- - Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Pope Francis’s Laudato Si encyclical on Earth’s climate and environment is eloquent and passionate. It is also encumbered by platitudes and errors.

His Holiness believes climate change is primarily man-made and driven by a capitalist economic system that exploits the poor. Therefore, he says, we must slash fossil fuel use, reform the global economy, promote sustainable development and wealth redistribution, and promote “sacred rights” to labor, lodging and land for the poor.

“Man has slapped nature in the face,” the pontiff declares. “Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as in the last 200 years. If we destroy creation, it will destroy us.”

The United Nations would applaud his perspective.

The next climate summit will negotiate “the distribution of the world’s resources,” one climate official stated. In fact, says U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres, the United Nations is undertaking “probably the most difficult task we have ever given ourselves, which is to intentionally transform the global economic development model.”

What will replace that model, she and her unelected, unaccountable U.N. bureaucrats don’t say. But that is the central issue in a debate they do not want to have.

The world is trying to feed, clothe and provide jobs, lodging, land, electricity, and better health and living standards for six billion more people than lived on our planet 200 years ago. Back then, reliance on human and animal muscle, wood and dung fires, windmills and water wheels, and primitive agriculture made life nasty, brutish and short for most of humanity.

Thankfully, human life expectancy and societal wealth has surged dramatically over the past two centuries. None of this would have been possible without the capitalism, scientific method and fossil fuels that at U.N., Environmental Protection Agency, Big Green and Vatican policymakers now want to toss into history’s dustbin.

Over the past three decades, coal and natural gas helped 1.3 billion people get electricity and escape debilitating poverty. However, 1.3 billion still do not have electricity. In India alone, more people still lack electricity than live in the United States; in sub-Saharan Africa, 730 million (the population of Europe) still cook and heat with wood, charcoal and animal dung.

Hundreds of millions get horribly sick and 4-6 million die every year from lung and intestinal diseases due to breathing smoke from open fires and not having clean water, refrigeration and unspoiled food.

Ending this poverty, disease and death will require vast new supplies of affordable raw materials and mostly hydrocarbon energy. Thankfully, these resources are still abundant, because creative intellect — our ultimate resource — continues to devise hydraulic fracturing and other technologies, most of which Pope Francis and his allies oppose.

However, little solar panels on huts, subsistence and organic farming, and bird-butchering wind turbines have serious cost, reliability, human health and sustainability problems of their own. If the pope truly wants to help the poor, he must ponder these realities and other views of his newfound allies.

“Giving society cheap energy is like giving an idiot child a machine gun,” “Population Bomb” author Paul Ehrlich has said. Frustrated that the “instant death control” provided by DDT brought a “drastic lowering of death rates” in poor countries, he also said they need to have a “death rate solution” imposed on them.

“We need to de-develop the United States” and other developed countries, Mr. Ehrlich and Obama science adviser John Holdren insist, to bring them “into line with the realities of ecology and the global resource situation.” Then we must address the “ecologically feasible development” of underdeveloped countries.

Radical environmentalists view humans (other than themselves) as consumers, polluters and “a plague upon the Earth” — never as creators, innovators or protectors. They oppose modern fertilizers and biotech foods that feed more people from less land, using less water. They vilify all forms and uses of carbon-based energy.

Who gave these would-be global ruling elites the right to decide who will live or die, what is “ecologically feasible,” what living standards people will be “permitted” to enjoy, or how the world should “more fairly” share continued scarcity, poverty and energy deprivation?

We need to protect our planet and its people — from real problems, not imaginary ones. In the real world, we are not facing climate chaos or weather events worse or more frequent than mankind has endured for centuries. We are not running out of energy or raw materials.

Climate change is a critical moral issue, because denying people access to abundant, reliable, affordable hydrocarbon energy is immoral — and lethal.

It is a crime against humanity to impose policies that pretend to protect the world’s energy-deprived masses from hypothetical man-made climate and other dangers decades from now — by perpetuating poverty, malnutrition and disease that would kill millions of them tomorrow.

Hopefully, Pope Francis will modify his encyclical to address these truths.

Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow, author of “Eco-Imperialism: Green power — Black death” (Merril Press, 2010) and coauthor of “Cracking Big Green: Saving the world from the Save-the-Earth money machine” (CFACT, 2014).

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