Pope Francis has finally released his long anticipated encyclical on the environment to both worldwide acclaim and condemnation. Environmentalists praise it as a death knell for fossil fuels and the herald of a new age of green ethics. Climate realists call it an emotional screed — an unfortunate and unprecedented public relations boost for irrational global warming alarmism and politicized, atheistic UN climate policies. Joseph Kurtz, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told The Guardian that the encyclical sums up "our marching orders for advocacy," while Republican presidential contenders Jeb Bush and Rick Santorum, both Catholic, have come out strongly against the pope on climate change.
Despite its appeal to save Mother Earth with drastic lifestyle changes in industrialized nations, the encyclical Laudato Si, on the "Care for Our Common Home," holds few surprises. After all, the Italian news outlet L'Espresso published a leaked copy in Italian on June 16, two days before the planned official release. An incensed Vatican asked major media to postpone commentary, emphasizing that the unauthorized version was just a draft. But the preemption made significant headlines, and it turns out there were no significant differences.
The encylical is an inflated version of the joint statement issued in April after the Vatican's conference on climate change. (The latter weighed in at fewer than 5,000 words, while the Pope needed more than 40,000 to say his piece. The documents also differ in their judgments on population control. Whereas the UN-inspired joint statement called for "reaching a level and sustainable population," the encyclical admits that "demographic growth is fully compatible" with prosperity.)
Otherwise, the two documents ignore all scientific evidence to the contrary and present identical arguments: Humans are destroying the earth, and radical environmentalism is a moral imperative. However, while the joint statement bears the seal of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the encyclical comes from the pen of the pope himself and therefore holds even more sway among media and policy makers. It also issues an even stronger call for "ecological conversion." Francis's litany of "sins" against the environment include "excessive anthropocentrism" at the expense of nature, deforestation and wetland destruction for the purpose of agricultural cultivation, and human-caused global warming from greedy fossil fuel consumption. Ironically, increased use of air-conditioning is particularly corrupt (see paragraph 55). Wealthy nations, says Francis, owe a "social debt" to the poor and impoverished people of the world, a debt which can be paid by increased funding and "better distribution of wealth."
But will they pay? So far, the pope complains, weak political leaders have proven themselves incapable of mobilizing public opinion or influencing industrial economies. This propagandized caricature of Earth-on-the-brink, plundered by greedy capitalists, leads up to the encyclical's biggest anticlimax — an appeal for world government. Admittedly, that seems an unconventional stance for the pope. But Vatican spokesmen have repeatedly confirmed Francis's desire to influence UN climate talks scheduled to begin this November. The encyclical has already won high praise from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
It is small wonder, considering the pope's vapid assertion: "The establishment of a legal framework which can set clear boundaries and ensure the protection of ecosystems has become indispensable." Francis claims that "it is essential to devise stronger and more efficiently organized international institutions, with functionaries who are appointed fairly by agreement among national governments, and empowered to impose sanctions." Lest anyone believe that his envisioned world government would be solely concerned with the environment, Francis quotes his predecessor, Benedict XVI:
To manage the global economy; to revive economies hit by the crisis; to avoid any deterioration of the present crisis and the greater imbalances that would result; to bring about integral and timely disarmament, food security and peace; to guarantee the protection of the environment and to regulate migration: for all this, there is urgent need of a true world political authority.
Is it possible that these popes are proposing a world government with total control of currency, the food supply, military forces, private property and immigration, along with a court system to uphold its decrees? This plan disturbingly parallels the UN's Sustainable Development Goals enumerated in its Agenda 21 program, formulated at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The John Birch Society describes Agenda 21 as a plan "for the global control and restriction over your daily life, including your private property, individual rights, and civil liberties — all in the apparent name of the environment and so-called social justice."
Indeed, world government as the only alternative to eco-catastrophe is an ongoing theme of the UN's environmental programs. "Throughout the last two years, in preparation for the encyclical rollout, the Vatican has relied solely upon global warming alarmists in its rush to judgment to meet the UN 2015 Sustainable Development Goals' timetable," said Elizabeth Yore, child's rights attorney for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. She maintains that alarmists "exploit discredited climate change science to justify their extremist population reduction policies." Yore traveled to Rome in April as part of a Heartland Institute delegation to educate the pope about real climate science.
Also with the delegation was E. Calvin Beisner, spokesman for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation. "Sad to say, despite Pope Francis's best intentions, the policies he recommends to mitigate global warming would make it far more difficult to overcome poverty," warns Beisner. "Pope Francis should champion economic development as a solution both to poverty and to environmental degradation."
Not that environmental degradation is quite as bad as the encyclical claims. Not by a long shot. Of the "numerous hypothetical disastrous consequences of climate change," notes Richard Keen, "none of these projected catastrophic consequences are anywhere to be found on the real Earth." Keen is meterology professor emeritus of the University of Colorado-Boulder. Also speaking for The Heartland Institute, he observed that there has been "no warming whatsoever" during the past 18 years and that measures to mitigate supposed global warming "would be flawed policies that will fail to solve a non-existent problem."
Photo of Pope Francis: AP Images