FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images
Pope Francis waves upon deplaning in Santiago de Cuba on Monday. The pope is set to visit the U.S. this week.
by Scott Tong
Monday, September 21, 2015 – 15:59
When Pope Francis visits the U.S. this week, he is likely to preach about climate change and the role of markets, given his encyclical on the environment. Yes, markets.
Many classical economists are scratching their heads about his message so far. Some consider the pope’s writings anti-capitalist.
“It’s sort of too far beyond the pale to even be engaged by serious people,” said Steve Cicala, an assistant professor at the University of Chicago.
Less controversial, in the pope’s encyclical on the environment, is his view of the cause of the problem. He said the earth is increasingly an “immense pile of filth,” and that polluters must pay for polluting.
“Although he speaks his language, this is really the language of market failure,” said Lord Nicholas Stern at the London School of Economics, who wrote a defining paper on climate change, which he calls “the greatest and widest-ranging market failure ever seen.”
Here’s why: carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels hurts the environment — there’s a cost. But the polluters in most of the world pay nothing.