No, Jeb Bush Should Not Take Advice From Pope Francis On Climate Change
Yesterday, U.S. Representative Bill Foster rose to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives to add his two cents to a debate over a religion, science, and climate change. Foster told his colleagues in Congress, “Last week Pope Francis challenged us to take courageous steps to combat climate change, a call to action that made many Republicans uncomfortable. When asked about the Pope’s statement, Governor Jeb Bush dismissed it, saying that Pope Francis is ‘not a scientist, he’s a religious leader.’ In fact, Pope Francis is a former chemist, and, as such, he has more scientific training than many of our elected officials.”
Bill Foster’s heart is in the right place on this issue, but that’s not what matters. Climate change is an issue around which we whould be led by our heads, not our hearts. Gut checks don’t help the environment. Paying attention to the facts does. Earth’s biosphere and climate are too large and too complex for us to understand intuitively.
Pope Francis may be a former chemist, but he’s made a career out of making absolute declarations about truth on the basis of belief in invisible supernatural spirits for many decades. His career as a religious preacher undercuts the leftover credibility he might have carried as a former scientist.
Besides, chemistry doesn’t really have very to do with climatology. It isn’t chemical reactions that are leading to global warming, but the interaction of radiation from the sun with different gases in our atmosphere. One might point out that chemical reactions are what’s leading to the acidification of the oceans, which is an aspect of climate change, but then, Pope Francis’s short career as a chemist was not based upon research in that area. To say that we ought to listen to Pope Francis’s opinions about climate change because he was a chemist for a short time a long time ago is akin to saying that we ought to give special attention to the opinions of retired archeologists who worked in Egypt about the political culture of Northern Island – because they have training in social scientific methods.
Pope Francis was given the chance to speak before Congress because he’s a leader of a powerful religious group, not because of his work as a former chemist. It’s a mistake for environmentalists to give credence to Pope Francis’s opinions about climate change, just because he happens to agree with them on this issue. What will they do if Pope Francis begins to declare that Jesus wants people to cut down the world’s forests? The opinions of religious leaders on real world issues are notoriously erratic.
I don’t often say that Jeb Bush is right on a subject, but on this one, he is right, and Bill Foster is wrong… to a point. Jeb Bush should not base his positions on government policy related to science upon the pronouncements of any religious leaders. Jeb Bush should, however, base his policy positions about climate change on the research done by scientists – specifically, climatologists.
Climatologists agree overwhelmingly that climate change is happening, and that it is mostly being caused by human activity. That ought to be enough for Jeb Bush