Well said Dr. Burnett: Pope’s Climate Plan Would Leave Billions Impoverished

The pope’s climate conclave has come and gone, and with it went any hope this papacy would embrace a rational assessment of the evidence concerning claims humans are causing catastrophic climate change to inform his message to the world.

Had the pope bothered to consult scientists and economists outside his select circle of climate alarmists tied to the politically-founded and directed U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, he would have found almost every conclusion reached concerning the alleged coming climate catastrophe, the merits of fossil fuels, and the ability of low-density renewable energy technologies to raise the poor from poverty was dead wrong.

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The Papal declaration on the moral dimensions of climate change stated, “Human-induced climate change is a scientific reality, and its decisive mitigation is a moral and religious imperative for humanity.”

This statement was based almost entirely on model simulations of climate, not actual evidence. These models have repeatedly failed the test of reality at even the most basic levels. The models project ever-rising temperature, which they say are caused by increasing carbon-dioxide emissions. Despite an ongoing rise in carbon-dioxide levels, temperatures plateaued more than 18 years ago and haven’t risen since. Every year, the gap between climate model predictions and the actual temperatures measured grows. The observed facts do not validate the models, and when models and observations conflict, one should trust the observation, not the models.

Also relying on model predictions, the Pontifical academy’s final declaration touts increasingly frequent droughts, extreme storms, and rising sea levels as imminent climate threats due to fossil fuel use. The facts say otherwise. Sea levels are rising, but the average rate of rise is no greater now than it has been for the past 500 years and is in fact lower than the average rate of rise for the past 14,000 years. Though droughts continue to occur, measurements show their frequency, severity, and duration are no greater now than they were long before carbon-dioxide emissions began to rise.

The claim about extreme storms is a real puzzler, since the world is currently experiencing a hurricane drought. This isn’t theory or models, but fact. The five-year sum of the number of global tropical cyclones tracked between 1970 and 2015 is the lowest it has ever been in the 45-year record. The number of intense hurricanes is also setting record lows. As of April 22, it had been 3,467 days, or more than nine years, since a category 3 storm (Wilma on October 24th, 2005) made landfall in the United States. This is the longest period between major hurricane landfalls in the United States since 1900.

Finally, the papal declaration provides no evidence whatsoever for its claim the technology exists to decarbonize rapidly.

Google is a technological leader, and no company has done more to develop and deploy innovative clean energy technologies to quickly replace fossil fuels, yet even Google recently admitted defeat.

Starting in 2007, Google committed significant resources to tackle the world’s climate and energy problems. Its boldest effort, RE<C, aimed to develop renewable energy sources that would generate electricity more cheaply than coal-fired power plants. By 2011, the company shut down the initiative, having determined existing renewable technologies, even accounting for steady improvements in efficiency and declining costs, would be unable to replace fossil fuel-based energy for the vast majority of electric power generation. Google concluded what is needed is an entirely new suite of as-yet-unimagined energy technologies.

That is nothing like the message the pope’s U.N. technology advisors, woolly-headed academics all, delivered.

In the end, use of fossil fuels did not take a safe climate and make it hazardous for human health and ecological fecundity. On the contrary, the use of oil, coal, and natural gas has positively transformed the world, allowing billions to live freer, healthier, more prosperous and longer lives than the vast majority of the most powerful people in human history.

Although the kings of old controlled armies and sometimes untold riches, I have a car, microwave, indoor plumbing, and safe drinking water, and I can eat almost any fruit or vegetable without regard to season and can travel across the world in mere hours. All the wealth and power ancient emperors had couldn’t buy any one of these things, and they were all made possible through the use of fossil fuels.

Today’s poor deserve the chance to live as I do, not as their ancestors have done for millennia, toiling in poverty, constantly threatened with disease and malnourishment. Only fossil fuels can deliver them from this fate. The pope should show his real concern for the world’s poor by rejecting false claims of imminent climate disaster and the draconian restrictions they are being used to justify.

About the Author

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. (hburnett@heartland.org) is a research fellow on energy and the environment at The Heartland Institute, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research center based in Chicago, Illinois.

About budbromley

Life sciences executive, retired
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