I’m going to propose an audacious idea and disagree with popular held opinions on Climate Change. Hold your tomatoes and let me explain. Pope Francis came out last week with an Encyclical (Papal document) on the environment. First I want to say that I love that Pope Francis is talking about the environment! I love that he is addressing issues that are relevant to Christians and non-Christians! And I love that he is advocating for environmentalism and treating our planet better! I disagree with most scientific opinions about Climate Change, (which really is irrelevant to the point I want to make… maybe I just love to disagree?) I believe that the threat of climate change is propaganda to scare us all into being more Eco-friendly. Ok…. You can throw your tomatoes now….
Now with that said, do I believe the planet is warming up? Yes. Do I believe that human beings have contributed to the warming of the planet? Yes. Do I believe that we need to change as Pope Francis says and treat the earth with more respect? Yes. However, do I believe that the main cause of climate change is human beings? No. I believe there are too many other factors Involved to say that with certainty. I believe environmentalist and the media have hijacked our role in climate change, and exaggerated it in order to scare us into making us more Eco-friendly. I believe it is the similar to Y2K, Killer Bees, Ebola, H1N1, SARS, Islam after 9/11…. I could keep going. In all of these cases the media took a real threat and blew it up into something to scare the masses. Now I could go find some research that is contradictory to the popular scientific theory but we all know you can use statistics to prove anything, so I won’t. Besides that is not the point I want to make.
Here is my real problem, we need to be good to the environment out of love for it, not fear of it. I don’t like scare tactics, even if they are true. I think this is at the heart of what Pope Francis is saying and why he brings in love of the poor into the discussion. Catholic social teaching says that the means cannot be evil even if it leads us to a good end. Scaring people into doing the right thing is wrong. I also believe that it can have negative consequences in the future. What if the earth starts to cool down for unrelated reasons? Can we stop being environmentally friendly then since global warming is no longer an issue? No! Saving the environment is equally as important as our motive behind saving the environment. It is the equivalent of saying, “You have to have a personal relationship with Christ, or you’ll burn in Hell!” Sure you are getting someone to a good end (a relationship with Christ) but you are using an evil method to get to that good end. We can see that this has backfired and I believe it is a major reason so many people have left christian churches.
The idea that we do “whatever it takes” to get people to do the right thing is utilitarianism. Utilitarianism is when we only see the results and ignore the method. It is the greatest pleasure for the most amount of people, with no regard to how you get there. If your family is starving would it be ethical to kill the baker and steal all his bread? Of course not because you are committing an evil act in order to do something good. Taken to its logical conclusion you could say that a room full of canibles would have a lot of pleasure if they ate one person, but since it would increase many peoples pleasure a lot and only decrease one persons pleasure a lot, they should eat him because that would give the most overall pleasure. If we do good acts with good intentions, we will get good results. Scaring people into environmentalism ensures that it will be a fad; that people will eventually stop caring about it because they will stop being afraid.
The bottom line is, the only reason to do the right thing is because it’s the right thing! Every other reason to do something leaves us bankrupt. If we do the right thing for any other reason, those reasons won’t last and we will stop doing the right thing. When our actions are based on a motive that it is right, we can be sure that what is right will never change.
Note: I’d just like to add that Pope Francis is basing his information on the popular opinion of scientists. I think this is a good idea since it is wise to trust scientific opinion (unlike me). I don’t condemn him at all for doing so. I personally just have a strong mistrust in modern academia, especially science, psychology or philosophy. So really it’s not the Pope that I am disagreeing with, he has every reason to trust scientific opinion as do all of you.