Monday, 29 June 2015 00:00 GFP Columnist - Dr. Klaus L.E. Kaiser
SUBJECT: Pope Francis’ Encyclical Letter Laudato Si, On care for our common home, (ENC)

Respected Academician,

There is a widespread view that the Academicians of The Pontifical Academy of Sciences (PAS) will have had substantial input to the scientific aspects expressed in Papal Encyclical Letters like the ENC and that such encyclicals do reflect the deliberations, views and opinions expressed by the PAS as a whole and by the majority of its individual members. However, this common assumption may be incorrect and, therefore, I have some questions to you which I hope that each of you is willing and able to provide a simple YES or NO answer to.

No doubt you are aware of the significance of the ENC for the future, especially its influence on the development of poorer nations and their people.

My questions are not just out of my personal curiosity but to help the world at large to better understand the ENC and what it means for the people who are presently deprived of many of the energy-driven amenities of the developed countries.

My questions to you:

1. To my knowledge, it is widely considered to be a scientific fact that the trace gas carbon dioxide (CO2) is the basis for all life on earth. Without CO2 in the atmosphere, neither plants or animals, nor human life would exist on earth. DO YOU AGREE?

2. To my knowledge, it is widely considered to be a scientific fact that for most of its 4.5 billion year history, the earth’s atmosphere contained much higher levels of CO2 than today. DO YOU AGREE?

3. To my knowledge, it is widely considered to be a scientific fact that the process of photosynthesis transformed the then-abundant atmospheric CO2 to “organic matter” with commensurate reduction of CO2 in the atmosphere. DO YOU AGREE?

4. To my knowledge, it is widely considered to be a scientific fact that the entire oxygen (O2) in the earth’s atmosphere has been produced from CO2 by the natural photosynthesis process. DO YOU AGREE?

5. To my knowledge, it is widely considered to be a scientific fact that the oceans and most fresh water are alkaline, the opposite of acidic. The same photosynthetic process that converts the CO2 to organic matter also increases the alkaline property of neutral or acidic water. DO YOU AGREE?

6. To my knowledge, it is widely considered to be a scientific fact that some 20,000 years ago, the northern parts of the North American and Eurasian continents were covered with large ice shields, up to several km thick. These ice shields had melted completely by approx. 5,000 years ago, entirely without human influence. DO YOU AGREE?

7. To my knowledge, it is widely considered to be a scientific fact that the atmospheric CO2 levels barely changed during the 15,000-year period when the ice shields melted; it stayed around 250 parts per million for most of that time. DO YOU AGREE?

8. To my knowledge, it is widely considered to be a scientific fact that the earth’s plants and ocean algae consume any CO2 stemming from fossil resource use with the same vigor as that emitted from volcanoes and fumaroles. Therefore, is it then not incorrect to consider the life sustaining CO2 as “pollution?” DO YOU AGREE?

9. To my knowledge, it is widely considered to be a scientific fact that coal, undoubtedly a major source of anthropogenic CO2, provides a large percentage of the world’s electricity needs. Together, the countries of India and China consume more than one half of the world’s coal production and have already stated that they will not curtail their expansion of coal-sourced electricity generation. That includes the construction of about one new coal-fired power plant each week. Many countries in Africa and elsewhere will (and should) follow their lead and expand the use of fossil energy resources. DO YOU AGREE?

10. Even an overwhelming majority of identical views does not establish a scientific fact. How wrong the learned majority can be has been shown repeatedly in history, even by the Catholic Church. For example, the Italian astronomer Galileo was recently exonerated by the Vatican, about 400 years after having been found a heretic, solely for his scientific view of a heliocentric system. Similarly, when facing an onslaught of contrary views, the famous mathematician-physicist Einstein remarked “One [scientific fact] would have been enough” to disprove his then-novel theory. It is clear then that the term “consensus” has no meaning in the world of science. DO YOU AGREE?

Respected Academician,

11. If your answers to my questions above are in the affirmative, then one has to wonder whether these known scientific facts can be reconciled with statements to the contrary as found in the ENC. For example, the ENC calls CO2 “carbon dioxide pollution.” In fact, CO2 is not a “pollutant” but a vital trace gas in the atmosphere. Therefore, the atmosphere is not being “polluted” by the use (oxidation) of fossil fuels.

The ENC also asserts that “the use of … fossil fuels needs to be progressively replaced without delay.” Some people even claim that 80% of the currently known fossil fuel reserves in the world need to stay undeveloped and that within a few decades the world could generate its entire energy needs from renewable primarily wind and solar energy sources. This is to avoid a claimed runaway global warming trend, even though the more than 100 climate models have all miserably failed in the past. The models’ predictions of a catastrophic warming trend, based on higher CO2 levels in the atmosphere, have not materialized for close to 20 years and the polar ice masses have been growing rather than shrinking. This is no surprise as the atmospheric CO2 levels follow – not lead – any temperature increases with a considerable time lag.

Such contradictions also raise the question if the deliberations and opinions of the PAS and its members have indeed been heard and whether the ENC reflects them accurately. DO YOU AGREE?

12. Your nomination as Academician of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences recognizes you as a scientist of acknowledged moral personality and international renown.

In my humble opinion, your nomination to the PAS also implies a duty to your faith, The Holy See, the Academy, the world at large and, last not least, to your conscience as an independent researcher in your professional field. DO YOU AGREE?

In closing, I urge you to publicly and clearly state your opinion as to whether or not you are in full agreement with the scientific views on CO2 expressed in the ENC. However, if you do not agree with the ENC, please say so too; in fact, any dissenting voice should be heard even louder. Either way, please state your views out loud and clearly. The world’s hungry and energy-poor people depend on your wisdom!


Respectfully Yours...

Dr. Klaus L.E. Kaiser

Image Courtesy of the Academicians of The Pontifical Academy of Sciences

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