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Papal Encyclical on Climate Change Establishes a New Conventional Wisdom – Flaws and All

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Since the Pope has weighed in against the climate policies of Canadian Conservatives, Liberals and NDP (do nothing, hide from the issue and support cap and trade, respectively) I have been emphasizing the positive parts of his message. The message has a few flaws, however.

In the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists yesterday, Lawrence M. Krauss quotes his colleague Steven Pinker:

“The pontiff continues in the millennia-long Catholic tradition of vilifying technology, commerce, and ordinary people enjoying the fruits of material progress. So he puts the blame on economics and consumerism. But the solution to climate change is not to moralize from on high and implore people—particularly the poor people whom he claims to sympathize with—to learn to be abstemious for the common good and do without central heating, electric lights, and efficient transport. Billions of people aren’t going to do that. Not even the pope—especially not the pope—is going to do that.”

Pinker went on to point out that the solutions to the challenges raised by global climate change will be primarily economic and technological, including a global carbon tax and investment in the development of new energy technologies.

It is true that the encyclical is full of moralizing. Its importance lies in the fact that it comes from a notoriously conservative source and establishes a new conventional wisdom about the science of climate change for a huge mass of humanity. The Pope calls for action. Can other Conservatives be far behind?



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