June 23, 2015

Fundamental science errors in the Pope’s green Encyclical

Tim BallRebel Columnist

The Vatican released its full Encyclical titled Laudato Si, subtitled “On care for our common home”, on Thursday, 18 June 2015. The preamble claims the world is in serious trouble because of human activity.  It is an emotional claim without evidence or substance. The church is as wrong on the science today as it was when it condemned Galileo 400 years ago almost to the month. 

Some statements are quite remarkable, totally inappropriate for a document of such gravity, but worse they are wrong. For example,

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

The entire preamble wraps itself in the cloak of green, as if only the Vatican cares about the environment or aware of issues. Their observations indicate they are not aware of the issues. It is a typical religious document as it plays on guilt, is judgmental, and assigns blame. You must confess your sins and then we will pass judgment and apply penance.

Our goal is not to amass information or to satisfy curiosity, but rather to become painfully aware, to dare to turn what is happening to the world into our own personal suffering and thus to discover what each of us can do about it.

The claim that the Earth is an immense pile of filth is based on the false assumption of overpopulation. In fact, most of the world is unoccupied (Figure 1). It certainly isn’t overpopulated. Contrary to the Vatican or environmentalist’s belief, the proven method to achieve population reduction is development. The demographic transition comes with development and involves a lower death rate accompanying a lower birth rate that quickly results in population decline. Many countries offset the decline in the natural birth rate with immigrants. 

figure 1

There are many major errors in the document, but one is sufficient as it is so wrong it negates all other claims. It is in the section labeled “Pollution and Climate Change”. The title is a variation on the incorrect link made in comments by President Obama about “carbon pollution.” Carbon is a solid and CO2 is a gas. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) identifies CO2 as the major cause of climate change, not carbon. CO2 is essential to plant life directly and animal life indirectly through the production of oxygen – it is not a pollutant. The misuse of these terms indicates a lack of understanding of the science but creates confusion for political gain.

The distorted heading is a sign of disturbing evidence within the section that the Vatican doesn’t know the science. Their position is a matter of faith not facts, evidence, or science. One paragraph in Item 23 is sufficient to sink the entire Encyclical.

It is true that there are other factors (such as volcanic activity, variations in the earth’s orbit and axis, the solar cycle), yet a number of scientific studies indicate that most global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxides and others) released mainly as a result of human activity.

Unfortunately, the Vatican is not aware that “variations in the earth’s orbit and axis” known as the Milankovitch Effect, is not included in the IPCC Reports or their computer models. The “solar cycle” refers to the changing activities on the Sun, manifest by sunspots, known as the Svensmark or Cosmic Effect. This is a relationship between low cloud cover and global temperature and not included in the Report or the computer models.

“Volcanic activity” is included in the AR 5 Working Group I Report under the heading of “Aerosol Burdens and effects on Insolation.” They comment,

Clouds and aerosols continue to contribute the largest uncertainty to estimates and interpretations of the Earth’s changing energy budget.

The quantification of cloud and convective effects in models, and of aerosol–cloud interactions, continues to be a challenge.

In Chapter 9, “Evaluation of Climate Models” they report on the gap between model results and reality.

The differences between the modelled and measured AODs (aerosol optical depth) exceed the errors in the Multi-angle Imaging Spectro-Radiometer (MISR) retrievals over land of ±0.05 or 0.2×AOD (Kahn et al., 2005) and the RMS errors in the corrected Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MODIS) retrievals over ocean of 0.061(Shi et al., 2011).

The great concentration of greenhouse gases the Encyclical identifies includes carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. They apparently don’t know these represent approximately 4 percent of the total greenhouse gases and are only 2 percent of all atmospheric gases. (Figure 2)

figure 2

Water vapor is by far the most important greenhouse gas but not included by the IPCC because they assume the human contribution is insignificant. The Vatican acknowledges their list is only gases affected by human activity, but they don’t seem to understand that restriction is by design. The IPCC was directed only to examine human causes of climate change.

Severe limitations of the IPCC studies began with the definition of climate change they were given. As a result, all IPCC predictions are wrong. If the predictions are wrong, the science is wrong. The position of the Vatican set out in the Encyclical is a matter of faith, not science.

The good news is that in 1992 the Pope acknowledged they were wrong and forgave Galileo. It only took 377 years, so maybe skeptics can anticipate forgiveness in 2392.


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commented 2015-06-30 07:54:13 -0400
Ain’t the earth the deviants want to save, all inferstructure has been built now it’s time adopt UN Agenda 21 (starved millions of kids and mothers around the world) reducing populations further via poison vaccines go etc. all a big scam. EPA should be charged with crimes against humanity.
commented 2015-06-24 15:05:21 -0400
Ron Voss: Thank you for catching me up on my accuracy. Genesis only seems to say that God created Earth and then everything else around it. As that is what it seems to say, all of Christendom believed it to be so until the idea was challenged by Copernicus and then by Galileo.
commented 2015-06-24 09:12:30 -0400
PETER NETTERVILLE, some great math and critical thinking, which, unfortunately, is not taught well in the schools today. However, the kids are taught about global warming, saving the planet, and Earth Day!
commented 2015-06-24 08:49:12 -0400
MOIRA EGAN, as you point out, it is unfortunate that Dr. Ball with his reference to the Galileo affair is contributing to propagating the myth that the Catholic church (and by extrapolation the church in general) is hostile to and impedes science, a notion debunked by Thomas Woods in the video you had shared with respect to Lord Monckton getting it wrong as well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nzohx5oim4w
You mention below (and so did Thomas Woods) "That the sun was the centre of our universe contradicted the Bible. Could you please elaborate with support from relevant passages of the Bible.
commented 2015-06-24 02:41:46 -0400
Peter Neterville they pounce on the safe target
commented 2015-06-23 20:41:42 -0400
The Vatican released its full Encyclical titled Laudato Si, subtitled “On care for our common home”,
well the Vatican I just down the block from the Club of Rome so apocalyptic fear mongering is the primary product of the neighborhood
commented 2015-06-23 19:43:00 -0400
So let me see if I have this correct, all CO2 created by human activity on the planet is 3.4% of 4% of 2% of the entire atmosphere. So then 0.00272% of the total atmosphere is CO2 created by human activity.

And of that 0.00272% Canada is responsible for 1.48% which works out to Canada contributing 0.000040256% to the total CO2 in the earth’s atmosphere.

And of that 0.000040256% the Alberta oilsands are responsible for 8%, or 0.00000322048% contribution to the CO2 in the atmosphere.

And people pounce on Alberta and the oilsands for that?
commented 2015-06-23 19:39:19 -0400
The Catholic Church should limit it’s activities to spritzing babies with water, encouraging good Catholics to be prolific and any other activities that do not require an education past the grade six level.
commented 2015-06-23 18:42:42 -0400
How long did it take before telescopes were strong enough to prove that Galileo was correct? Although the Pope had told Galileo to pursue what was then an hypothesis and encouraged him to tell other scientists about it, he told him not to publish it as fact until there was proof that he could show it to others. But Galileo went ahead and published a book in which he not only stated his hypothesis as fact but also depicted the pope as an ignoramus. That the sun was the centre of our universe contradicted the Bible. Thus, to say the sun was indeed the centre of the universe contradicted Church teaching. That is why Galileo was punished. The pope in Galileo’s day did the right thing: he insisted on evidence to prove the hypothesis. Pope Francis does not.

Maybe things could have been handled differently 400 years ago. But it was 400 years ago and things were different then. In addition, Galileo was an arrogant cuss and his responses to those who challenged him were not unlike the responses of alarmists today who use ridicule and ad hominem attacks to disparage others. Many have a picture of Galileo from the play written by Bertholt Brecht who was a communist and as such a hater of the Catholic Church. Brecht presented Galileo as being nothing but persecuted by the Church. That was not the case. One book among several that I’ve read on the subject is Galileo Courtier, The Practice of Science in the Culture of Absolutism.
commented 2015-06-23 16:19:06 -0400
“There are many major errors in the document, but one is sufficient as it [is]so wrong it negates all other claims.” {A missing word.}