The day Pope Francis addressed Congress in Washington, D.C., Republican presidential candidate and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, a Catholic, told reporters in Virginia that the pope’s opinion should not be taken too seriously.
The pope accepts the scientific consensus that human activity is contributing to climate change, and he has used his U.S. tour to advance the argument that environmentalism is a social justice issue, and that curbing climate change is necessary in order to lift up the poorest of the world’s population.
Bush took the directly opposing view.
“I oppose the president’s policy as it relates to climate change because it will destroy the ability to re-industrialize the country, to allow for people to get higher wage jobs, for people to rise up,” Bush said, according to the Huffington Post.
“He’s not a scientist, he’s a religious leader,” Bush says in a video of the remarks.
In fact, the pope studied chemistry and worked as a chemist. However, why his status as a scientist is relevant is unclear. An overwhelming majority of scientists has already concluded that climate change is real and caused by human action. Many of those scientists have made their research and findings available in order to help shape policy decisions.
The pope’s argument — that humanity has a moral imperative to take care of the environment — is simply the religious conclusion. Bush, who frames the argument as an economic one, might consider asking whether economists should be listened to in shaping policy.
Most economists, incidentally, agree that the catastrophic effects of climate change are going to be very bad for the economy.
A poll from New York University’s Institute for Policy Integrity conducted a full five years ago, found that 94 percent of economists believe the United States should join international agreements to limit climate change.
The costs of mitigating climate change are expected to balloon in coming years. An August report from Citibank estimated that doing nothing about climate change will cost $44 trillion worldwide through 2060. In contrast, the group found that investing in low-carbon energy would save the world $1.8 trillion during that timeframe.