The Catholic Church enjoys its first left-wing Pope, in the modern sense of the word. He often talks – about egalitarianism and other things – as if he were just another left-wing activist. It doesn't mean that no previous Pope had a similar social thinking. But no previous Pope operated in the world where the left-wing activism represented a powerful mainstream movement.
Just to remind you, John Paul II was still a politically neutral religious figure with a strongly anti-communist image while Benedict XVI was a conservative religious leader and, to a large extent, a right-wing thinker. Francis is different. He is also planning to issue an encyclical, a Pope-authored bulletin, dedicated to the climate hysteria, a psychiatric disease whose proliferation the religious leader plans to endorse. Given the ideological roots of the climate hysteria and Pope Francis' left-wing bias, I am simply not surprised.
It doesn't make sense to waste much time with Francis' proclamations – they don't really differ from mediocre left-wing kibitzers' comments about the same issues. Pope Francis could easily go to the pub with Leonardo DiCaprio, Prince Charles, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, to mention a few other science-illiterate nuts who love to imagine themselves as the saviors of the world. But the Pope's views be more far-reaching due to his influence on 1.2 billion Catholics in the world.
As a Christian atheist, I have mixed feelings about the power of the Catholic Church. It's a church that has given our civilization – and perhaps, it is still giving us – some good stuff. Religious belief has some virtues and many of the moral standards believed by good contemporary atheists have Judeo-Christian origin. But faith – especially blind faith – may also hurt and the Catholic Church turned out to be the church that is able to reform, adapt, adjust, and modernize itself and this is a part of the reason why the modern industrial capitalist civilization was born in nominally Christian countries.
The Pope's decision to link himself with one of the most atrocious and kitschy pseudoscientific myths of the present is unfortunate and dangerous for the future of the Catholic Church. As a non-Catholic, I don't really care much but I think that the Catholics should care. To say the least, such climate activism is likely to polarize or split the Catholic Church. And because prophesies and other statements by the climate fearmongers are being proven wrong on a daily basis, the assumption of papal infallibility is guaranteed to be questioned.
I would like to point out that the Popes have had a pretty good record in being immune towards similar pseudoscientific totalitarian memes in the Past. For example, Pius XI (1922-1939) issued encyclicals against eugenics which was the main counterpart of the climate hysteria of his era. His successor Pius XII (1939-1958) was an anti-Nazi who criticized the invasion of Poland and other events, too.
It took 359 years (1633-1992) for the Catholic Church to figure out that Galileo Galileo was right when it came to heliocentrism, after all. Francis suggests that he may accept that the Earth revolves around the Sun, too. And he even says that life has been ramifying via evolution, while God's role is reduced to that of the primordial author of the initial conditions. But Francis seems to confirm the speculations about the "conservation laws for stupidity" in the Church so he replaces geocentrism and creationism by the climate alarmism.
If history is a good guide, the Catholic Church will revoke Pope Francis' delusions about the climate hysteria in 2374 AD, many centuries after it will have become obvious that the climate hysteria will have been hot air.
Summers, market, and what the surplus of oil means
But I want to mention the text by a man whom I slightly know in person, Larry Summers. His text in The Washington Post advocates a carbon tax:
I would agree with this template for the argument. However, Summers' numbers – and indeed, the very sign – are completely wrong. What are the costs and benefits of the carbon emissions? Well, the only really noticeable economic effect of additional carbon dioxide is the enhanced growth rate of plants – and, therefore, increased efficiency of agriculture.
Each year, the CO2 concentration increases by about 2 ppm – from a level around 400 ppm. So the relative increase of CO2 is about 0.5 percent per year. Because CO2 allows the plants to reduce the number of pores for them to breath, they lose less water and become able to grow larger and longer. This 0.5 percent increase of CO2 per year may translate to something like 0.25 percent increase of the efficiency of agricultural activities. Because agriculture in the world produces a few trillion dollars per year, one year of industrial CO2 emissions increases the annual output of agriculture – in the next year and every other year in the following century or so – by 0.25 percent of a few trillions which is a (more than) few billion dollars. As I said, this benefit exists almost for a century – before most of the CO2 is reabsorbed by the oceans – so we may estimate that the annual emissions bring hundreds of billions of dollars of integrated benefits for the agriculture in the whole future.
Because the world's annual CO2 emissions are almost 40 billion tons per year, we may see that one ton of CO2 emissions creates benefits between several and 10 dollars. So all these rational arguments could indeed justify a carbon fee reaching almost 10 dollars per ton of CO2 but this fee would have to be paid in the opposite direction than Larry Summers preposterously suggests.
This discussion isn't new: CO2 is beneficial, not harmful, which is a basic fact about life on Earth that the proponents of new and higher taxes including Larry Summers prefer to obscure, hide, and distort.
But I want to discuss a newer technical point mentioned already in the title of Summers' article – and many places of the body. He claims that the fall in oil prices makes the case for a carbon tax "overwhelming". Later in the article, he also argues that the carbon tax is a good method to reduce America's dependence on the Middle East oil producers.
If you look at all these ideas rationally and fairly, you will see that they are illogical or plain dishonest.
First of all, we live in an era when the oil prices are low. This makes it easier to add some extra fees such as the carbon tax – because people are currently feeling that they may afford to increase the low price of the fossil fuels. But the point is that this is largely a distorted illusion caused by the special feature of the present era, one in which the oil price is low. The oil prices may also return to higher values and the carbon tax could turn out to be a big problem. I think that a responsible economist should emphasize this distorted optics we have today – emphasize that something that doesn't look like a big problem now may become a big problem if and when the oil prices are higher again which may very well happen (especially because the new consumers of the cheaper oil are likely to emerge at some point). In other words, sensible people should be aware of the fact that if we're capable of some long-term thinking, our desire to introduce the carbon tax should be much lower than what it is because of the current low oil prices.
Summers' argument is also demagogic for a related reason. He has mentioned another argument that has been traditionally used to defend the carbon tax in the U.S. A reduced oil consumption would reduce the U.S. dependence on the Middle East which is a good thing for political reasons, too. How does the current oil glut affect this argument?
Well, it's easy. The oil glut is partly if not largely caused by the fracking revolution in the U.S. So in recent years, America's dependence on the Middle East oil producers was decreasing (America may very well become a net oil exporter soon) – and this is another way to describe or explain the ongoing fall in the oil prices. And because America's dependence on the Middle East oil is decreasing, the aforementioned prominent argument in favor of the carbon tax – that it is good to reduce the dependence on the Middle East – is weakening, too. America no longer has a strong geopolitical reason to reduce the oil consumption!
So the honest conclusion and title of all these considerations would be the opposite of Summers' title,
Oil’s swoon weakens the key arguments for a carbon tax.But it's just another sign error that the champions of the Big Government and large and increasing taxes aren't afraid of. The final result – the claim that there should be many taxes, higher taxes, new taxes, and more intense redistribution – is actually not a result of any credible, rational argument. It is an assumption, a dogma that leftists start with, and once they start with this assumption, they write down something like an op-ed or a paper that formally looks like an argument ending with the right conclusion. Many people will buy it, anyway, won't they?
Sorry, Larry, but the intelligent readers will still be able to notice that your logic is upside down and filled with sign errors and illogical twists and the corrected version of your arguments leads to the opposite conclusion than one that you have provided your readers with.