Patrick Michaels explains for National Review Online readers why he is offering kudos to Pope Francis for hosting a conference dedicated to climate change.

It’s about time we took a clear and sober look at an issue that can cause so much harm to so many, especially the poor and downtrodden.

The core problem for the conference is to balance the costs and benefits imposed by climate change against the costs and benefits of a major reduction in the use of fossil fuels, with the understanding that there are only two other sources of dense energy that can effectively replace them, nuclear power and large hydroelectric dams.

Abundant and dependable energy frees mankind from a menial existence, allowing us to use our given talents for the greater good. The mental capital of the poor in the underdeveloped world is untapped without dense energy. The burning of dung for cooking is a major cause of early death from pulmonary disease. The massive deforestation that must occur without dense energy amplifies floods from ubiquitous tropical downpours. Solar power simply cannot run a city from late afternoon through early morning. Wind is far too intermittent, especially over tropical lands, and would require backup from either coal or natural gas to keep the electrical grid stable.

The conference has a moral duty to the poor, namely to help them find ways to not be poor. There is no debate that depriving them of the technological means that are required to lift their societies is immoral.

The conference also has a moral duty to examine the issue of climate change itself. Is it moral for scientists and policymakers to use computer models for climate change that are clearly predicting far too much warming? What kind of climate would God want for us — the one we have today, the cooler one at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the much warmer one that accompanied the rise of agriculture and civilization, or thousands of feet of ice over what is now Chicago? Homo sapiens has lived through all of these.

The conference has a moral duty to seek and follow the truth, wherever it may lead, even through the thorniest of dilemmas.