ROME, Italy–As the Vatican gears up for a high-level workshop on climate change this Tuesday, a group of 90 prominent scientists, religious leaders, and academics have written an open letter to Pope Francis, urging him to entertain the scientific and moral arguments against current climate change theories.
The writers profess their appreciation for the Pope’s efforts on behalf of the environment and his commitment to the Judeo-Christian principle of “responsible stewardship” for creation, but suggest that the people closest to him may not be providing him with all the facts regarding climate change.
The authors contend that contrasting worldviews have led to sloppy reporting of the facts, driven by an ideological agenda. “Rather than a careful reporting of the best evidence,” they write, “we get highly speculative and theory-laden conclusions presented as the assured results of science. In the process, science itself is diminished, and many well-meaning moral and religious leaders risk offering solutions based on misleading science.”
The authors believe that these considerations are especially important, given the Pope’s stated intention of releasing an encyclical letter on the environment this coming summer.
Caution is essential before committing to unproven scientific models, the authors counsel, especially when so much is at stake for the poorest nations of the world.
“Our models can become ‘seductive simulations,’” the writers insist, “with the modelers, other scientists, the public, and policymakers easily forgetting that the models are not reality but must be tested by it. If their output disagrees with observation, the models, not nature, must be corrected.”
While warning against apocalyptic panic, the letter encourages the Pope to dig deeper before aligning himself with a platform that may not have humanity’s best interests at heart.
“Naively claiming ‘the science is settled,’” the letter states, many prominent voices “demand urgent action to protect the planet from catastrophic, human-induced global warming.” It continues by asserting, “Attributing allegedly unnatural warming to the use of fossil fuels to obtain energy essential for human flourishing, these voices demand that people surrender their God-given dominium, even if doing so means remaining in or returning to poverty.”
The authors question the commonly held notion that fossil fuel use endangers humanity and the environment because it leads to historically unprecedented, dangerous global warming, noting that computer climate models of the warming effect of enhanced atmospheric carbon dioxide are not properly subordinated to data. In reality, they propose, “there has been a growing divergence between real-world temperature observations and model simulations.”
One of the most powerful arguments the authors put forward is the effect that alarmist proposals of carbon-reduction would have on the world’s poorest populations, especially given the Pope’s ongoing insistence on a preferential love for the most vulnerable among us.
“The world’s poor will suffer most from such policies,” the writers contend, adding:
The poorest—the 1.3 billion in developing countries who depend on wood and dried dung as primary cooking and heating fuels, smoke from which kills 4 million and temporarily debilitates hundreds of millions every year—will be condemned to more generations of poverty and its deadly consequences.
The letter ends with an appeal to the Pope to reconsider what seems to be the direction the Vatican is taking vis-à-vis climate change policies.
In light of the evidence, the authors suggest, “We believe it is both unwise and unjust to adopt policies requiring reduced use of fossil fuels for energy. Such policies would condemn hundreds of millions of our fellow human beings to ongoing poverty.”
“We respectfully appeal to you to advise the world’s leaders to reject them,” they write.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome.