Leaked Laudato Lamented

(Reuters Giampiero Sposito) June 14 2015

Here are some comments on the leaked version of Laudato Si’. As everybody knows, the final version may be different than the leaked version. Even if so, the comments I make are valid concerning the material we have. I also only concentrate on the section devoted to “climate change,” a.k.a. global warming.  The document is long and will take time to digest.

Laudato begins its climate portion by claiming a scientific “consensus exists that indicates that we are very firm in presence of a worrisome warming of the climate system.” This isn’t so. Many scientists—real climatologists, that is;  see this video starting at 17 minutes—do say there might, in the future, be “worrisome warming.” But other scientists say there will not. The fictional “97% Consensus” you hear endlessly has been  debunked in the scientific literature. But the press has no interest in reporting this.

Satellite and balloon measurements show there has been no warming for nearly 20 years. Some land surface measurements can be induced,  after much statistical “correction,” to show a modest warming. Either way, whatever has happened to the climate these past two decades has not been major.

What everybody needs to realize, more than anything else, is that there is a difference between promises of future warming and actual future warming.  A promise, or prediction, is not the same as reality.  To say that because future temperatures might increase is not to prove they already have. That would be an absurd conclusion to draw, yet many make this mistake. To say that predictions of dire circumstance prove there will be dire circumstances is unwarranted—and plays into the hands of politicians anxious to accumulate power.

The models that generate climate predictions are terrible. For decades, the models have predicted high temperature increases. The reality has been very different: temperatures have been (more or less) flat. The models are not just bad, they are lousy (look at this picture and judge for yourself). Not only that, but every scientist used to know that when a model made such rotten predictions, the theory on which the model relies must be false.

laudato siThat means, given the actual performance of climate models, we know that the theory of runaway man-caused global warming must be false. Of that theory, Laudato says “most of the global warming of recent decades is due to the large concentration of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and other) issued mainly because of human activity.” This is wrong twice: the theory is busted because its predictions are awful, and there has been no warming in “recent decades.”

That bad models imply broken theories is not in dispute, and is not disputed by any scientist except for one small sliver of researchers. These researchers, appropriately enough, admit failure up to now, but have faith that the models will, somehow, become correct in the future. It must be faith that they rely upon, because the evidence of actual model performance is against them.

So we’re asked to believe there is a crisis in face of proof that the models that predict a crisis have been wrong for decades, and not only wrong, but egregiously wrong and growing worse. Talk about denying science!

Laudato attempts to delve deeper into atmospheric physics, but the results are unfortunate. It says:

[Global warming] creates a vicious cycle that exacerbates the situation even more and that will affect on the availability of essential resources such as drinking water, energy and agricultural production of the hottest areas, and will result in the extinction of the planet’s biodiversity.

Again, predictions of doom are taken for reality.  When in real reality, the planet has been greening because, to plants, carbon dioxide is food. Hurricanes are down in number and strength, as are tornadoes and other strong storms. The world is getting better, not worse.


The pollution produced by carbon dioxide increase the acidity of the oceans and impairs the marine food chain. If the trend current continues, this century could witness climate change unheard and unprecedented destruction of ecosystems, with serious consequences for all of us. Rising sea levels, for example, can create situations of extreme gravity when we consider that a quarter of the world population lives by the sea or very close to it, and most of the megacities are located in coastal areas.

But carbon dioxide is not a pollutant. It is the very stuff of your breath. It has a modest effect on the dynamics of the climate, as 100 percent of scientists agree, but we already know, because of the poor performance of the models, that the effect cannot be large. There is therefore no basis on which to claim “unprecedented destruction of ecosystems.” Indeed, as we have just seen, things are not worse than we thought, they are much, much better.  Why is it that only the possible negative effects of carbon dioxide are discussed when the benefits, which have already been observed, are numerous though rarely or never mentioned?

Even sea level rise, as modest or even trivial as it has been, is not worrisome. Fantasies of islands (like Manhattan!) being awash are just that, fantasies.  The pace is so slow that adapting to it as it happens is a cheap and efficient strategy. Besides, ice, for instance in the Antarctic, is on the rise and at record levels. And remember when the models predicted the Arctic would be ice free by now? Didn’t happen. This video from ABC News in 2008 is instructive. We should all be dead by now.

Laudato says the poor “have no other financial resources and other resources that enable them to adapt to climate impacts or deal with catastrophic situations, and have little access to social services and protection.” It is, of course, true that the poor have less money than the rich. But one thing forgotten is that poor would be better off were they provided with easy access to cheap efficient fossil fuels. Why cut down trees when coal is to be had?  As Alex Epstein tells us, 1.3 billion people have no electricity. And environmentalists aren’t happy with giving the poor coal, natural gas, and oil to make that electricity, because these might harm the climate. The certainty of harming the poor by withholding electricity is not important to climate alarmists.

There are other odd claims in Laudato, such as an “increase of migrants fleeing poverty exacerbated by environmental degradation.” This is another prediction taken as reality. And anyway, more people are fleeing ISIS than the promised half-a-degree increase in temperature over the next fifty years.

“[I]t has become urgent and compelling policy development in the coming years so that the emission of carbon dioxide and other heavily polluting gas is reduced drastically, for example, by replacing fossil fuels and by developing renewable energy sources.”  We’ve already seen gases like carbon dioxide cannot be called pollutants. But many are keen on “renewable energy sources.” One of these is nuclear. But this environmental “n-word” is too frightening for many to contemplate. Solar and wind are possibilities, but these provide such a meager amount of energy for such a massive cost that they are only options for rich nature-loving hobbyists.  Not only that, but solar plants take enormous spaces, vastly more than a coal-fired plant, for instance. And wind turbines, besides chopping up birds by the thousands, are hideously ugly.

I’ve said it many times, but it bears repeating. Promises of doom are not doom. Since the many predictions of doom have thus far failed, it is rational to hold off on action until such a time when we have models that make accurate predictions. Doing anything beforehand in a panic is bound to lead to grief.

Photo caption: “Pope Francis delivers a speech during an audience for the participants of the Convention of the Diocese of Rome in St. Peter’s square at the Vatican City, June 14, 2015.” (Photo credit: REUTERS / Giampiero Sposito)

William M. Briggs


William M. Briggs is a consultant and adjunct Professor of Statistics at Cornell University, with specialties in medicine and the philosophy of science. He blogs at wmbriggs.com.