ROME — Vatican Foreign Minister Archbishop Paul Gallagher on Friday urged a U.N. High-Level Dialogue on Energy to abandon fossil fuels because climate change is causing untold damage.
Climate change “disrupts the agricultural sector, exacerbates water insecurity and scarcity, and increases exposure to extreme weather events, destroying livelihoods and forcing many to leave their homes and migrate,” Archbishop Gallagher asserted in a video conference to the New York meeting.
Therefore, a “transition to accessible and clean energy is a duty that we owe to millions of our brothers and sisters around the world, especially the poor, including generations yet to come,” the archbishop said.
Gallagher made the seemingly impossible proposal that the world move away from fossil fuel production while simultaneously assuring cheap, accessible energy to all.
“Currently 759 million people live without electricity,” he stated, and to eliminate poverty and hunger, “we must ensure that every family and household has sufficient access to affordable and reliable energy.”
How the archbishop believes humanity is going to provide every community and family with cheap, reliable energy without fossil fuels remains a mystery.
“As we collectively strive to ensure energy access for all, we must take into account the resulting impact on the environment,” he declared. “The extraction, transformation, transport, and consumption of fossil fuels and unclean energy harm air, water, soil, ecosystems, and climate.”
The latter statement warrants some scrutiny.
To take just one example, that of the United States, whose production and per capita consumption of fossil fuels is the highest in the world, the quality of air, water, and soil is also among the cleanest of all the nations on the planet.
As a point of comparison, among the 14 countries in South America, none of which produces or consumes fossil fuels anywhere near U.S. rates, only one nation (Ecuador) passes the World Health Organization’s (WHO) standard for clean air.
Of the ten most polluted cities in the world, nine are in India, and the remaining one is in China. The most polluted country in the world is Bangladesh, which neither produces nor consumes a significant quantity of fossil fuels.
This would suggest that there is little or no correlation between the production and consumption of fossil fuels on the one hand and the quality of air, water, and soil. Economic development, which depends historically on the availability of inexpensive, reliable fossil fuels, has tended in the First World to progress hand in hand with clean air, soil, and water.
In a 2017 report, the Lancet medical journal revealed that pollution-related diseases were responsible for an estimated nine million premature deaths in 2015, or some 15 times more than from all wars and other forms of violence combined.
Pollution is the largest environmental cause of disease and premature death in the world today, and diseases caused by pollution are responsible for about 16 percent of all deaths worldwide — “three times more deaths than from AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined and 15 times more than from all wars and other forms of violence,” the report stated.
This lethal pollution is uncorrelated to the production and consumption of fossil fuels or to climate change. In fact, even the most exaggerated estimates of the effects of climate change on the world’s population do not dare suggest that anywhere near nine million people die from it each year.
In his address to the U.N., Archbishop Gallagher declared that a “just energy transition should pursue smarter, more efficient, and more peaceful energy production, management, and consumption, especially in those areas where energy is most likely to be wasted.”