The pope, climate change & ideology.
Over at the First Things blog, Thomas Sieger Derr cites Pope Benedict as a supporter of his skepticism of the “climate-alarmism movement”:
…in a message prepared for World Peace Day on January 1, but released today, [the pope is] warning us against the climate change prophets of doom. He does not take sides in the scientific debate: “Humanity today is rightly concerned about the ecological balance of tomorrow.” But he does believe the case against global warming is over-hyped, that solutions to global warming must be based on firm evidence and not on dubious ideology, and that care for the environment must not mean that the welfare of plants and animals takes priority over human need.
This message will greatly annoy the global warming crowd, who will point out that the pope is not a scientist (and neither is Al Gore). But at least they won’t be able to claim he’s in the pay of the oil industry.
Yes, that message will greatly annoy the “global warming crowd”–until they read what Benedict actually wrote. Rather than rely on the esteemed journalism of the Daily Mail, let’s look at the primary source. Here’s the passage in which the Daily Mail and Thomas Sieger Derr read a papal warning against climate-change doomsayers:
7. The family needs a home, a fit environment in which to develop its proper relationships. For the human family, this home is the earth, the environment that God the Creator has given us to inhabit with creativity and responsibility. We need to care for the environment: it has been entrusted to men and women to be protected and cultivated with responsible freedom, with the good of all as a constant guiding criterion. Human beings, obviously, are of supreme worth vis-à-vis creation as a whole. Respecting the environment does not mean considering material or animal nature more important than man. Rather, it means not selfishly considering nature to be at the complete disposal of our own interests, for future generations also have the right to reap its benefits and to exhibit towards nature the same responsible freedom that we claim for ourselves. Nor must we overlook the poor, who are excluded in many cases from the goods of creation destined for all. Humanity today is rightly concerned about the ecological balance of tomorrow. It is important for assessments in this regard to be carried out prudently, in dialogue with experts and people of wisdom, uninhibited by ideological pressure to draw hasty conclusions, and above all with the aim of reaching agreement on a model of sustainable development capable of ensuring the well-being of all while respecting environmental balances. If the protection of the environment involves costs, they should be justly distributed, taking due account of the different levels of development of various countries and the need for solidarity with future generations. Prudence does not mean failing to accept responsibilities and postponing decisions; it means being committed to making joint decisions after pondering responsibly the road to be taken, decisions aimed at strengthening that covenant between human beings and the environment, which should mirror the creative love of God, from whom we come and towards whom we are journeying.
8. In this regard, it is essential to “sense” that the earth is “our common home” and, in our stewardship and service to all, to choose the path of dialogue rather than the path of unilateral decisions. Further international agencies may need to be established in order to confront together the stewardship of this “home” of ours; more important, however, is the need for ever greater conviction about the need for responsible cooperation. The problems looming on the horizon are complex and time is short. In order to face this situation effectively, there is a need to act in harmony. One area where there is a particular need to intensify dialogue between nations is that of the stewardship of the earth’s energy resources… (boldface mine, italics Benedict’s)
The pope is quite right to point out the folly of allowing ideology to govern humanity’s response to the challenge of global climate change. But, pace Sieger Derr and the Mail, Benedict does not suggest that ideology belongs solely or even mainly to those pressing for immediate action to combat climate change. Rather, the pope says–sounding perhaps like those Sieger Derr would describe as alarmists–that “time is short.” He argues that “prudence does not mean failing to accept responsibilities and postponing decisions.” He emphasizes the importance of “responsible cooperation” among the world’s nations, especially regarding “stewardship of the earth’s energy resources.”
Unfortunately for the Daily Mail, Pope Benedict’s statement cannot be easily conscripted into either camp in the climate-change debate. That’s why it is so valuable.