Home » Comment and analysis » Ian Plimer: Comment on the ‘Laudato Si’ papal encyclical

Ian Plimer: Comment on the ‘Laudato Si’ papal encyclical

by Professor Ian Plimer (Connor Court Publishing Pty Ltd)

The recent papal Encyclical was on climate and the environment. This book criticises the Encyclical and shows that we have never lived in better times, that cheap fossil fuel energy has and is continuing to bring hundreds of millions of people from peasant poverty to the middle class and that the alleged dangerous global warming is a myth.

I have great respect for the Pope’s sincere wishes to end pollution and poverty. We all share the same sentiments. The solution is to use cheap coal-fired electricity and not to demonise coal and other fossil fuels. The Industrial Revolution and the growth of East Asia and India shows that with cheap coal-fired electricity, people are brought out of poverty. It has happened to hundreds of millions of people over the last 20 years.

Burning coal releases CO2. This is the gas of life. Plants feed on CO2 and there has been a greening of the Earth with the slight increase of CO2 in the atmosphere. The food for all life on Earth has been wrongly demonised as a pollutant. Some 97% of CO2 emissions are natural.

It has yet to be shown that CO2 drives global warming and all models of future climate based increases in CO2 have failed. Despite hysterical predictions based on models, planet Earth has not deteriorated due to an increase in CO2 in the atmosphere. Nature and humans add traces of a trace gas CO2 to the atmosphere.

The planet has not warmed for more than 18 years, models predicted a steady temperature increase over this time and a predicted hot spot over the equator has not eventuated. The models are not in accord with measured reality and are rejected. The science on climate change is far from settled, there is no consensus and there is no demonstrated evidence of human-induced global warming.

In the past when the Earth had a much higher atmospheric CO2 concentration than now, there was no tipping point, no run away global warming, no accelerated extinction and ecosystems thrived. When the past atmospheric CO2 content was up to 1,000 times higher than now, there were ice ages, no acid oceans, no correlation between temperature and atmospheric CO2 and no correlation between atmospheric CO2 and sea level.

This high atmospheric CO2 content was removed into sediments via living organisms and was eventually sequestered in sedimentary rocks. There has been no compelling case made for the need to reduce CO2 emissions by humans, models of future climate have overestimated the projected rate of warning and have totally ignored the possibility of global cooling. Geology and history show us that global cooling kills people and destroys ecosystems.

The Pope’s promotion of renewable energy shows that he was poorly advised. The Pope has only listened to a small group of green left environmental activists and atheists, some who are in a warm embrace with communism. Wind, solar, wave and tidal forces do not have the energy density to keep modern society alive. Construction of wind and solar industrial complexes release more CO2 than they save and are inefficient, unreliable and need back up 24/7 from coal, gas, nuclear or hydro. In order to try to make renewable energy more competitive, governments have increased the costs of conventional electricity to the point where there is fuel poverty in Western countries and employment-generating businesses are closing down or moving to countries with cheaper coal-fired electricity. The Pope’s solution to perceived problems is agrarian socialism using wind and solar power.

No Third World country trying to escape from poverty can afford renewable energy and it is only Western countries that use renewable energy because they are wealthy. Wealthy countries didn’t become wealthy overnight and centuries of the evolution of free trade, democracy, creativity, resource utilisation and property rights made wealth creation possible. Governments, collectives or international treaties did not create this wealth. Individuals created it. By denying poor countries access to fossil fuels, Pope Francis condemns them to permanent poverty with the associated disease, short life and unemployment.

The Pope seems to have swallowed hook, line and sinker the new environmental religion that competes with Catholicism. The Encyclical is an anti-development, anti-market enthusiastic embrace of global green left environmental ideology and much of the Encyclical is a denunciation of free markets dressed up as religious instruction.

Most Encyclicals are about hope whereas Laudato Si’ is actually a depressing doomsday view of the future without evidence, science and discussions about uncertainty. The Pope shows concerns for the poor yet only offers constraints that would make the poor poorer. There are no scientific references in the Encyclical even though much of it is supposedly about science and it attempts to use science to make comments about the future.

Global living standards have improved, people are wealthier, fewer people live in abject poverty and more people have access to sanitation, clean water and electricity. There is still a lot to achieve. The toll from diseases has decreased, people live longer, fewer people are killed from extreme weather events and there has been no increase in economic damage from extreme weather events.

All in all, the world is a better place. A slight increase in CO2 in the atmosphere had increased crop yields and has increased forest area and productivity. The net impact of a slight increase in atmospheric CO2 has been beneficial to the biosphere.

The Third World and the developing countries desperately need to escape from poverty. The Pope’s concern for the world’s poor will amount to nothing unless they can have safe drinking water and affordable and reliable electricity for heating and cooking. No longer should the poor die from the smoke emitted by burning dung, leaves and twigs in huts.

Only when Third World children can do homework at night using cheap coal-fired electricity can they escape from poverty. Abundant cheap electricity can be used to pump water and treat sewage. Separate reticulated water and waste water systems have saved more lives on Earth than any other invention. Cheap electricity powers civilisation and creates wealth and jobs.


  1. tallbloke says:

    This is an excellent critique of the papal encyclical. The only point I would add is that since much of the eco-angst is predicated on rising human population, it should be mentioned that developed countries with modern affordable power generation systems have reduced birth-rates. People leading safer, longer, healthier lives don’t have the urge to create large families since infant mortality is lower, and they don’t need so many offspring to guarantee support in later life.

    The biggest cause of rising emissions and resource usage is rising population. The most humanistic approach to slowing the growth of the world’s population is not by coercing the poorer countries with ‘aid’ money contingent on a ‘no fossil fuel’ energy policy, but by enriching their lives by helping them develop their economies.


  2. Laurie Wilson says:

    The Church Heirarchy changes tack
    Having plummeted into the self inflicted mire of scandal inherent in the arguably criminal concealment of its extensive priestly paedophile set across the western part of the world, and seeing its credibility and its relevance trashed amongst a mass of the faithful laity, with church attendances and accompanying financial support dropping away steadily, the Heirarchy in its new encyclical now seeks to lift itself from that morass with a sharp and vocal diversion into the politics and science of the climate change issue.

    An old and well proven public relations tactic – change the subject, and go populist – or so it imagines, as its path to recover relevance, and control. And stamp the change of position as being of urgent moral imperative – the next step, one might even go as far as to predict will be at the least to imply its declarations in this arena touch into its ‘papal infallibility’ dogma which it claims for ‘faith and morals’, in order to draw the unaware and naïve into believing it must be so.

    Galileo Galilei, Giordano Bruno, and Copernicus would be delighted to learn that their sad experience is no longer the greatest debacle in the never ending battle between church dogma and science.

    There are several biographies now available on Pope Francis – one I read recently ‘Pope Francis – Untying the Knots’ (Paul Vallely); the Knots referring to quite a bit of baggage he had acquired and which he has to some degree acknowledged as not being too favourable – a poor record of dictatorial management when at a very young age heading the Jesuits in Argentina, then allegedly aligning too closely with the fascist regime during the ‘Dirty War’ era (justification – protect the Church at all costs – sound familiar ?) when 30000+ people disappeared (some clerics presently in gaol for involvement). Francis suppressed some of his priests working in the impoverished slums (because of alleged liberation theology links) but later acknowledged their motives as being validly in support of the Preferential Option for the Poor which he now genuinely supports strongly, but which he naively and in ignorance negates by setting the Church on a path to continued impoverishment of the poor with his Laudato Si declaration.

    It seems clear his ears were open only to the alarmists and totally closed to alternative science based evidences (which I am aware were available to him, but blocked by his alarmist minders); this indicates he is a man whose mind is locked in green/left mode – and perhaps locked on many other controversial and archaic issues of Church dogma too – time will tell.

    As to my personal position – I’m a practising catholic who leans somewhat to the right on some Church issues and a little left on some but I’ve long ago stopped blindly accepting Vatican pronouncements as ‘gospel’. Regrettably far too many of the laity still do whilst being largely ignorant or apathetic of the substance of issues; they follow the party line blindly, as will many, but not all, with with this pronouncement.


  3. […] Prof Ian Plimer, [geologist and paleoclimate expert, University of Adelaide ] Heaven & Hell; the Pope condemns the poor to eternal poverty Full article […]

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