Just Read It! Now.

Just Read It! Now. June 18, 2015

The Pope’s encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si, has been officially released.  The storm in the commentariat is about to begin.  My advice:  drop everything and read it.  Now.  Skip the summaries, the commentaries, the reactions, the ideological spinning by the left and right.  I have spent the past two hours skimming through it, and it is amazing.  If taken seriously this may be a game changer for the Church and for the world.   But, please, do not take my word for it.  Go and read it.  All of it.

Below, post your reactions and your favorite quotes if you want.  In the next few days I might try to gather up various posts from around the blogosphere to it, but for now, I am just going to repeat myself and say:  just read it!

"A day after submitting this piece to Vox Nova, I learned that the Vatican published ..."

Maintaining Christian Community and Practice in ..."
"I agree with JoeGeorges that it depends, but here I think the traditional three-fold distinctions ..."

"Isn’t the best answer, “It depends”? If we’re speaking about hoarding the necessities of life ..."

"I don't think anyone would ever claim that we mainly or completely understand God. But ..."

Spontaneous Abortions and Moral Theology

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Agellius

    I confess this is from a series of excerpts; I haven’t had the chance to read the whole thing. But I thought it was marvelous:

    “(123) We should not think that political efforts or the force of law will be sufficient to prevent actions which affect the environment because, when the culture itself is corrupt and objective truth and universally valid principles are no longer upheld, then laws can only be seen as arbitrary impositions or obstacles to be avoided.”

    “(229) We have had enough of immorality and the mockery of ethics, goodness, faith and honesty. It is time to acknowledge that lighthearted superficiality has done us no good. When the foundations of social life are corroded, what ensues are battles over conflicting interests, new forms of violence and brutality, and obstacles to the growth of a genuine culture of care for the environment.”

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      In passages like these, Pope Francis sounds very much like a personalist. I wonder what Dorothy Day would have said in response to this encyclical?

    • Julia Smucker

      These quotes make for a bemusing juxtaposition with Tobias Sprague’s knee-jerk claim below, especially the one from par. 123. And I see that in the rest of the paragraph leading up to the quote, Pope Francis decries relativism, waste, the objectification of human beings, and blind trust in “the invisible forces of the market” all in the same breath. And then he makes the point Agellius cites, that this “culture of relativism” (equated here with the “throwaway culture” he often talks about) is so powerful that mere “force of law” will not suffice to combat it. Yep, that’s a socialist agenda all right.

      And here’s him setting up this major systematic tie-in, on what he calls “practical relativism”, in 122:

      “When human beings place themselves at the centre, they give absolute priority to immediate convenience and all else becomes relative. Hence we should not be surprised to find, in conjunction with the omnipresent technocratic paradigm and the cult of unlimited human power, the rise of a relativism which sees everything as irrelevant unless it serves one’s own immediate interests. There is a logic in all this whereby different attitudes can feed on one another, leading to environmental degradation and social decay.”

  • Tobias Sprague

    The environmental aspects have no basis in fact. They are the talking points of a socialist agenda. So dissapointing for the Holy Father to spread inaccuracies.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      “The environmental aspects have no basis in fact.”

      Your evidence for this bit of skepticism? Short answer: none. Climate change is real.

      • trellis smith

        It is claimed David that the overall temperature of the earth has not increased in 18 years, why this lull?.

      • trellis smith

        If you were to look at the comments number 33 my friend Brian gives his nuanced opinion on the difficulty of teasing out the data relative to atmospheric CO2 levels. My own skepticism relative to the article is his conclusions that the hiatus is well within the expected overall trend and that anomaly is well not an anomaly after all to call into question the present paradigm of Industrial generated global warming, given that there has been no ocean heat storage or appreciable temperature rise in the troposphere.
        That the data readings are incorrect or not correspondent between ground and atmospheric sensors at orders of magnitude is part of this mystery is one I can fathom.

        • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

          His comment does nothing to falsify the basic fact that the “hiatus” as loudly proclaimed by climate change deniers as “proof” that there is no global warming shows no such thing. There is ocean heat storage: see the graphic from Church et al. at


          I am not sure what you mean by appreciable temperature rise in the troposphere, but I think that is discussed here:


          The fact is Pope Francis is basing his argument on solid, well developed science. Denying or obfuscating it does not change it.

    • trellis smith

      Mr.Sprague, I am certain I probably share your criticism but would caution against the broadness of your criticism of the Holy Father. While we can agree there are inaccuracies and ideological biases and perhaps not a full grasp of economics , but his overall appreciation of Creation and the degradation of the environment is not easily refuted by your statement. It simply cannot be denied that industrial production and ensuing explosive population growth has despoiled so much of the earth and that has externalized many costs.
      This encyclical, as flawed as it may be by these inaccuracies which it alludes to in all humility, is foremost a profound reflection of man’s relation to nature and each other and expounds on the meaning of Creation. It offers not only an historical correction in this regard but a way forward, not necessarily in the pragmatic solutions the Holy Father proposes but nevertheless in the paradigmatic apprehension of our moral significance

      • trellis smith

        The Left is adept at creating crisis in order to force social change, change which is much regretted. The Club of Rome also predicted dire consequences that never came to fruition that had great influence on Paul VI. Caution is always in order before instituting disruptive change that will hobble the Western democracies. The biggest contributors to CO2 for the near future will be China and India which will be using coal for the most part to power their development.
        The Pope solutions are a tried and true prescription for failure and unreflective of the incentives needed for innovation required to affect climate change,
        Nothing serves science less than closing debate The use of the term “denier” in the discussion on climate change, is just a rhetorical device used to silence and censor not to enlighten.

        • trellis smith

          Thank you for the links. I was incorrect about ocean heat storage rise, as I was misreading an article concerning indices of the Indian Ocean during El Nino. The new data reflects temperature readings from oceanic buoys, however atmospheric readings still measure the hiatus going into its 21st year without a notable trend
          Even if all the adjustments applied by the oceanic readings ultimately prove to be accurate, the temperature trend reported during the “hiatus” period, remains significantly below the mean trend projected by the collection of climate models used in the most recent report from the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

          To revisit the inappropriateness of the term denier, it is doubly so in this context as it is immediately apparent that the question is not whether there is warming or not, but rather to what extent. And the answer has been, and remains, that the warming is taking place at a much slower rate than is being projected.

        • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

          Trellis writes:

          ” however atmospheric readings still measure the hiatus going into its 21st year without a notable trend”

          Can you provide explicit data for this assertion? I have not found anything that remotely supports this.

          “Even if all the adjustments applied by the oceanic readings ultimately prove to be accurate, the temperature trend reported during the “hiatus” period, remains significantly below the mean trend projected by the collection of climate models used in the most recent report from the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).”

          I am not sure what you mean by “significantly below.” Graphs from Real Climate show that the actual temperature trends lie below the mean of the models, but lie well within the range of predicted values—they are not significantly below, according to the authors who created the graph.

          “To revisit the inappropriateness of the term denier, it is doubly so in this context as it is immediately apparent that the question is not whether there is warming or not, but rather to what extent. And the answer has been, and remains, that the warming is taking place at a much slower rate than is being projected.”

          Warming is taking place at an alarming rate that has nothing to do with the models and everything to do with the empirical data. Long term trends, measured by multiple means, show that the Earth is warming at a rate faster than has ever been seen in recorded history, and temperatures are spiking to highs not seen in millions of years.

          With regard to the term “denier”. Given that people such as Senator James Inhofe can label the entire field of climate science a “hoax”, I think that I am on fair ground labeling them as deniers. As for silencing the debate: the point is that to a remarkable degree there is nothing to debate: the earth is warming, anthropogenic carbon and methane are the primary drivers of this warming, and it is having noticeable effects that we have very good reason to believe will get ever worse. One need only look at arctic sea ice,


          where melting has apparently been occurring faster than the models predict (except for a couple models which predict a complete melting by 2016).

  • crystal

    I especially liked this bit …

    ‘It is not enough, however, to think of different species merely as potential “resources” to be exploited, while overlooking the fact that they have value in themselves. Each year sees the disappearance of thousands of plant and animal species which we will never know, which our children will never see, because they have been lost for ever. The great majority become extinct for reasons related to human activity. Because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence, nor convey their message to us. We have no such right.’

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      This reminds me of a post I wrote years ago about the debate whether to deliberately destroy the last remaining samples of small pox.


      The pope does a much better job of spelling out what I was thinking, though of course he was not getting himself sidetracked worrying about a few vials locked in high security labs.

      • crystal

        Interesting post (small pox). BTW I saw this video by Fr. Barron today which aims to explain the biblical/church fathers/medieval heritage of the pope’s encyclical … https://laudatosi.com/watch

        • trellis smith

          Thanks Crystal I too am marveling at the pope’s creation spirituality, I know Matthew Fox will be pleased.

  • trellis smith

    182 pages? No I haven’t read it yet but Air conditioning an evil and yet read from an air conditioned room.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      Air conditioning evil, in and of itself? I don’t think so. I think the broader point, looking at this passage, is the “casual” use of technology without considering the environmental and social impacts of our personal choices. And I say this as someone who just bought a house with central AC.

      • trellis smith

        And I don’t nave AC since San Francisco is naturally air conditioned. I just found it amusing that the room from which he promulgated this encyclical was air conditioned. Also as a technological fix air conditioning lends itself well to solar energy use. A better example of waste would be Richard Nixon(our environmental president) who turned on his air conditioning full blast in summer so he could light his fireplaces.

        • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

          Your point about fireplaces and AC is well taken, as is the connection to solar energy. I am hoping to go solar to run my central AC.

          And yes, SF is “naturally air conditioned.” In my experience, the apocryphal quote of Mark Twain is spot on: “The coldest winter I ever spent was August in San Francisco.” My wife still has the sweat suit she had to buy from a street vendor because it was 95 in Oakland but when we got off BART it was about 65.

        • trellis smith

          Well this does go to the heart of the criticism of the encyclical. The condemnation of Western civilization goes further than necessary from the earlier popes and that somehow suggests that Western values of progress and optimism and liberty are insufficient when I daresay these maybe the very qualities that will be needed to respond with the innovation to the industrial, environmental and human developmental tasks before us.
          His apparent embrace of a leftist, alarmist agenda will not bring about the practical solutions needed but will only increase poverty which may not reduce either industrial pollution nor environmental degradation.

        • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

          Trellis Smith writes: “His apparent embrace of a leftist, alarmist agenda”

          So when the Pope stand against the failures of post-enlightenment civilization with regards to personal morals they are being prophetic, but when they challenge the dominant economic/technological paradigm (which grew out of the same philosophical and moral foundation) they are embracing a leftist agenda.

          Pace Reno at First Things, Pope Francis is not rejecting modernity: modernity is here and he clearly accepts that fact. But it is not beyond reproach and he is calling it out on its singular failure to address some of the most pressing human and natural problems of our time.

    • Katherine

      It’s only about 180 pp in small-page pamphlet format (that’s what the Vatican’s PDF is set up for). On normal 8.5×11 inch paper, it’s more like 80 pp, depending on font size.

      Tolle, lege …

  • crystal

    “Matthew Fox will be pleased” …. oh, it must be so hard to finally be on the losing side of a pope’s opinions 😉

    BTW, The Guardian had a very positive editorial about the encyclical … http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jun/18/guardian-view-on-laudato-si-pope-francis-cultural-revolution

    • trellis smith

      Not sure what you mean by that Crystal, I like Matthew Fox,, and anything written in the Guardian I approach with extreme prejudice.

  • Thales

    My thoughts: The overarching themes/messages are extremely important. Respect for the earth, authentic stewardship, the importance of greater communion with nature and people, the loss of humanity from technology and electronic communications, an authentic ecology of the world and the human person, etc… all great stuff. The warnings against consumerism and wealth… great stuff. The reminders about the importance of poverty and dignity of the poor… important stuff. (I think we need more Jesus-tells-the-good-rich-man-to-sell-everything-type of admonitions. We don’t hear enough of that in our complacent, rich, Western lifestyles. We need to be shocked more about our wealth and our consumer lifestyle.) The grand vision seeing everything as essentially connected to one another: respect for the earth, for nature, for human life, for our creation as masculine and feminine… all important stuff.

    Having said that, there were a few places that I thought could have used a better editor — passages which are distracting and which a person can latch onto in order to dismiss the entire encyclical as ignorant, thereby missing the great, overarching message.

    The most obvious example is the air conditioning passage. As it reads, the encyclical basically says “the use of air-conditioning is self-destructive.” On the surface, that’s a silly statement, considering all the people currently dying in heat waves. Air conditioning is obviously a necessity in certain situations. The Pope could have made his point about OVER-consumption of air conditioning easily enough with different wording, and avoided phrasing it to say something that a person could latch onto as a silly position. Another is the claim that our current abuse of the environment is precipitating weather “catastrophes” happening around the globe— I tend to think that it’s a little premature to jump to the conclusion that there are more earthquakes/hurricanes, etc. now due to our consumption or environmental abuse. Again, the Pope can make his point about how we’re hurting the environment and that this a huge concern for the future, instead of using phrasing suggesting that there are more catastrophes now then there used to be (which I don’t think has solid scientific support). It’s an unfortunate phrasing, in my opinion, that could have been easily avoided without diluting the Pope’s main point and which doesn’t present someone with an opportunity to dismiss the entire encyclical.

    A final observation: the Pope had a golden opportunity to talk about the devastation that our current artificial contraceptive culture is having on the environment, the extensive pollution our water systems by contraceptives getting into the water and the resultant messing up fish species, animal life, etc. (not to mention the way that contraceptives and hormones mess up the health of our bodies). Unfortunately, he didn’t take it.

    • trellis smith

      Agree, it suffers from lack of a severe critic and editor, certainly encyclicals aren’t written without a countervailing opinion or caution presented? Who does he think he is, the Pope?
      (tongue in cheek).

  • Ronald King

    Since my time of youth in the ’60’s there have always been causes for peace and environmental conservation. The awareness of everything and everyone being connected has always been there and has been rejected through a culture built around mind numbing immediate gratification and consumption. I am extremely happy that the Pope has written this encyclical but I see little hope that people will suddenly awaken to the reality that a human crisis exists in our relationships with one another and the environment we inhabit. To be distracted from the reality of death seems to be the motivation to consume and seek comfort wherever we may find it.

    Thales, the water systems are being polluted with a multitude of chemicals other than contraceptives and hormones. Aging is messing up my body.

    • trellis smith

      Life itself distracts us from death. Living simply does not allow us to comprehend our death. I am uncertain that memento mori has much significance or impact on the course of living other then sadness or depression, as hell itself has little impact on our sinning.

    • Thales

      Ronald King,

      Yes, I know the water systems are being polluted by other chemicals. I’m definitely against polluting the water systems with other chemicals. I just don’t think we need to be polluting it with contraceptives and hormones too.

      And we all age. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to live healthy lifestyles and take care of our bodies. Generally, contraceptives are not necessary for a healthy lifestyle and are actually detrimental to a healthy lifestyle (besides the fact that they constitute unnecessary wasting of energy to produce, package, ship, etc., and are a prime example of the consumer mentality the Pope is warning about.)

      • Ronald King

        The history of human relationships with each other and the environment is composed of violence and domination with love always attempting to break the cycle of violence. How we treat each other and the environment represents our commitment to love or our commitment to our comfort. I have been more committed to comfort than I have been to love. And what seems to be influencing me at this point is learned helplessness when I am faced with those who deny the reality of human influence in this crisis and continue to attempt to defend this cognitive distortion.
        Now I must lather myself with sun block and go for a morning run which I have done since 1977. I have found this helps with rage and helplessness. I’ve got to be watchful that they are not spraying the fruit trees today as I run through the orchards. Oh well. Gotta die of something.

  • trellis smith

    (The administrators should really change the size of the combox fields)

    David, The use of the term denier is a political term and is a misuse of science and poisons the debate and meant to shut down all contrary views and hypotheses.
    My own ” belief ” is that there is cyclical nature in the relation of the Sun to the Earth which is the cause of global warming ( see Journey of the Earth) Many scientists agree that solar radiation is the primary source of global warming.
    While industrial related CO2 levels have contributed a third of CO2 rise since the dawn of the industrial revolution, presently human generated carbon is calculated at 34.29 ppmv out of a total of 381 ppmv, Water vapor rather than CO2 may be a greater contributor to any greenhouse gas effect.

    I’ll just quote from the conclusion of this source which givs its own empirical data.

    “We would be mistaken if we were to think that the change of temperature was caused by CO2 when, in reality, it was the Sun that heated up the soil. Carbon dioxide only interfered with the energy emitted by the soil and absorbed a small amount of that radiation (0.0786 Joules), but carbon dioxide did not cause any warming. the first is that carbon dioxide is not a source of heat, and the second is that the main source of warming for the Earth is the Sun.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      Trellis, with respect to commboxes, we tried to strike a happy medium: indentation makes it easier to follow long exchanges, but we have restricted the level of indentation. This only becomes a problem when there are long exchanges at the final level of indentation. I have thought about getting rid of this level, but never brought it up to the other folks involved.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      “My own ” belief ” is that there is cyclical nature in the relation of the Sun to the Earth which is the cause of global warming ( see Journey of the Earth) Many scientists agree that solar radiation is the primary source of global warming.”

      Well, why do you believe this? Is there good data which fits this? Does this interpretive model explain things? Why then do so very few scientists (really almost none) believe that global warming is caused by changes in solar radiation? Your last sentence is quite misleading: the sun is really the ONLY source of the heat energy that is warming the sun. The question is why more of this energy is being trapped within the confines of the Earth’s atmosphere and not radiated back into space. Similarly, your long quote from the “biology cabinet” (none of whose credentials were easily found) misses the point, and does so in a way which strikes me as obfuscatory and intended to deny (yes, that word again) what is actually happening.

      I am not sure where you are getting the 381ppmv data: according to the Mauna Loa data (the best known data set) even the annual lows are now about 390ppmv and the average is just about 400ppmv:


      I am not sure where the figure of 34.29ppmv comes from: can you cite a source? The role of atmospheric CO2 (almost all of which comes from burning fossil fuels)


      are nicely summarized in this graphic based on NASA data from Bloomberg Business (not exactly a bunch of lefties)


  • trellis smith

    One last observation: Artic sea melt is being constantly revised I believe Mr. Gore predicted we had ten years, ten years ago, then the 2016 model , most now settling on 2033, and given their new data 2050 seems to be in the offing. Yes theses are just models, here’s an empirical piece of data iforecast.http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/IMAGES/global.daily.ice.area.withtrend.jpg

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      This graph is not a forecast: it is data regard total ice cover on earth. it is misleading to compare this to arctic sea ice, which has been declining steadily. As for what Al Gore said, I hunted up the actual quote, which can be found here


      “Last September 21 (2007), as the Northern Hemisphere tilted away from the sun, scientists reported with unprecedented distress that the North Polar ice cap is “falling off a cliff.” One study estimated that it could be completely gone during summer in less than 22 years. Another new study, to be presented by U.S. Navy researchers later this week, warns it could happen in as little as 7 years.2″

      These predictions gained some currency, but the bulk of predictions at that time and since then were more cautious. An extensive discussion from 2012 can be found here:


      So, in a nutshell, a couple research groups predicted that if trends continued, sea ice could disappear by the middle of the current decade. This did not happen and lots of other groups were skeptical at the time. This is how science works. But the trend line continues downward, to the point that commercial shipping above Canada (the fabled Northwest Passage) may soon be open every summer.

      • trellis smith

        David, I really wonder if the Northwest passage will open but you are correct that my belief that the sun is primarily responsible for global warming is as for most people foremost intuitive, which admittedly should give rise to a hypothesis to be tested. That the diagram you find misleading as it doesn’t separate out the Artic which should be more severely impacted because of its tilt towards the sun would seem in some way to confirm the hypothesis.
        Of course its more complicated than that. Interesting enough despite this polar amplification the satellite photos first produced from 1979 which are cited as the crucial empirical proof of global warming and had been receding to about 10% in recent years have rebounded in the latest images beyond the 1979 coverage.

        Essentially global climate is a complex indeed chaotic system. It is difficult to find a direct correlation between CO2 levels and temperature rise. Other than in ice core analysis, it isn’t there.
        On the physics level the assumptions about CO2 and global warming do not seem right. CO2 makes up a tiny fraction of the atmosphere and that the atmosphere is dwarfed by the oceans, so how is it possible for CO2 to have such an enormous effect. An increase in CO2 levels to 0.04%,( AWG 0.0114%) represents a very low concentration, particularly in comparison to water vapor, the greatest GHG which is estimated to be present at a concentration of about 1-2%. While its true that in the upper atmosphere trace GHGs concentrate where water vapor recedes still it seems its a case of the tail wagging the dog. We know that regarding feedback effects that the doubling of C02 does not double water vapor and data from the Handbook of Chemistry and Physics show that a 0.6 rise in temperature will only increase water vapor by 3%. A doubling of C02 would only be 1.8 degrees (other modifying equations come out at 1.39-1.76) not the 3 -4 degrees or more given by the IPCC models. That may be an a fallacious argument of inconceivability but still seems implausible..

        But even if the IPCC models of 4.5 degree temperature rise in their worst case scenario of unmitigated C02 levels is true what the average temperature means and how that is distributed not only by altitude, latitude and season but even by day and night is truly enlightening. Because most of the warming from a perspective of temperature should occur and is occurring in the coldest part of the world at the coldest times of the day and year. A summer day in the tropics at 40C at today’s 390ppm would be 42.6 @1000ppm. The summer change would be 2.6 in the tropics while in the Artic on the same days would be respectively 10 @390ppm increasing to 13.5 @1000ppm with a winter change of 3.5.
        @390ppm in the winter a day of 25 degrees in the tropics would be 28 degrees giving a winter change of 3 while in the Artic it would be -50 @ 390 ppm becoming -40 a winter delta of 10 @1000ppm.
        Ice doesn’t melt any faster @-40 then @-50 and a greater summer melt should lead to greater snows. And the rest of the world won’t incinerate
        .(sorry I can’t cite source as my computer crashed)

        Lenaert Bengtsson former Director of Research at ECMWF and Director of the Max Planck Insitute for Meteorology wrote in his book The science and politics of climate change.
        “The science isn’t settled and we still don’t know how best to solve the energy problems of our planet. More CO2 in the atmosphere leads undoubtedly to a warming of the earth surface. However, the extent and speed of this warming are still uncertain, because we cannot yet separate well enough the greenhouse effect from other climate influences. Although the radiative forcing by greenhouse gases (including methane, nitrogen oxides and fluorocarbons) has increased by 2.5 watts per square meter since the mid-19th century, observations show only a moderate warming of 0.8 degrees Celsius. Thus, the warming is significantly smaller than predicted by most climate models. In addition, the warming in the last century was not uniform. Phases of manifest warming were followed by periods with no warming at all or even cooling.
        The complex and only partially understood relationship between greenhouse gases and global warming leads to a political dilemma. We do not know when to expect a warming of 2 degrees Celsius. In other words: global warming has not been a serious problem so far if we rely on observations. It is only a problem when we refer to climate simulations by computer models.
        There is no alternative to such computer simulations if one wants to predict future developments. However, since there is no way to validate them, the forecasts are more a matter of faith than a fact. The IPCC has published its expert opinion a few months ago and presented it in the form of probabilities. As long as the results cannot be supported by validated models they produce a false impression of reliability.
        It is no surprise that there are other forces that are driving rapid change. Because once government subsidies are involved, huge profits are available. However, before radical and hasty changes to the current energy system are implemented, there must be robust evidence that climate change is significantly detrimental. We are still far away from such evidence. It would be wrong to conclude from the report of the IPCC and similar reports that the science is settled.” So far I share this view.

        • trellis smith

          Correction: ” The summer change would be 2.6 in the tropics while in the Artic on the same days would be respectively 10 @390ppm increasing to 13.5 @1000ppm with a winter change of 3.5.” should read” The summer change would be 2.6 in the tropics while in the Artic on the same days would be respectively 10 @390ppm increasing to 13.5 @1000ppm with a SUMMER change of 3.5.”

          • Ronald King

            Why not treat the symptoms of climate change as though it is reality and stop defending a point of view. What would it hurt?

        • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

          Trellis, again, I am going to a bigger box to respond.

        • trellis smith

          Mr. King, What is the reality of global warming or climate change is precisely the point of view I am defending.

  • Pingback: Bishop Braxton on Racism | Vox Nova()

  • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO


    Some point by point responses to your post, and then some broader comments.

    With regards to the Northwest Passage: the first commercial freighter crossed the Northwest Passage in 2014. The following Globe and Mail article talks about the economics which might limit its utility, but it is opening. The Northern Sea passage over Russia is seeing even more traffic, as the Russians are supplementing the reduced ice coverage with ice breakers.


    “my belief that the sun is primarily responsible for global warming is as for most people foremost intuitive, which admittedly should give rise to a hypothesis to be tested. ”

    I do not know what you mean. Everyone agrees that the Sun is the source of the heat which warms the Earth. The sun alone is not responsible for the retention of heat by the Earth. So what “hypothesis” is there to test? That there is such variation in solar output to effect the Earth’s temperature? This has been tested and been rejected: see the graphic from Bloomberg posted above, which comes from NASA.

    “That the diagram you find misleading as it doesn’t separate out the Artic which should be more severely impacted because of its tilt towards the sun would seem in some way to confirm the hypothesis.”

    This is simply wrong. The earth tilts on its axis, but the Northern hemisphere does not always tilt towards the sun. In Northern hemisphere winter it tilts away from the sun and the antarctic tips towards it, and vice versa six months later. There are some complicated reasons why the warming in the South are creating more ice in the south and melting it rapidly in the North.

    “Of course its more complicated than that. Interesting enough despite this polar amplification the satellite photos first produced from 1979 which are cited as the crucial empirical proof of global warming and had been receding to about 10% in recent years have rebounded in the latest images beyond the 1979 coverage.”

    I cannot find the satellite images you are referring to, but the historical data regarding sea ice extent is readily available and shows that this is false (scroll down to Figure 3):


    Even the high peak in 2009 is below the 1979 values, and the trend line (in blue) shows the steady rate of decline even given the year to year variation.

    “It is difficult to find a direct correlation between CO2 levels and temperature rise. Other than in ice core analysis, it isn’t there.”

    It is definitely there in ice core analysis, but it can also be read directly in historical data from the past 50 years (scroll down to figure 2):


    The record from ice cores is more complicated but a good discussion can be found here:


    “On the physics level the assumptions about CO2 and global warming do not seem right. CO2 makes up a tiny fraction of the atmosphere and that the atmosphere is dwarfed by the oceans, so how is it possible for CO2 to have such an enormous effect.”

    The physics of CO2 and warming is so well established that there is no debate. It was first considered by Fourier in the early 19th century and extensively studied since then. Whether or not you believe is not going to change the reality that CO2 plays a central role in retaining heat in the atmosphere. The “tiny fraction” is a strawman: any number of chemical poisons introduced into my blood will kill me, even though it is a “tiny fraction” of my blood. It is not quantity that matters, but the physics or chemistry of what happens in the presence of this material.

    “But even if the IPCC models of 4.5 degree temperature rise in their worst case scenario of unmitigated C02 levels is true what the average temperature means and how that is distributed not only by altitude, latitude and season but even by day and night is truly enlightening.”

    Your argument at this point seems to be confusing long term aggregate temperature increases with the actual daily temperature increases that can be expected. For an apt historical comparison, consider 1816, “the year without a summer.” Global average temperatures fell by between 0.4 and 0.7 C (0.7-1.3 F)—a fraction of the 2.5 C temperature change being predicted by the IPCC. The actual local results were in some places catastrophic, including hard frosts and snow in June in New England. The same kinds of variations can be expected across the globe if temperatures rise: the melting of arctic ice (which we can SEE happening), retreating glaciers, heat waves.

    With regards to the long quote from Lennart Bengtsson, ask you can see from my earlier material I disagree with his summary of the evidence regarding global climate change, and he is very much in the minority in his views. His most recent attempt to publish a peer reviewed article attempting to buttress his views was met with rejection based on scathing referee’s reports. (These are available at


    though they presume a full knowledge of the contents of the manuscript under review, their overall opinion is clear. I have only rarely gotten such brutal reports, and when it happened I withdrew the paper for a massive revision.) His dismissal of models as the only evidence for future trends is pretty amazing coming from a meteorologist, a field that uses and validates models and their predictive abilities all the time.

    We can probably keep going back and forth like this, but I really do not think that you have brought up any data or evidence that contradicts the consensus that the climate is changing, mankind is responsible, and we are very likely going to be in very serious trouble if we do not do something about it. In other words, Pope Francis is on very solid scientific ground.

    The question remains of how to respond, and he attempts to provide a solid framework within Catholic teaching for this response. You may object to his teaching, and we can move the discussion to theological grounds. Or you may find the policy initiatives he suggests based on this framework impractical or wrongheaded, and then we can move to a discussion of public policy informed by a share foundation of Catholic teaching. But there is no basis for arguing about the science: as my old department chair used to say, that train has left the station.

  • trellis smith

    David, I do know the Arctic tilts toward the sun in summer and away in winter and that is why it is intuitive to say the sun is responsible for global warming as that is when the greatest snow and ice melt occurs. I was as you noted simply trying to state the obvious that the sun warms the earth (“Busy olde foole…thy duties be to warm the world…”) but farcically wound up instead stating the nonsensical. But stating the obvious is all I am attempting to do. Check the latest NASA data of May 2015. Since 2012, polar ice has dramatically rebounded and has quickly surpassed the post-1979 average. Ever since, the polar ice caps have been at a greater average extent than the post-1979 mean. In May 2015, the updated NASA data show polar sea ice is approximately 5 percent above the post-1979 average. I hope that clarifies what I meant by the increase.
    In regards to C02 it is once again counterintuitive to implicate it to the degree the IPCC models do and even in my simple understanding of the science of CO2 ‘s relation to water vapor generation and temperature rise differ greatly from the IPCCs model predictions. (I”d be happy to send you the calculations via email) Even by accepting the severest unmitigated temperature rise, through distribution I have demonstrated the greatest warming will occur at the coldest time of the day at the coldest time of year in the coldest part of the planet to seemingly manageable levels.
    You say that the science is no longer debated yet the science seems counter intuitive and is in constant inquiry and that we both know that climatology is dominated by what we don’t understand rather than what we do know or at least it should be! As far as I know the IPCC is gearing up for its 6th report. In short the science is never settled.
    But any cursory reading on the internet of the climate science debate or non-debate as you wish to characterize it shows that it is highly politicized and scandals seem to abound with a viciousness and personal attack that seems far from a dispassionate discussion of data. Perhaps rather naively I personally am appalled where in contrivance of academic freedom, respected scientists such as Judith Curry, Mark Saber, Roy Spencer and Wille Soon lose their jobs, are vilified or hounded out of the discussion or publication (giving new meaning to ” peer review”) because they do not adhere to the climatology orthodoxy. You may be unaware but the treatment and suppression of Bengtsson is enough for anyone to ask of climatology ” Is this science or scientology? ”

    What is happening in the course of this debate is that the direst of predictions not coming true, a science that says the snowcaps are irretrievably receding where at least in the Antarctic as you noted, for purposes related to global warming, of course it’s increasing and where the hiatus for which the surface data was revised to render it to nonexistence, is alive and well in the latest RSS satellite dataset which shows no global warming at all for 222 months from December 1996 to May 2015 – more than half the 437-month satellite record. The entire RSS dataset from January 1979 to date shows global warming at a rather unspectacular rate equivalent to just 1.2 Cº per century
    As for the oceans, according to the 3600+ ARGO bathythermograph buoys, they are warming at a rate of just 0.02 Cº per decade, equivalent to 0.23 Cº per century.
    I am only stating the obvious in asking “wherein should we be concerned?”

    I have enjoyed and even learned in this discussion and expected to be challenged, but I take from what I have learned about climatology something much more disconcerting which is an argumentation and advocacy regarding global warming that seems foremost in the words of Judith Curry, “an .appeal to authority, an absence of doubt, an intolerance of debate, a desire to convince others of the ideological ‘truth’ and willingness to punish those that don’t concur.” I appreciate that while in scratching the surface of your cited sources I came upon such argumentation, you, yourself in no way so engaged or at most have kept such to a unobjectionable minimum.
    I regret I have run out of time and can no longer engage but must leave you in possession of the field.

    • Ronald King

      Trellis, I asked above, “Why not treat the symptoms of climate change as though it is reality and stop defending a point of view. What would it hurt?” We must live more conservatively regardless of what we consider is the cause of climate change. Just when treating an illness you must rule out what contributes to the illness by eliminating the potential toxins which are thought to initiate the illness. However, it seems we are unwilling to make the sacrifices necessary in order to establish a clearer picture of cause and effect. We’re all crazy

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      Trellis, it is hard to engage with you when you do not cite sources, or present data that proves one thing while you claim it proves another. Your own post continues with this. I can find the RSS data, but it is one piece of a puzzle and will not bear the weight you have put on it. I sometimes feel as though people arguing against climate change are looking for that one overlooked or suppressed bit of evidence that shows that all the other research, all the other data, all the other interpretative models are a house of sand. But climate scientists also look at this data and work very hard to understand it and explain it in context. (In this particular case, they believe troposphere temperatures are being cooled by green house gases holding the heat closer to the surface and by the depletion of the ozone layer. But, in reading your post, you seem to dismiss this out of hand as an attempt to cover up a gaping hole in “climate orthodoxy.”)

      I have tried to provide sources for all the claims I am making—if you want more, ask. They are an “appeal to authority” in the sense that we all must rely on expert authority in many things—I may ask my doctor for a referral for a second opinion, but if multiple experts tell me essentially the same thing about my health, I will believe them even if I find the truth unpalatable. The same is true here: dismissing arguments that point to long lines of carefully developed scientific research as “appeals to authority” is a strawman.

      And saying the science isn’t settled is equally a strawman. The basic science of CO2 is settled. The IPCC continues to study and refine its understanding of the climate, because climate scientists themselves admit they do not fully understand what is going—but this does not change the fact that their basic understanding appears to be sound. That you, personally, find the science of CO2 and global warming “counter-intuitive” says nothing about the truth of that science. I find much of quantum mechanics counter-intuitive, but I am happily sitting at my laptop typing this, making use of the very same science that is so mysterious.

      For the record, to the best of my knowledge, Curry, Spencer and Bengtsson are all gainfully employed and their research is funded. If you read the very critical reviews of Bengtsson that I linked to, one of his reviewers makes the point that his thesis is an important one, and if he could establish it, it would be an important contribution to the field. The problem was, in the reviewers’ expert opinion, was that he had failed to do so. Bengtsson and the others play on the field of science, and other scientists engage with their data and their conclusions, and the vast majority are not convinced.

      I take no joy being left “in possession of the field.” This is not a battle but a quest for the truth and part of our duty to be good stewards of God’s creation. All the evidence I have found tells me we have been doing a really bad job of it, and that has to stop.

  • trellis smith

    Mr. King, Your invocation of Pascale’s pretension is not germane to the reality and ramifications of the radical implementation of alarmist proposals. Other than nuclear energy the technological fix of alternative energies is not at hand and even if implemented in the West would hardly make a dent in CO2 emissions as China and India develop. who will rely on coal. We all know where the sacrifices will be made and I assure you Mr. Gore and the elites will not be the ones making them.
    Instead for the sake of a dubious science of dire and continuously postponed projections we are called to sabotage the very economic system responsible for the greatest innovations needed to mitigate against environmental degradation and climate change, a system that has pulled billions of people out of poverty and will help billions more.

  • Ronald King

    Trellis, I haven’t seen “alarmist proposals” in any comment here. The U.S. has the obligation to demonstrate its technological knowledge to advance an intelligent and wise response to an environmental crisis which does exist in reality. The ramifications of change can be anticipated and planned for as they have been in the past.

  • trellis smith

    Mr King. Any cursory investigation of climatology will reveal a political discourse grounded more in conjecture than scientific fact. A political discourse polarized between alarmists who wish to advance a socialist agenda and deniers defending free enterprise. The proposed alarmist remedies will do little if anything to provide for their desired environmental solutions but if enacted will significantly harm future development of the poorest among us and politically threatens to impose a new feudalism upon us all.
    Again I reiterate, to employ Pascale’s wager in this context is not prudence but abject irresponsibility. When confronted with a true cost/benefit analysis, China is making the modifications and technological responses based on the ramifications of pollution in the use of coal not on the rise of CO2 levels which is for them a sideshow put on for the benefit of the Obama administration. Gradual change is present and on the horizon based on what true and appropriate ameliorations are needed. In terms of the goals of this encyclical, I feel the pontiff makes clear that the despoliation of the Earth is nowhere in the interest of humanity but that the amelioration of environmental concerns will not be on the backs of the poor .That is a realistic assessment demanding an equally realistic response.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      Trellis, I agree with your first sentence but will put the emphasis on the word “cursory.” A deeper reading will show, as I have tried to make clear, a scientific consensus that everyone who studies the matter views with concern and some with alarm. Their concern says nothing about politics: it is about science and the environmental consequences of continuing to live as we do now. In the realm of solutions, the only consensus is that CO2 emissions must be drastically reduced, and soon, or we are setting ourselves up for a great and preventable tragedy. Up to this point in the discussion the only politics comes from denialists and skeptics who are insisting, with no evidence, that there is no problem and that claims of a problem are ideologically driven. To which I say, mierde.

      When it comes to solutions, they are all over the map in terms of economics and political philosophies: one only need read the comments at a blog like Real Climate (in particular the monthly “Unforced Variations” which are a free and open discussion) to see that there is no one set solution, and many people are arguing for free market solutions. The Pope has questioned one of these–imposing a revenue neutral carbon tax–on interesting grounds that need to be considered. But to claim that all people who are concerned about climate change are pushing a socialist agenda is simply wrong and a calumny. Many are pushing for strong government intervention, on the grounds that market forces have a very hard time protecting “the commons” which are often not assigned “value” by the market. Thus in the 1960s it required extensive government regulation to clean up our air and water—regulations which were vociferously objected to at the time by free market supporters, but are now incorporated into the market’s understanding of the cost of business. In the same way, CO2 pollution needs to be assigned a cost (and a high one) in order to make the changes necessary to preserve the environment. As I have said before, I am willing to listen to free market solutions, as long as they are real and not simply a smoke screen for business as usual. Thus recent discussions about a carbon tax are interesting and important.