Pope Francis’ much ballyhooed encyclical on the environment is, unfortunately, riddled with error, unsound science and unwarranted visions of an imminent apocalypse generated to a large extent by free market economics. Like so much information spread by radical environmentalists, the encyclical makes numerous assertions that are either false or dubious, at best. Let’s examine some of the more egregious flaws in the encyclical:
1) The encyclical states, “A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system.” It’s true that there’s a consensus that the earth warmed about 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit over the past century or so, but whether this is “disturbing” – or even unusual – is a matter of great uncertainty, even among participants in the UN’s alarmist Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In April, Philip Lloyd, who has served as an IPCC Lead Author, published a peer-reviewed paper that found that over the past 8,000 years temperature has varied an average of 1.7°F.
2) Moreover, most global warming scientists, even avid believers, now agree that global warming has stalled since about 1988. Even the IPCC admitted in its latest report the existence of what it called a “hiatus in GMST [global mean surface temperature] trend during the past 15 years” – although it buried this admission on page 769 of the report. Climate scientist Hans von Storch, Director of the Institute for Coastal Research at Germany’s Helmholtz Research Centre, agrees. He said in 2013, “according to most climate models, we should have seen temperatures rise by around 0.25 degrees Celsius (0.45°F) over the past 10 years. That hasn’t happened. In fact, the increase over the last 15 years was just 0.06 degrees Celsius (0.11°F) — a value very close to zero.” (Emphasis added)
3) Despite what the encyclical says, the best information that science has to offer today reveals that the earth has actually warmed far less than the models used by alarmists to predict catastrophe. For example, James Hansen of NASA, a leading propagandist for the climate change enthusiasts, kicked off the global warming scare in 1988 with scary testimony before Congress and an even scarier climate model that forecast temperature by 2014 a scary 2.34°F warmer than the 1951-1980 average. Now we know, thanks to NASA itself, that the actual temperature increased only about half as much as Hansen’s model projected – even though CO2 emissions were actually higher than in his projection. Observations suggest that the a doubling of atmospheric CO2 might lead to a relatively mild warming closer to the original 3.6°F projected by Manabe and Weatherald in 1967 than to Hansen’s frightening 1988 prediction of up to 9°F.
4) Despite the Pope’s suggestion that recent decades have seen “an increase of extreme weather events” and “melting in the polar ice caps,” the U.S., where records are good, has seen no significant increase whatsoever, for instance, in hurricanes or tornadoes, nor has the world seen any significant decrease in global sea ice. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) concludes “there has been little trend in the frequency of the stronger tornadoes over the past 55 years.” Similarly, NOAA data record that during 1911-1960, the U.S. averaged 7.8 major hurricanes per decade, declining to 5.2 major hurricanes per decade during 1961-2010. Likewise, NASA satellite data show global sea ice today at about the same level as when satellites started monitoring it in 1979.
5) The encyclical’s claim of a “very solid scientific consensus” that recent warming is “disturbing” is also false. While there is broad agreement that we have seen warming, and that some portion of this warming is attributable to human activities, there is great uncertainty regarding the size of this proportion, and how great a risk it poses.
Following the 1995 Kyoto Conference, some 80 scientists, including Frederick Seitz, former President of U.S. National Academy of Sciences and several who participated in the IPCC process, signed the Leipzig Declaration, stating in part, “We believe that the dire predictions of a future warming have not been validated by the historic climate record, which appears to be dominated by natural fluctuations, showing both warming and cooling. These predictions are based on nothing more than theoretical models and cannot be relied on to construct far-reaching policies.” (Emphasis added)
In the wake of that conference, more than 9,000 PhDs, among them Edward Teller, “father of the hydrogen bomb,” signed the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine’s Global Warming Petition, which reads in part, “There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth.”
-Richard Keen, climatologist, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of Colorado. (Global warming ranges from “minor inconvenience that’s overblown” to “nothing – it doesn’t exist” or “a good thing.” “Earth has cooled since 1998 … in defiance of the predictions by the UN-IPCC.” Observing that the most Antarctic sea ice on record was recorded in 2007, Keen asked, “Did you see [that fact] reported in the news?” “U.S. carbon emission growth rate has slowed to 0.2 % per year since 2000,” Keen wrote.
-Douglas V. Hoyt, solar physicist and climatologist, formerly of NOAA and the National Center for Atmospheric Research; coauthor, The Role of the Sun in Climate Change (“Starting in 1997, we created a scorecard to see how climate model predictions were matching observations. The picture is not pretty with most of the predictions being wrong in magnitude and often in sign.”)
-John T. Everett, former IPCC Lead Author, ocean researcher, former senior manager, NOAA (“It is time for a reality check … Warming is not a big deal and is not a bad thing…. The one degree F rise since about 1860, indeed since the year 1000, has brought the global average temperature from 56.5 to 57.5 degrees. . . .The NOAA PaleoClimate Program shows us that when the dinosaurs roamed the earth, the earth was much warmer, the CO2 levels were 2 to 4 times higher, and coral reefs were much more expansive.”)
Prominent among former alarmists is Green guru James Lovelock, best known for the “Gaia hypothesis.” In 2006, Lovelock wrote that “before this century is over billions of us will die and the few breeding pairs of people that survive will be in the Arctic where the climate remains tolerable.”
Lovelock was immediately feted as a sage and a prophet: from the Washington Post, to Time magazine, to Rolling Stone, the media could not praise him enough. The UK Geological Society even awarded him its prestigious Wollaston Medal. But in 2012, Lovelock reversed himself, according to MSNBC:
“The problem is we don’t know what the climate is doing. We thought we knew 20 years ago. That led to some alarmist books – mine included – because it looked clear-cut, but it hasn’t happened,” Lovelock said…
“We were supposed to be halfway toward a frying world now,” he said.
“The world has not warmed up very much since the millennium. Twelve years is a reasonable time… it (the temperature) has stayed almost constant, whereas it should have been rising — carbon dioxide is rising, no question about that,” he added.
8) Perhaps most noteworthy among the skeptics is Freeman Dyson, emeritus professor of physics at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, where he worked with Albert Einstein. He is a fellow of the American Physical Society, a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and a fellow of the Royal Society of London.
Dyson is a member of “Jason, a small government-financed group of the country’s finest scientists, whose members gather each summer near San Diego to work on (often) classified (usually) scientific dilemmas of (frequently) military interest to the government.” According to the New York Times:
Dyson has been particularly dismissive of Al Gore, whom Dyson calls climate change’s “chief propagandist,” and James Hansen … an adviser to Gore’s film, “An Inconvenient Truth.” Dyson accuses them of relying too heavily on computer-generated climate models that foresee a Grand Guignol of imminent world devastation as icecaps melt, oceans rise and storms and plagues sweep the earth, and he blames the pair’s “lousy science” for “distracting public attention” from “more serious and more immediate dangers to the planet….”
9) The Pope’s call for the “gradual framing and acceptance of binding commitments” has been read as reproaching the U.S. for not ratifying the Kyoto Protocol. But Canada did ratify the protocol in 1997; a decade later, 60 scientists signed a letter urging withdrawal from Kyoto, arguing, “Significant [scientific] advances have been made since the protocol was created, many of which are taking us away from a concern about increasing greenhouse gases.” One signatory, Chris de Freitas, a climate scientist at the University of Auckland, N.Z., and a former supporter of Kyoto, wrote:
At first I accepted that increases in human-caused additions of carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere would … lead to dangerous ‘global warming,’ but with … the results of research, I formed the view that … it is unlikely that the man-made changes are drivers of significant climate variation….
… the billions of dollars committed to GW research and lobbying … could be better spent on uncontroversial and very real environmental problems (such as air pollution, poor sanitation, provision of clean water and improved health services) that we know affect tens of millions of people.
10) Even before the Pope embraced current scientific orthodoxy, defenders of this new faith were demanding that “heretics” be arrested, prosecuted, and punished. But as another heretic who challenged the scientific orthodoxy of his day put it, “in questions of science the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual.” It took 350 years for the Vatican to admit Galileo was right. What will our descendants think of today’s orthodoxy 350 years from now?