Thursday, June 25, 2015

Pope Francis: Prosperity, Liberty, and Climate Change are the Common Enemy

Pope Francis released his anticipated climate change encyclical, titled LAUDATO SI’—"ON CARE FOR OUR COMMON HOME.”

I have not read the pope’s encyclical in its entirety, but I have skimmed it. It’s not primarily about climate change. The New Jersey Star-Ledger, despite the heading of it editorial—The Pope stands up to climate change deniers—also seems to have grasped this, and zeroes in on Francis’s essential message. The editors write:

Just because scientists have won the argument on climate change doesn't mean they can inspire people to do anything about it.

This is where Pope Francis comes in. With an encyclical, the highly-anticipated papal letter he released yesterday, he is adding his moral authority to this debate, and refocusing it where it should be: on poverty.

Because at its heart, climate action isn't about the earth. It's about the fate of human beings on earth. It's about how we treat our most vulnerable.

The Pope reminds us that the people who will suffer the most from global warming are the very ones who have little or nothing to do with it.

His admonishments were clearly directed at high-consuming countries like the United States, which bear the bulk of the blame for world's carbon pollution.

The Star-Ledger had a few other noteworthy comments. For one, it repeated Francis’ description of the Earth as “an immense pile of filth.” "At the bottom of the pile" are the world’s poor, especially poor children, who, the Star-Ledger paraphrases,  “are the ones who will shoulder the brunt of extreme weather caused by our greedy, materialistic consumption” which brought on the extreme weather:

And this is the future for those born in developing countries, which are the least able to cope with severe storms and changing weather patterns. Because it will only get worse.

In Africa, the United Nations warns that rain-fed agricultural production, which millions depend on for sustenance, could be cut in half. This will likely be followed by the desperate migration of "climate refugees," forced to invade new territories for fertile land, sparking tensions and violent wars.

If you doubt the connection the Star-Ledger observes between climate change and a broader agenda in the papal letter, read Part VI. THE COMMON DESTINATION OF GOODS of the encyclical (from which I quote below). I left these comments:

“. . . refocusing [the debate] where it should be: on poverty.

“Because at its heart, climate action isn't about the earth. It's about the fate of human beings on earth. It's about how we treat our most vulnerable.”

The Star-Ledger points to the link between climate change and the Church’s long-standing statist global ambitions and hatred of prosperity.

The Catholic Church, through a long line of papal encyclicals, has been waging a protracted war on liberty, free market capitalism, and the individualistic pursuit of happiness, the pre-conditions of prosperity. Pope Francis goes one step further: He ingeniously connects prosperity, liberty, and climate change together into a common enemy. Francis has recognized that climate change is a perfect vehicle to exploit for the purpose of waging the Church’s anti-capitalist crusade, which includes a call for a global statist regime of economic control and redistribution of wealth. From Pope Paul VI’s condemnation of “surplus goods” to Francis’ condemnation of “unsustainable consumption,” the Church’s antipathy to human prosperity and flourishing much above the poverty level of basic need—to be satisfied by global socialism—shines through the Church’s rhetoric.

The April 2015 declaration of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, “Climate Change and the Common Good”—the preamble to the encyclical—is unequivocal: “Market forces alone . . . cannot solve the intertwined crises of poverty, exclusion, and the environment.” “Present economic systems have been accompanied by the development of unacceptable gaps between the rich and the poor, the latter still lacking access to most of the scientific and technical benefits that we have developed in the industrial world.” To solve these alleged problems, the Declaration calls for “a reallocation of the benefits and burdens that accompany humanity’s activities both within nations and between nations.” Since free markets “allocate” benefits and burdens according to voluntary trade and mutual consent among producers, the only way to reallocate is by force through a global statist regime of economic control and redistribution of wealth. This is not a new position for the Church, but a reiteration of a long-standing goal. Half a century ago, Pope Paul VI attacked free market capitalism and its foundation of individual rights and limited rights-protecting government in a call for global collectivization. In his 1967 encyclical “POPULORUM PROGRESSIO,” Paul wrote:

"God intended the earth and everything in it for the use of all human beings and peoples. Thus, under the leadership of justice and in the company of charity, created goods should flow fairly to all." (20)

All other rights, whatever they may be, including the rights of property and free trade, are to be subordinated to this principle.

It is for the public authorities to establish and lay down the desired goals, the plans to be followed, and the methods to be used in fulfilling them. . .

Since goods can only flow fairly when rights of property and free trade are protected, Paul obviously means to facilitate a “fair” flow of goods by rolling over property rights and free trade by governmental force.

Likewise, in his new encyclical “LAUDATO SI’,” Francis advances “the principle of the subordination of private property to the universal destination of goods, and thus the right of everyone to their use” based on “a social [i.e., state] mortgage on all private property, in order that goods may serve the general purpose.” Both popes advance the basic premises of socialist statism. Add in a hefty dose of climate change and a slap at income inequality—today’s hot Leftist causes—and Francis’ encyclical echoes Pope Paul VI. For the Church as for the Left, Global warming is just a convenient tool for advancing its long-standing goal of totalitarian world socialism.

If the Church were really concerned with alleviating poverty and the poor’s susceptibility to climate danger, it would advocate for the poor the same social conditions—fossil fuel-driven industrial advancement and its cause, free market capitalism—now enjoyed to a substantial degree by the developed and, increasingly, by the developing world. Wealthier nations are so much better able to cope with climate dangers, without conflict, because of relatively free trade powered by fossil fuels, which enables the mass flow of goods, including food, from areas of plenty to areas afflicted by temporary restrictions on production, such as droughts. No need for “climate refugees” to fight like animals over finite resources when freedom to innovate, expand production, and trade can solve the problem peacefully, civilly, and mutually beneficially to all. Instead, the Church calls for restrictions on the social conditions and the energy source most responsible for making wealthier nations safer and less vulnerable to climate dangers. The Church would rather spread the misery than the safety—a “vow of poverty” for the entire world.

Why attack prosperity and its means?

Don’t be gulled by Francis’ description of today’s Earth as “an immense pile of filth” generated by our “unsustainable consumption” due to fossil fuel use. As energy expert Alex Epstein observes, if Pope Clement XI (1700-21) could visit today's world, he’d find an Earth that is immensely cleaner and healthier than the world of 300 years ago.

And don’t try to counter the Pope’s (or the Star-Ledger’s) dogma that fossil fuels have made our climate more dangerous with facts such as that extreme-weather and climate-related deaths have dropped 98% over the past century—the very era of global warming. Far from making life on our planet harder, fossil fuel-driven industrial prosperity has made us safer than ever before. Fossil fuels have enabled us to take a dangerous natural environment and make it much more human life friendly.

Such inconvenient facts will fall on deaf ears. The pope’s handwringing over climate change is just window dressing. His real target, in solidarity with previous popes, is prosperity. Again: Why? Poverty and misery are the foundation of modern Catholicism. “Ministering to the poor” is central to the Catholic Church’s purpose for being—and its power. Where would the Church be if poverty continues to give way to capitalistic, fossil-fueled prosperity worldwide? The Church has a vested interest in poverty. No more poverty, no more Mother Teresas. The Pope’s encyclical is saturated with concern for the world’s needy. But need—man’s natural state—can be satisfied essentially in only one of two ways; produce or drain the productive. Instead of advocating policies that lead to greater production to solve the problems of the needy, Francis seeks to drain the productive. So the Church will continue to fight tooth and nail to “protect” the poor—from fossil-fueled capitalist prosperity—even as it pushes to confiscate the “surplus” created by that fossil-fueled capitalist prosperity. The contradiction is obvious. Can an institution as venerable as the Catholic Church be so dumb as not to see the contradiction that destroying the prosperous can not possibly solve poverty? Or is destroying the prosperous the point? Some wonder why Francis would drag the Church into the global warming quagmire. But given the Church’s fundamental worship of and dependence on poverty and misery, the Pope’s encyclical makes perfect sense.

Related Reading:

Pope Francis’s Embrace of Anti-Fossil Fuel Agenda Follows From Church’s Anti-Capitalism

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