Anthropogenic climate change has become so politicized in the US it’s difficult for a layman to dispassionately assess the danger it poses. On one side, dogmatic leftists repeat ad nauseum the deceptive “97% of scientists agree it’s real” statistic, while on the other, the GOP’s punditry assert it’s all a conspiracy between grant-seeking academics and environmental wack jobs aiming to bankrupt the country. Both sides of the debate irk me. But it remains true that both sides have real incentives to promote or deny their respective agendas at the expense of truth.
Energy companies know that moving away from fossil fuels and increasing environmental protections will devastate their bottom line, while the Left (and the environmental movement/academics therein) sees the spectre of climate apocalypse as a means to consolidate economic control globally, shift to a post-industrial paradigm, and regain lost ground for collectivism since the collapse of the Eastern Bloc.
For my part, I’ve tried to avoid playing armchair climatologist. That said, I’ve often erred on the side of skepticism – not in denying a warming trend or corresponding human component – but certainly in questioning the apocalyptic scenarios predicted by activists. Climategate made this attitude easier to maintain. I’ve also questioned whether cutting CO2 emissions will even make much of a long-term difference. If we’re already doomed, as many scientists seem to suggest, why wreck the economy in the meantime and make the waiting period even worse?
Pope Francis’ Encyclical Letter, Laudato Si’, forced me to reevaluate my long-held skepticism towards the issue. Suffice it to say that Francis is not my favorite pontiff, as many of his off the cuff statements and personnel changes have sown division and confusion among the faithful. Nevertheless, I have never questioned his compassion for the poor, the marginalized, the spiritually impoverished of the First World, and the materially impoverished of the Third World. And consensus is clear that the poor will bear the brunt of the misery created by rising sea-levels, rising temperatures and habitat loss. I therefore read Francis’ environmental manifesto with great care. Pater Edmund Waldstein O. Cist gives a much better assessment of the encyclical than I could render here:
Pope Francis has indeed penned a cri de coeur against the destruction of God’s beautiful creation, the marring of the creatures whom God has given as so many words revealing his beauty and love, and the impoverishment and debasement of man, the destruction of human culture, and the oppression of the poor and murder of the innocent that have been the price of “progress.” But Laudato Si’ is much more than a cry of protest against the evils of modernity. What makes this a truly great and moving and beautiful encyclical is the magnificent exposition of another view of reality: a description of the true nature of the created order, in all its marvelous and interconnected glory, and of the true rôle of man as the gardener of this garden of wonders. Pope Francis’s style can at times be a tad bit rambling and prolix, and he lacks the incisive and subtle intellectual argumentation of Pope Benedict’s writings, but the shear wonder and love that suffuse Laudato Si’ makes this work of his rise to a very high level. He returns again and again to the wonder that filled his namesake, St. Francis:
My armchair advocacy for the American Solidarity Party has likewise influenced a greater concern for creation. Their environmental platform is sound, and worth pursuing. Most importantly, the birth of my daughter has made concern for the future of the planet far less abstract.
I may die without experiencing the worst consequences of our industrial pollution. She and her children almost certainly will not. It is incumbent upon Distributists to push our elected representatives to lead the way, enter imperfect treaties abroad, and continue subsidizing innovators like Elon Musk on the home-front, working to make renewable energy an affordable, viable option on a larger scale.
We’re witnessing now what happens when a few million refugees migrate into Europe at once: Brexit, the impending break up of the broader EU, sectarian violence, Islamic terrorism, a proliferation of sexual assaults, the rise of the reactionary right, the exodus of European Jews to Israel, etc. The sobering reality is that this refugee crisis represents a nonevent compared to the crisis on the horizon.
If a few million Syrians can destabilize Western Europe, what will happen when First World nations are forced to absorb as many as 200 million climate refugees?