Pope Benedict XVI certainly knows how to set the cat down amidst the pigeons. The pope’s remarks for January 1’s World Peace Day were released in advance, and they included a repudiation of global warming. The remarks, traditionally sent to the heads of governments and international organizations, acknowledged that while some claims and concerns were valid, they were being overblown in a fit of green hysteria. The Holy Father called for environmental action to be based on science, rather then the dogmas of an environmental movement that has been transformed into the the new religion of the Secular Left.
Benedict’s comments place him squarely at odds with the prevailing cultural currents in the world today. With former Democratic presidential nominee and noted global warming proponent Albert Gore having just won the Nobel Peace Prize, questioning the holy cause creates the same reaction among elites as would be the case if Karl Rove were suddenly invited to address the Democratic convention. Gore’s recent film, “An Inconvenient Truth”, filled theatres and set the global warming case as something that is now considered revealed truth rather then open for debate.
Modern science makes the claim of global warming and challenges those of us ying-yangs at the grass-roots to either accept their conclusions uncritically or be dismissed from the discussion. Since most of us don’t have the requisite qualifications, this presumably ends the debate. But if the consensus of the scientific community is going to be simply repeated verbatim as though it were the Baltimore Catechism, isn’t at least worth looking at their track record? Not long ago there was a scientific consensus the world was overpopulated and heading to disaster. The solution was supposed to be increased access to contraception. The Catholic Church held firm against this call. Today it’s becoming apparent there’s a reverse problem—a birth dearth. Europe is not reproducing at a sufficient rate to replenish itself and it’s social welfare systems are going to be increasingly financially strapped as new workers (and taxpayers) can’t keep pace with retirees. So when a new consensus is now said to be at hand, the scientific community might be more humble about its collective opinion. Their track record is, shall we say, an inconvenient truth.
The validity of the claims the science community is making are more then a mere academic discussion, as they propose radical solutions affecting us all. The Kyoto Protocol, signed by Bill Clinton, but thankfully shelved by the U.S. Senate when it was time for ratification, would have required draconian emissions cuts on the part of the United States. The measures required to implement the cuts would have caused severe dislocation to the economy and forced a toned-down lifestyle on everyone. Now, if we want to move toward a toned-down lifestyle, I’m all for it. Personally, I drive as little as possible and work to be as frugal and modest as possible. But that seems to set me apart from the high-profile Princes of Privilege who have made global warming their mantra. John Edwards is one of the Left’s champions this election season and leading the charge. The man lives in a mansion. Ted Kennedy’s lavish lifestyle has been well-documented, and the Clintons haven’t exactly gone out of their way to live the simple life. A person’s actions are the best interpreters of their thoughts. And by their actions, the leaders of the global warming crusade demonstrate themselves to be modern-day Pharisees—quite willing to heap the burdens of societal restructuring on others, while not lifting a finger of their own.
In the political arena, the issue cuts across traditional party lines. While the Republicans are generally seen as skeptical of global warming while Democrats all-out embrace it, the truth is more complex. Within the GOP, the conservatives who are influential in the nominating process are opposed to the free-market restrictions that would be required to get the emissions cuts. But for suburban yuppies, the enviro-religion is one of the wedge issues that can be used to turn their Republican leanings into a Democratic vote on Election Day. On other side of the aisle, the wealthy liberal elites who pay the bills in the Democratic Party and choose its candidates do indeed pay homage to the green. But across the Rustbelt and the Midwest are rank-and-file Democrats who work in heavy industry. They are the ones who would end up shouldering much of the burden their party wishes America to assume. And it’s not surprising that enviro-extremism is a key issue in persuading them to cross the aisle. Gore’s radicalism cost him traditionally Democratic West Virginia in the 2000 election, and with it the presidency. The party has also had to fight hard to hold on to what should be a stronghold in Pennsylvania. Though they’ve kept the Keystone State colored blue, it’s required the investment of resources that could have been used to move Ohio or Florida away from the GOP. Each party’s nominee has to walk a delicate balancing act between keeping its core base happy, while not alienating voters it desperately needs.
The divided political landscape is going to make radical change hard to enact. Policies that reflect the pope’s moderate message will be easier to sell. Science’s poor track record notwithstanding, the Holy Father does remind us there is an obligation to be good stewards of the earth. Cleaning up the rivers and streams and ensuring clean air are necessary steps. But global warming demands something much more. It goes beyond a healthy concern for the environment and into wholesale societal restructuring. If they want that sort of call to be heeded, they might want to develop a little bit better track record first. And that’s why Benedict’s reminder to steer away from the quasi-religious dogmatism of the green movement was all the more necessary today.