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Heartland Institute Experts Respond to Pope Francis’s Comments on the Climate at White House

September 23, 2015

Pope Francis, in remarks about the climate at a White House ceremony today, said “it seems clear to me ... that climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to a future generation.


Pope Francis, in remarks about the climate at a White House ceremony today, said “it seems clear to me ... that climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to a future generation.” He echoed the call in his latest encyclical, Laudato Si, for “sustainable” development and a move away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy.

The Heartland Institute in April led a delegation to Rome to inform Pope Francis that the actual data about the climate do not support the position of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that human activity is causing a global warming crisis.

The following statements from climate and energy experts at The Heartland Institute – a free-market think tank – may be used for attribution. For more comments, refer to the contact information below. To book a Heartland guest on your program, please contact Director of Communications Jim Lakely at and 312/377-4000 or (cell) 312/731-9364.

“We all share Pope Francis’s desire for responsible environmental stewardship. Unfortunately, Pope Francis appears to believe poorly supported global warming theories that have been strongly and repeatedly contradicted by real-world observations. His decision to spend so much time and effort venturing outside the realm of religion and into the realm of science and public policy is unlikely to advance his Christian mission.”

James Taylor
Vice President, External Relations
Senior Fellow for Environmental Policy
The Heartland Institute

“In the past three months since Pope Francis held his climate conference in Rome, I have spoken to many groups on environmental issues. During my talks I asked if there were any members of the audience who were Catholics willing to share their view on the pope’s position on science and climate change. Over the summer, at least 100 persons stood up in my audiences and voiced essentially the very same opinion, which was: The pope should not be issuing opinions in areas of science for which he has no direct knowledge, and therefore it really damages the image of the pope worldwide.”

Jay Lehr

Science Director
The Heartland Institute

“Pope Francis’s remarks on climate, however well intended, ignore the needs of the poor and future generations, the very people he claims he most wants to help. Contrary to the pontiff’s assertion, carbon dioxide is not pollution: It’s a naturally occurring gas necessary to life on Earth, and its recent increase is benefitting plant life greatly.

“The bottom line is this: To reduce carbon dioxide emissions, as the pope and President Obama believe we must do, we must sharply curtail the use of the very fossil fuels that have made modern society possible. Access to cheap energy is responsible for raising more people out of penury in the past century than those who have climbed up from poverty in the entire history of humankind. Reliance on renewable energy sources, even supplemented with nuclear power, will leave billions living in want and squalor. It would also reverse much of the progress in food production, improved health, and ultimately freedom of choice in lifestyles.

“Despite rising greenhouse gas emissions, the Earth stopped warming nearly two decades ago, the number of hurricanes and their severity have fallen sharply, sea levels have not been rising at unusual rates, and scientists have yet to link any species extinction to warming. Meanwhile, in just the past few decades, hundreds of millions of people who previously faced hunger and malnourishment have become well-fed, and millions of others have joined the middle class. Average lifespans worldwide have increased, and infant mortality has declined. None of this progress could have occurred without the expansion of the use of affordable energy through fossil fuels.

“In short, the pope’s call for a forced reduction in oil, gas, and coal use is a death knell for millions around the world – a misguided plea for some pre-industrial, bountiful, pastoral, utopia that hasn’t existed since the Garden of Eden.”

H. Sterling Burnett
Research Fellow, Environment & Energy Policy
The Heartland Institute
Managing Editor, Environment & Climate News

“President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which Pope Francis commented on this morning at The White House, will have a disparate impact on the poor. That’s a form of illegal discrimination. The Obama plan more than doubles the cost of natural gas and electricity for all consumers. But it harms the poor even more than other Americans because it drains funds they would otherwise use for food and clothing to pay the electric bill. But it gets even worse. The Obama plan will also cause massive job losses for the black and Hispanic communities – again the very people the pope is committed to helping.”

Gene Koprowski
Director of Marketing
The Heartland Institute

“I appreciate that Pope Francis opened his speech today talking about values that should be first and foremost for the leader of the Catholic Church. He spoke of the ‘institutions of marriage and family,’ and his plans to encourage Congress to ‘guide the nation’s political future in fidelity to its founding principles,’ along with a strong emphasis on our religious freedom and the need to defend it as ‘America’s most precious possession.’

“Then, sadly, he was compelled to digress from these important issues and focus on climate change, missing the call of the Church to care for the poor, widowed, and orphaned. The proposed ‘solutions’ to climate change will only make things worse for the weakest among us, both here in the United States and around the world. By taking away the advancement and availability of energy, the poor and disadvantaged will be left to suffer even more in our ‘common home.’ How is this helpful in a path to reconciliation, justice, and freedom?

“The fact is there is no evidence that the efforts of the United Nations to combat climate change will benefit future generations. Yet there is strong evidence of the actual harm of these policies through increased costs, the loss of freedom, and the reduced availability of energy to the poor and underdeveloped countries.”

Bette Grande
Research Fellow, Energy Policy
The Heartland Institute

The Heartland Institute is a 31-year-old national nonprofit organization headquartered in Arlington Heights, Illinois. Its mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. For more information, visit our Web site or call 312/377-4000.

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Environment Energy
James Taylor is president of The Heartland Institute.
H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D., is the Director of the Arthur B. Robinson Center on Climate and Environmental Policy and the managing editor of Environment & Climate News.
Jay Lehr is an internationally renowned speaker, scientist, Senior Policy Advisor with the International Climate Science Coalition and Senior Science Analyst at CFACT.
Bette Grande is a State Government Relations Manager at The Heartland Institute. Prior to coming to Heartland, she served as a North Dakota state representative from 1996–2014, representing the 41st district. @BetteGrande

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