Rorate Caeli

For Pope's Environment Encyclical, an unusual line-up of presenters for official Vatican press conference, including climate change radical.

The Vatican has just revealed in today's Bollettino the line-up of speakers for the official presentation of the "Environment Encyclical", Laudato Si, on June 18 at the New Synod Hall.

- Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace;

- His Eminence Metropolitan John (Zizioulas) of Pergamon, representing the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Orthodox Church;

- Prof. John Schellnhuber, Founding Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

Metropolitan John, 84 years old, is the Patriarchate of Constantinople's leading figure in ecumenical discussions and has long been close to the Catholic ecumenical establishment. However this is the first time that an Orthodox metropolitan would be officially co-presenting a papal Encyclical. There are reports that the Encyclical will draw upon the teaching of Patriarch Bartholomew (whose interest in environmental issues is well known) and that there was even a proposal -- which proved to be "not possible" -- that the Encyclical be jointly promulgated by both the Pope and the Patriarch. 

Perhaps of far greater interest to most of our readership would be the presence of Prof. Schellnhuber on the panel. The father of the "two-degree target" to stave off global warming, he is the founding director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany (which is funded by the German government), Chair of the German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU), and a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. He was one of the experts (alongside Jeffrey Sachs) tapped by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences to write their joint statement on climate change published in April of this year, titled "Climate change and the common good: a statement of the problem and the demand for transformative solutions". A description of the final document's call for a "zero-carbon world" can be found here; the final published version seems to have been removed from the official website Pontifical Academy of Sciences, but to our knowledge has never been retracted.

In the words of the New York Times, Schellnhuber is "known for his aggressive stance on climate policy" and famously declared in 2009 that the "carrying capacity" of the Earth is less than one billion people:

A scientist known for his aggressive stance on climate policy made an apocalyptic prediction on Thursday.  

Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, the director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, said that if the buildup of greenhouse gases and its consequences pushed global temperatures 9 degrees Fahrenheit higher than today — well below the upper temperature range that scientists project could occur from global warming — Earth’s population would be devastated. 


“In a very cynical way, it’s a triumph for science because at last we have stabilized something –- namely the estimates for the carrying capacity of the planet, namely below 1 billion people,” said Dr. Schellnhuber, who has advised German Chancellor Angela Merkel on climate policy and is a visiting professor at Oxford.

 At that temperature, there would be “no fluctuations anymore, we can be fairly sure,” said Dr. Schellnhuber, exercising his characteristically dark sense of humor at the morning plenary session on the closing day of an international climate change conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. 

He is also known for his intense advocacy of rapid de-industrialization in order to stave off global warming. A 2009 article quotes him as follows:

Four degrees of warming would be hotter than any time in the last 30 million years, and it could happen as soon as 2060 to 2070.

“Political reality must be grounded in physical reality or it’s completely useless,” John Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, told the conference.

Schellnhuber recently briefed U.S. officials from the Barack Obama administration, but he says they chided him that his findings were “not grounded in political reality” and that “the [U.S.] Senate will never agree to this”.

He had told them that the U.S. must reduce its emissions from its current 20 tonnes of carbon per person average to zero tonnes per person by 2020 to have an even chance of stabilising the climate around two degrees C.

China’s emissions must peak by 2020 and then go to zero by 2035 based on the current science, he added.

“Policymakers who agreed to a two-degree C goal at the G20 summit easily fool themselves about what emission cuts are needed,” Schellnhuber said.

Last but not the least he is an advocate of a very real form of "World Government", also in the name of defeating the climate crisis. His ideas are laid out in "Expanding the Democracy Universe", where among other things he discusses his dream of an Earth Constitution, a Global Council elected by the people of the whole world, and a Planetary Court with jurisdiction over the whole world and with the power to penalize violations of the "Earth Constitution".

While we expect (or rather, hope) that Mr. Schellnhuber will not be using the June 18 press conference to lay out his personal opinions, it is perplexing that the Vatican selected him to be the sole layman and environment expert to help present the Pope's encyclical. The world is not lacking in scientists and experts who embrace global warming orthodoxy without advocating the kind of extremes represented by this man -- it would not have been too difficult for the Vatican to find an alternative. His very presence on the panel does not do anything to assuage fears that regardless of Laudato Si's actual teaching, it will be used by powerful lobbies to advance their own agendas that are ultimately unfriendly to the Church and the sanctity of human life.