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Culture

Is the Encyclical a Measured Document?

Josiah Neeley has a very nice piece at First Things making the case that the Pope’s environmental encyclical is really “a more measured affair” than the advanced notices suggest. I’m afraid this isn’t right. Putting aside the anti-development tone and content of much of it, which I take it may be par for the course in these documents, the encyclical goes beyond the science to embrace a fashionable alarmism on climate. Here is one passage (emphasis added):

The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all. At the global level, it is a complex system linked to many of the essential conditions for human life. A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system. In recent decades this warming has been accompanied by a constant rise in the sea level and, it would appear, by an increase of extreme weather events, even if a scientifically determinable cause cannot be assigned to each particular phenomenon. Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it.

Now, that statement about extreme weather is hedged, but it’s a classic rhetorical ploy of the alarmist side of the climate debate to try to leverage current weather for their case, even though the science doesn’t support it.

There’s also this, which doesn’t strike my ear as a very measured or careful statement:

The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.

And here is one of the key take-aways near the end, which is unapologetically apocalyptic and urges sweeping immediate action on that basis:  

Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain. We may well be leaving to coming generations debris, desolation and filth. The pace of consumption, waste and environmental change has so stretched the planet’s capacity that our contemporary lifestyle, unsustainable as it is, can only precipitate catastrophes, such as those which even now periodically occur in different areas of the world. The effects of the present imbalance can only be reduced by our decisive action, here and now. We need to reflect on our accountability before those who will have to endure the dire consequences.

Unfortunately, this document is as bad as advertised.

Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review. He can be reached via email: comments.lowry@nationalreview.com. 

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