One of the most loved Saints in the Catholic world, revered, in fact, by many traditions around the planet, is Saint Francis of Assisi.  In anticipating the Pontiff’s upcoming message on environment and climate change, bear in mind it’s not a small deal that this Pope is the first one in 700 years to take that Saint’s name as his own.

In preparing a new video which will look at the potential influence of the Pope on the climate debate, I’ve been told that significant Republican legislators have been more than a little interested in what Francis will say, and how to respond.

The 8 minute clip above is from Franco Zeffirelli‘s 1972 bio-pic “Brother Sun, Sister Moon”, a dramatization of the saint’s life which captures much of the legendary, ecstatic connection with the natural world that make Francis a favorite among so many.

PBS Religion and Ethics Newsweekly:

Finally, since Jesus’s time, one of the most revered figures in all Christianity has been Saint Francis of Assisi. For the new pope to have chosen Francis as his new name may say a lot about his priorities.

Saint Francis was born in central Italy in the 12th century. There’s a basilica there where Francis heard Jesus tell him to rebuild his church. The opulence of that church today is just the opposite of the poverty Saint Francis chose. He had been born rich but gave up everything he owned, even his clothes, in order to live as he believed Jesus wanted—in poverty, caring for those Jesus called “the least of these.” Catholics today still cite that standard, referring to “a preferential option for the poor.”

To Francis, every living being was holy and valuable. He once kissed the hands of lepers.

He loved nature and all living creatures. He preached to the birds and spoke of Brother Sun and Sister Moon. In his name many churches today bless the animals.

The Catholic Telegraph:

Pope Francis told thousands of journalists March 16 that he took to heart the words of his friend and chose to be called after St. Francis of Assisi, “the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and protects creation,” the same created world “with which we don’t have such a good relationship.”

Giotto - Saint Francis preaching to the Birds

Giotto – Saint Francis preaching to the Birds


Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina, the new pope, is breaking historic ground by choosing the name Francis.

It’s the first time the name is being used by a pope, said CNN Vatican expert John Allen.

Pope Francis chose his name in honor of St. Francis of Assisi because he is a lover of the poor, said Vatican deputy spokesman Thomas Rosica.

“Cardinal Bergoglio had a special place in his heart and his ministry for the poor, for the disenfranchised, for those living on the fringes and facing injustice,” Rosica said.

St. Francis, one of the most venerated figures in the Roman Catholic Church, was known for connecting with fellow Christians, Rosica added.

Allen described the name selection as “the most stunning” choice and “precedent shattering.”

Read the rest of this entry »

On May 13, the House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on a proposed guidance to federal agencies on implementing the National Environmental Policy Act. Republicans on the Committee spent the hearing denying the science and risks of climate change. These are the lowlights.

Probably good to save this one and review the various steaming piles of stupid dished up, the same ones you are likely to hear around the water cooler or at the country club locker room.  I may use this as the basis for a video later on, but for now, pull out your double wide head vise, and check it out.

Normally I wouldn’t just post a bunch of nonsense climate denial without balancing explanations, but as you’ll see from this compendium – the depth of stupid here is so gaping, that most of the readers of this blog will merely gasp in wonder at man’s infinite capacity for self deception.

In fact, John Cook’s new Massive Online Open Course on Climate Denial is based on exposing students to these “weak” forms of denial, much as a physician uses weakened forms of a virus to make a vaccine.

In describing the course, Cook writes that in his own research, when he’s “informed strong political conservatives that there’s a scientific consensus that humans are causing global warming, they become less accepting that humans are causing climate change.”

He says you can’t adequately address the issue of climate change denial “without considering the root cause: personal beliefs and ideology driving the rejection of scientific evidence. Attempts at science communication that ignore the potent influence effect of worldview can be futile or even counterproductive.”

So what is the best response?

Read the rest of this entry »


A subsurface wave of warm water emerges from the Pacific

Eric Holthaus in Slate:

Last year at this time, I was harping about the “monster” El Niño that seemed to be brewing in the tropical Pacific Ocean. It didn’t pan out. But from the looks of the latest data, I was just one year too early.

Despite last year’s false alarm, there are several reasons to believe that this year’s version of El Niño is the real deal.

First off, it’s rapidly intensifying. El Niño is about self-reinforcing feedbacks between the ocean and the atmosphere, and from all accounts, this one has its foot on the accelerator pedal.

If it continues, the impacts will be felt around the globe—here’s my detailed rundown of what to expect. Among them: drought in Australia, Southeast Asia, and perhaps India, with flooding in Peru and Southern California.

For the first time since 1998—the year of the strongest El Niño on record, which played havoc with the world’s weather patterns and was blamed for 23,000 deaths worldwide—ocean temperatures in all five El Niño zones have risen above 1 degree Celsius warmer than normal at the same time. That’s the criteria for a moderately strong event, and the latest forecast models are unanimous that it’s going to keep strengthening for the rest of the year.

A sub-surface wave of warm water is driving this trend, which has reached off-the-charts levels during the first four months of 2015.

Autumn outlooks made this time of year normally have an error of plus-or-minus 0.6 degrees Celsius, meaning the current forecast of a 2.2 degree warming of the tropical Pacific by December essentially locks in a strong event. At the low end, we can expect the biggest El Niño since the last one in 2009-2010, a moderately strong event. At the top end, this El Niño could be the strongest in recorded history.


Farmer Juanito Masangkay heads out to the fields at night with a flashlight and a bow and arrow to get food for his wife and seven children. By hunting rats.

Masangkay and other Philippine farmers are some of the first to suffer the effects of this year’s El Nino, a weather event that alters climate patterns around the globe. A drought since February has forced him to look for alternative sources of food. The government gives him rice for the tails as part of a program to curb vermin that damage crops; the rats he eats.

Read the rest of this entry »

coalCoal companies continue to bite the dust. Yet, while “cheap” coal is crashing, electric bills are level or falling…

Washington Post:

Coal companies are fighting through the sector’s worst downturn in decades. The thermal coal used by power plants is facing pressure from low-cost natural gas and tougher emissions standards. The metallurgical coal used in steelmaking is at a seven-year low amid slowing Chinese demand.

“The space has been broadsided here for a number of years, especially in the east,” said Lucas Pipes, a New York-based analyst for Brean Capital LLC. “A company like Patriot really gets the full shock of the structural changes” as well as the weaker export opportunities, he said.

Among the coal-related energy producers to file for protection since 2012 are Longview Power LLC, Dynegy Inc. and Edison Mission Energy. They and other filings — including those of James River Coal Co., America West Resources Inc., Trinity Coal Corp., Americas Energy Co., Clearwater Resources LP and Consolidated Energy — point to the deteriorating market for U.S. coal.

Daily Finance:

Coal is dying as a source of energy in the U.S. as increased regulation and competing energy sources push it out of the market. The headlines might make you think that coal’s decline will lead to higher energy bills or less energy security, but that’s simply not the case.

As coal plants and coal mines are shut down around the country, the cost of electricity hasn’t been as impacted as you might think. In fact, energy costs are now growing more slowly than they were when coal was the leading source of energy in the U.S. To understand why, you have to look at how quickly competing sources of energy are lowering their own costs.

There’s a lot of debate about what’s actually driving the decline of coal in the electricity industry, but there’s no denying that coal’s best days are in the past. Over 150 coal power plants have been closed this century, and the trend shows no sign of slowing.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the use of coal in electricity generation is down more than 20 percent just since the beginning of 2008.

Read the rest of this entry »


A new study puts as positive spin as you’re likely to see on the nuclear industry’s future.  Nuclear power’s problems don’t come from Jane Fonda, or  hippies carrying signs. They’ve been baked in from the beginning, with unrealistic expectations, poor technology choices, and over eager promotion.


Nuclear power can play a modest, but important, role in avoiding catastrophic global warming — if it can solve its various problems including high construction cost without sacrificing safety.

That is the conclusion of a comprehensive 2015 “Technology Roadmap” from the International Energy Agency (IEA) and Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA). It is also what I’ve been arguing on Climate Progress for a long, long time.

Because it is a low-carbon source of around-the-clock (baseload) power, a number of scientists and others have called for a reexamination of nuclear policy. The Chinese in particular have been building nuclear power plants at a steady pace. Yet very few new plants have been ordered and built in the past two decades in countries with market economies, such as the United States, which derives a fifth of its power from nuclear. That is primarily because new nuclear plants are so costly, but also because dealing with the radioactive nuclear waste remains problematic and the costs of an accident are so enormous.

In particular, the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan slowed the rate of new plant construction starts. In 2014 there were only three new plants put under construction.

I’ve posted before on the continuing problems at Georgia’s Vogtle nuclear facility, the first newly licensed plant to be built in the country in decades. It was a no brainer to predict that cost overruns and construction delays would continue – that’s been industry standard from the beginning – and indeed, that pattern continues.

Associated  Press:

Regulators say there’s a “high probability” a nuclear plant under construction in Georgia will be delayed even longer than the three years already announced by its owners, according to an analysis obtained by The Associated Press.

Southern Co. subsidiary Georgia Power and its co-owners are building two more nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle in eastern Georgia. A project using the same reactor design, Westinghouse Electric Co.’s AP1000, is underway at the Summer nuclear station in South Carolina, which has seen similar delays.

Read the rest of this entry »


Apparently the climate-denying Heartland Institute effort to change the Pope’s mind on climate change did not work.

However, you can expect that sound bite to be turned on them by the Rush Limbaugh “enviros-are-watermelons” crowd.

If I was advising the Vatican on messaging,  I’d say – you can be just as tough in your language as you wish, by all means, use the words “greedy”, “sociopathic”, “lying”, “criminals”. But if you put the word “capitalism” in there, – even if you’re technically correct – a portion of your target audience will turn it off.

Just sayin’.


Pope Francis’ closest cardinal advisor on Tuesday blasted “movements in the United States” hostile to the pontiff’s forthcoming document on the environment, claiming the criticism is fueled by a form of capitalism protecting its own interests.

“The ideology surrounding environmental issues is too tied to a capitalism that doesn’t want to stop ruining the environment because they don’t want to give up their profits,” said Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga.

Rodríguez is the coordinator of a group of nine cardinals that serves as Pope Francis’ informal cabinet.

He said both the church and the wider world are awaiting Francis’ ecological manifesto, known as an encyclical letter, “with hope,” especially in tandem with a U.N.-sponsored agreement on Sustainable Development Goals and a U.N. summit on climate change in Paris later this year.

Rodríguez spoke at a press conference in Rome to mark the beginning of a general assembly of Caritas Internationalis, a global federation of Catholic charitable groups.

“I have already heard criticism over the encyclical,” Rodríguez said at a news conference, referring to reaction in the United States. He called it “absurd” to reject a document that hasn’t even been published yet.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,769 other followers