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Jeb, the Pope and climate change

Dan Farber, professor of law | June 10, 2015

Jeb Bush’s environmental views seem to be evolving. In a recent speech at Liberty University, he had this to say about environmental protection:

“America’s environmental debates, likewise, can be too coldly economical, too sterile of life . . . Christians see in nature and all God’s creatures designs grander than any of man’s own devising, the endless glorious work of the Lord of Life. Men and women of your generation are striving to be protectors of Creation, instead of just users. Good shepherds, instead of just hirelings. And that moral vision can make all the difference.”

Pope Francis

Pope Francis

Perhaps not coincidentally, he expressed concern a month earlier about climate change and said that increased use of natural gas plus energy conservation were the right strategy. If you stop and think about how these strategies reduce carbon emissions, the answer can only be that they displace coal.  But so far at least, his GOP opponents haven’t accused him of a war on coal.

Another possible coincidence: the Pope has already spoken publicly about the urgency of addressing climate change and is preparing an official pronouncement. So far as I know, that proclamation won’t fall into the ex cathedra category where  the doctrine of Papal infallibility. Still, I would imagine that many Catholics (though not the most hard-core conservatives) will feel some tug toward the  Pope’s position.

Keep in mind that there are six Catholics on the Supreme Court: Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Sonia Sotomayor, and Clarence Thomas). There are also 164 Catholics in Congress. Even a small movement, among this group, toward greater openness to carbon regulation would be significant.

Without being unrealistic about the potential for religious leaders to change the views of their followers, religion is a potent force, and it’s a stereotype to assume that it inherently favors conservative views. The possible link between religion and environmentalism hasn’t gotten much attention from legal scholars, with the notable exception of John Nagle. In particular, Nagle has written about an environmentalist strand among evangelicals.

Maybe the Pope’s upcoming climate pronouncement really will help get some conservative Catholics to rethink their positions about climate change.

Cross-posted from the environmental law and policy blog Legal Planet.

Comments to “Jeb, the Pope and climate change

  1. Dan, I find it amazing that a member of the most prominent political dynasty in America, a Catholic, and a candidate for Presdent would castigate his own Pope because Francis is championing morality and humanity as highest priorities instead of money and power.

  2. Statement pope , about the importance of human beings to protect God’s creation should be a serious concern of all governments in each country respectively to implement the action is not just rhetoric. Do not make laws on the protection of forests and nature only for the consumption of the politicians in their political campaigns.
    Weak implementation of the law on the protection of forests and the environment, especially in tropical countries is difficult to solve the problems and prevention of global climate change . Perhaps in a few decades there will be global climate change is greater if each country does not pay attention to the situation we hadapai at this time.
    we just have planet earth , to stay until the end of time
    Best all
    Mega Tours

  3. Is There Any Science in Climate Change?

    Reality Check it is 2015 and none of these predictions came true;

    “By the year 2000 the United Kingdom will be simply a small group of impoverished islands, inhabited by some 70 million hungry people … If I were a gambler, I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000.” Paul Ehrlich 1971

    “The West Side Highway [which runs along the Hudson River] will be under water. And there will be tape across the windows across the street because of high winds. And the same birds won’t be there. The trees in the median strip will change….There will be more police cars….[since] you know what happens to crime when the heat goes up.”
    Dr. James Hansen, 1988, in an interview with author Rob Reiss.
    Reiss asked how the greenhouse effect was likely to affect the neighborhood below Hansen’s office in NYC in the next 20 years.

    “Within a few years winter snowfall will become a very rare and exciting event. … Children just aren’t going to know what snow is.”
    David Viner, Climatic Research Unit, University of East Anglia, 20 March 2000

    June 8, 1972, Christian Science Monitor: “Arctic specialist Bernt Balchen says a general warming trend over the North Pole is melting the polar ice cap and may produce an ice-free Arctic Ocean by the year 2000.”

    June 2008, Ted Alvarez, Backpacker Magazine Blogs: “you could potentially sail, kayak, or even swim to the North Pole by the end of the summer. Climate scientists say that the Arctic ice…is currently on track to melt sometime in 2008.”
    [Shortly after this prediction was made, a Russian icebreaker was trapped in the ice of the Northwest Passage for a week.]

    Weathermen can’t predict the weather 5 days out, Why should we believe they can predict the weather 20 years out?

    • @ P F Klemmensen Well said P F Klemmensen.

      The more I listen into this debate, the more it seems like the climate change movement holds a theory which is un-falsifiable. If the earth cools, its because the ice is melting, raising the ocean levels and thereby bringing down the global temperature; in which case “WE’RE ALL GONNA FREEZE!” But, if the earth heats up, its because of the evil capitalist industrialists (never mind all the common people across the world who drive cars) who are throwing emissions into the atmosphere, whereby the ozone layer depletes, the temperature goes up, and…”WE’RE ALL GONNA BURN!” This sounds like a bad sermon from a southern Baptist minister, only it is the priests of the church of Global Warming and Climate Change that are doing the preaching. TITHE TO THE CHURCH OF GLOBAL WARMING (AKA Al Gore and the environmentalist Lobby and PAC’s) IN ORDER TO ATONE FOR YOUR SIN OF THE CARBON FOOTPRINT!

  4. Well said Dan: “Maybe the Pope’s upcoming climate pronouncement really will help get some conservative Catholics to rethink their positions about climate change.” Amen.

    Since none of our other institutions have solutions we can implement today, we most certainly need the best help we can get now that we have gone past 400 ppm with no acceptable end in sight.

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