WASHINGTON -- The Senate's most vocal climate change critic, James Inhofe (R-Okla.), begs to differ with the head of the Roman Catholic Church on whether greenhouse gases are causing the planet to warm.
Pope Francis issued an encyclical on Thursday calling for the protection of the Earth, which he said was "like a sister with whom we share our life."
"Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it," wrote the pontiff.
The encyclical says the poor will face the worst consequences of climate change because they rely on subsistence agriculture, fishing and forestry and lack the financial means to adapt to climate change or natural disasters.
But Inhofe, the chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and the author of a book about how global warming is "the greatest hoax," argued the pope's treatise could end up hurting the poor.
“I am concerned that his encyclical will be used by global warming alarmists to advocate for policies that will equate to the largest, most regressive tax increase in our nation’s history," Inhofe, who is Presbyterian, said in a statement Thursday. "It’s the poor that spend the largest portion of their expendable income to heat their homes, and they will be the ones to carry the heaviest burden of such onerous policies."
While Inhofe said he believes "we should be good stewards of the earth God gave us," the science on climate change "isn't settled" and fossil fuels are necessary for a strong economy.
"We have been innovative with our energy supply, and for generations the United States has lifted people out of poverty through the development of our God-given natural resources, most prominently from fossil fuels," he continued. "We have worked to make these resources cleaner and more efficient, and natural gas is a perfect example. To unravel this fabric of economic opportunity would create more poverty, not less. Energy is a lifeblood of the modern world, and we cannot ignore that efficient, cost-effective electricity is a means to sufficient healthcare, employment opportunities, agriculture production, and vitality of life."
Other prominent Republicans, including Catholic presidential candidate Jeb Bush, have also dismissed the pope's call to action.
"I don’t get economic policy from my bishops or my cardinal or my pope,” Bush said Wednesday in response to a leaked draft of the encyclical. "I think religion ought to be about making us better as people and less about things that end up getting in the political realm."