Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Pope Francis seems upset that nations have not heeded his climate advice. But I am concerned the Pope’s increasingly pessimistic climate message may be doing greater harm to society than his holiness realises.
Pope warns climate change turning Earth into desert, garbage
Francis made the appeal at a Vatican conference marking the third anniversary of his landmark environmental encyclical “Praise Be.” The document, meant to spur action at the 2015 Paris climate conference, called for a paradigm shift in humanity’s relationship with Mother Nature.
In his remarks, Francis urged governments to honor their Paris commitments and said institutions like the IMF and World Bank had important roles to play in encouraging reforms promoting sustainable development.
“There is a real danger that we will leave future generations only rubble, deserts and refuse,” he warned.
There is zero risk any imaginable release of anthropogenic CO2 will ruin the world. My evidence is the past geological ages of the Earth, like the age of the dinosaurs, the Cretaceous – 4C warmer than today, 1700ppm CO2. During the Cretaceous the Earth was bursting with an abundance of life.
But the Pope’s ridiculous statements on a subject he obviously doesn’t understand still have the potential to do great harm.
Consider the following:
… The tall, sharply dressed man said humans were a cancer on the Earth. He said that he resented his parents for raising him to be “super hedonistic, just monstrously gaining things.” He said he had grown nihilistic, that he wanted to take up chain smoking and die a slow death. When Schapira asked if he was angry at his family, the young man replied, “I love my family. It’s so hard to know that you only have five years left to love people.” …
People who think they are about to die don’t plan for the future. They don’t believe they have a future. Problems remain unsolved. Health issues which young people are particularly at risk from, such as sexual health or drug abuse, avoiding HIV and other deadly STDs, becomes a bad joke. Why worry about something which could kill you in ten years, when climate change will kill you in five?
Pope Francis to his credit has championed sexual health, including use of condoms. But telling people the world is about to end is in my opinion a bit of a mixed message.
The USA, like many countries, is currently facing a serious opioid abuse epidemic. I’m not saying that this is Pope Francis’ fault, overprescription of painkillers leading to vicious cycles of addiction seems a far more likely culprit.
But people who defeat opioid addiction or overcome their temptation towards other harmful patterns of behaviour have to believe in the possibility of a better future, otherwise why bother? One of the world’s leading religious figures going around telling everyone the future is “rubble, deserts and refuse” does not help people feel more positive about their future.
The Pope has the potential to do great good, his views are important to a large number of people. But a scientifically unsound message of climate pessimism is not a realisation of that potential for good.
Let us hope that the Pope broadens the range of advice he receives about climate science.