sabato 20 giugno 2015

The Wall Street Journal
(Holman W. Jenkins, jr) Spiritual transformation is to be hoped for, but technology and the competitive search for efficiency might help too. With unintended sacrilege one news-service headline this week credited the pope with “finding religion on climate change.”
Maybe it would be truer to say Pope Francis has tried to annex one of the newer religions, that of global warming, to Catholic liturgy, though this would also paint a sorry picture of his political judgment. For if anything has been demonstrated over the past three decades, it’s that moral hectoring of voters does not produce notable progress on this vexing issue.Main Street Columnist Bill McGurn on the pontiff’s latest encyclical. Photo credit: Getty Images.
And voters are not stupid in this regard. As Georgia Tech climatologist Judith Curry has explained: “One argument that President Obama hasn’t tried to make explicitly is that the U.S. commitments to emissions reductions will actually slow down warming in a meaningful way. If you believe the climate models, the U.S. emissions reductions would reduce the warming by a fairly trivial amount, that would get lost among the natural variability of climate.”
That’s right, Mr. Obama, who has referred to the “urgent and growing threat of a changing climate,” has committed the U.S. to a program of costs without benefits.
His holiness (the pope, I mean) acknowledges that “different approaches and lines of thought have emerged regarding this situation and its possible solutions. At one extreme, we find those who doggedly uphold the myth of progress and tell us that ecological problems will solve themselves simply with the application of new technology and without any need for ethical considerations or deep change. At the other extreme are those who view men and women and all their interventions as no more than a threat, jeopardizing the global ecosystem, and consequently the presence of human beings on the planet should be reduced and all forms of intervention prohibited.”
In fact, he may be wrong about technology; it’s not inconceivable that nano batteries might emerge in the coming decades that will render the whole debate moot, and may even cause new worries about the consequences of a sudden drop in human carbon-dioxide output.
Not that the pope fails to bless battery research, which this column has also blessed. But he expresses a general disdain for technology that seems a mite confounded with his hope that people in the future will be less materialistic, more concerned with spiritual matters, a thing a pope is always obliged to hope.
More intriguing was his swipe at the humanity haters, the gestalt of certain parts of the environmental movement and closely allied with its temptation toward totalitarianism, not to mention its habit of extreme self-righteousness, which seems to be the main compensation that draws many to the global-warming cause.
To the real problem he offers no answer except for humans to improve themselves. Anything that the political process spits out in response to uncertain climate fears will be more effective in redistributing resources among lobbying groups than in doing anything about climate.
Meanwhile, the pope (like too many climate scientists) is reluctant to acknowledge that things will change by themselves in ways profoundly affecting the climate puzzle. Sayeth the former Cardinal Bergoglio, “Humanity is called to become aware of the need to change styles of life, of production and consumption,” and to make “investments in the means of production and transport which consume less energy and require a smaller amount of raw material.”
But changing lifestyles and the means of production and militating against inefficiency is what the global economy, about which he seems so ambivalent (at best), does every livelong day. Last year the 20 biggest economies produced 3.3% growth with zero increase in emissions over 2013. One reason was American fracking. Another reason was China’s nascent shift from an export-oriented, goods-producing economy to one more focused on services and domestic consumption.
Not contributing were Europe’s massive subsidies to renewables, perversely accompanied by a 16% increase in coal use over the past five years, partly to compensate for the intermittency of sun and wind.
This doesn’t mean anything we do on purpose must necessarily be meaningless or self-defeating. A carbon tax allied to pro-growth tax reform, if politicians could uncorruptly produce such a thing, might be defended on cost-benefit grounds. But the biggest influence on the climate puzzle over the next 100 years won’t come from policy “breakthroughs.” It won’t come (sadly) because politicians and voters heard the pope’s message and were spiritually transformed.
The biggest impact, by default and not because we ordained it, will come from technological change and a competitive economy’s search for efficiency, to which this anti-economic pope gives so little credit.
And a good thing too, since the church has spent 2,000 years trying to treat the ills of human nature and yet those ills persist.