better health care or education is inexcusable self-indulgence. Green energy sources may be good to keep on a single light or to charge a cellphone. But they are largely useless for tackling the main power challenges for the world’s poor.” He calls the emphasis on climate aid: “terrible news” and says that it “effectively means telling the world’s worst-off people, suffering from tuberculosis, malaria or malnutrition, that what they really need isn’t medicine, mosquito nets or micronutrients, but a solar panel.”
Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson, who advised Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment, has called for church’s influence on public policy to be “grounded in realities, not ideas”—yet clearly what the church leaders are calling for will require not reality, but a miracle.
The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy—which expands on the content of her weekly column. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.