UPDATE: Faith Community Stirs in Climate Debate

May 21, 2014

Mere hours after I posted this morning on the stirrings of a giant, the faith community concerned about climate change, CNN broadcast the remarkable conversation above, with an evangelical minister, as well as a Catholic Priest, condemning the selfishness and ignorance of climate denial.

Concurrently, Pope Francis, sounding a bit like Dr. Michael Mann, had powerful words on the perils of climate denial.


Pope Francis made the religious case for tackling climate change on Wednesday, calling on his fellow Christians to become “Custodians of Creation” and issuing a dire warning about the potentially catastrophic effects of global climate change.

Speaking to a massive crowd in Rome, the first Argentinian pope delivered a short address in which he argued that respect for the “beauty of nature and the grandeur of the cosmos” is a Christian value, noting that failure to care for the planet risks apocalyptic consequences.

“Safeguard Creation,” he said. “Because if we destroy Creation, Creation will destroy us! Never forget this!”

The pope centered his environmentalist theology around the biblical creation story in the book of Genesis, where God is said to have created the world, declared it “good,” and charged humanity with its care. Francis also made reference to his namesake, Saint Francis of Assisi, who was a famous lover of animals, and appeared to tie the ongoing environmental crisis to economic concerns — namely, instances where a wealthy minority exploits the planet at the expense of the poor.

“Creation is not a property, which we can rule over at will; or, even less, is the property of only a few: Creation is a gift, it is a wonderful gift that God has given us, so that we care for it and we use it for the benefit of all, always with great respect and gratitude,” Francis said.

Francis also said that humanity’s destruction of the planet is a sinful act, likening it to self-idolatry.

“But when we exploit Creation we destroy the sign of God’s love for us, in destroying Creation we are saying to God: ‘I don’t like it! This is not good!’ ‘So what do you like?’ ‘I like myself!’ – Here, this is sin! Do you see?”

The pope’s comments come on the heels of a five-day summit on sustainability convened at the Vatican earlier this month. The summit, entitled “Sustainable Humanity, Sustainable Nature, Our Responsibility,” drew together microbiologists, legal scholars, economists, philosophers, astronomers, and other experts to discuss ways for the Catholic church to address a range issues caused by climate change. In ajoint statement published after the close of the conference, participants echoed Francis’ belief that environmental justice and economic justice are inextricably linked.

18 Responses to “UPDATE: Faith Community Stirs in Climate Debate”

  1. Great! Now the pope only has to address the issue of womens reproductive rights and the role over population plays in the destruction of “Gods creation”. Then the Titanic may begin to alter course slightly!

    • I am very happy with this Pope. He will never be everything but he’s moving his church in the right direction.

    • lesliegraham1 Says:

      The population ‘problem’ has been solved long ago.
      140 countries already have negative birth rates.
      There are the same number of under 20’s as there were 20 years ago.
      Of course the ‘demographic bulge’ will continue to work its way through the population until the 1990’s generation begin to die of old age and there is nothing we can do about that.
      But the population will peak at around 9 billion in around 50 years time and then begin to fall.
      Or at least that would have been the case were it not for climate change. In less than a couple of centuries we will be experiencing the opposite problem if we don’t concentrate on the real issues – and population isn’t one of them.

      • dumboldguy Says:

        You’re mixing up your data from different times here. Only about 20 or so countries presently have negative population growth rates, and with the exception of Germany and Russia, they’re all flyspecks. You confuse absolute “numbers” with “proportions” as well, and what you say will happen 40 or 50 years from now is merely a projection. The “population problem” is far from being solved—–7 billion is far too many, and we will never reach 9 billion.

        • lesliegraham1 Says:

          Thanks for you reply
          OK – can’t claim to be an expert on population but this list of birth rate by country shows that every country from No 84 down to 224 has a ‘crude birth rate’ of less than 2 kids per couple.
          Maybe I’m misunderstanding it.

          Also Hans Rosling’s excellent lecture on population provides very compelling evidence, based on the population trends and dynamics of the last 50 years and more, that the world population growth is going off a cliff and will stabilise in 50 years time.
          The moving graph graphics from around 7 minutes on are particularly succinct and interesting.

          Worth watching the whole lecture.

          My point is that ‘the population problem’ is a red herring and is most often used as yet another justification for doing nothing about climate change.
          It doesn’t matter if there are 5 billion or ten billion on the planet. It’s what they DO that counts,.
          The average Ethiopian uses only 2% of the resources and produes even less of the CO2 pro rata of the average American. So if these people who claim that population it the main driver of CO2 and resource depletion are genuine they should be campaigning for a massive reduction in the birth rate of Americans and Europeans for maximum effect.
          But there is often a racist subtext to their comments that hangs in the air like the smile of the Cheshire Cat. They seem to imply that the poor peoples (like our Ethiopian) having big families are the ‘problem’ but Ethiopia could quadruple it’s population and it wouldn’t make a dent on anything global at their current rates of consumption.

          Another reason it’s a red herring is – as you say, and I agree, we aren’t going to get anywhere near 9 billion. Even without climate change lowering global food production over the next half century we would be in trouble. Nature has it’s own pitiless ways of reducing population numbers of species who get out of harmony with their environment.
          Factor in climate change and by the end of theis century we will see a population crash. That’s not ‘alarmism’ that’s just a cold look at the facts as they stand.

          Did you notice that the SST’s are at an extraordinary 1.25C today!!

          • dumboldguy Says:

            Yes, you do misunderstand “crude birth rate” somewhat. It’s the birth rate per 1,000 and that 1,000 includes people too old or too young to have children as well as the males in the population who will never have children. It also doesn’t include age demographics, and that can change the projection equation rapidly, i.e., a country with a large number of young females in the cohort about to enter the child-bearing years.

            Since the present population of 7 billion is already “unstable” and is adding a billion every 13-15 years, it is NOT going off a cliff. It is pie-in-the-sky to talk about a population of 9 billion “stabilizing” via normal population dynamics—-what perhaps WILL “stabilize” things is a massive die-off of humans that brings the population way down in just a couple of decades.

            And the Ethiopeans are not the problem—-it’s the 3 billion Chinese, Indians, Indonesians, and others in the larger rapidly developing countries who are.

            PS Some more “scientific imprecision” in your question about SST’s. You asked if we noticed “that they are at 1.25 C today”, which is probably true somewhere in the Arctic or Antarctic, since that’s ~34 F. Did you mean anomalies in SST?—-deviation from the mean?—-and where on the planet?

          • lesliegraham1 Says:

            SST’s are (were) at plus 1.25C anomoly ( I presumed the ‘plus’ and ‘anomoly’ was obvious) globaly.according to climate reanilyzer.

            This website is produced by the Climate Change Institute at the University of Maine.

            I don’t have time to respond to your comments on population at this time – other than to say I can quote credible sources that dispute your conclusions about future trends.
            Given that we will have the opposite problem in less than a century it is a bit of a moot point anyway.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            No, it was not obvious what “at 1.25C” meant—-that’s why I asked. And I am quite familiar with the reanalyzer website—-great site with visuals.

            “I don’t have time to respond to your comments on population at this time – other than to say I can quote credible sources that dispute your conclusions about future trends”.

            If you don’t have time for a proper response, why did you bother making this meaningless comment? I’m sorry if I stepped on your toes, but this is a “your mother wears combat boots” statement from you, and therefore not “credible”.

            “Given that we will have the opposite problem in less than a century it is a bit of a moot point anyway” is again a meaningless statement of opinion by someone who admits he is not expert in the area of population dynamics. If and when you find the time to become more expert and/or lay out some evidence that my “conclusions” are in error, I will be glad to respond.

      • Paul Coppock Says:

        There’s no such thing as a “negative birth rate.”

        • lesliegraham1 Says:

          Not sure what you mean by that.
          The common term ‘negative birth rate’ has been part of the everyday vernacular for decades and is used to describe a situation when, on average, less than 2 children are born to each couple in a particular country?
          Care to explain how this can never happen?
          What term would you prefer to use to describe a negative birth rate and why?

          • dumboldguy Says:

            Paul is correct. The problem is that the term as used in the “common vernacular” for the layman is scientifically imprecise. Just as there is really no such thing as a “negative birth rate”, there is also no such thing as a “positive death rate”. One needs to factor in immigration, emigration, aging, and habitat factors as well for the full picture.

            It’s simple math—-births are always positive and deaths are always negative, and if one exceeds the other, the population growth rate goes up or down and the population itself grows or declines (ignoring other factors). In the case of humans, birth and death rates were nearly in balance for millennia and the human population grew slowly until advances in agriculture, medicine, and technology put a big dent in the death rate.

            As in all populations of living things, the result of removing “killers” for humans is a huge growth spurt, because birth rates will lag behind death rates—-it will take a human population subgroup a while to understand that they don’t need to have 10 kids because 5 or 6 will die young, and when 7 or 8 survive, the result is exponential growth. Although the human population growth rate IS slowing, we are still adding another billion every 13-15 years and it’s a perfect hockey stick when graphed.

            So, a better term to use for a country like Russia (that is projected to nearly disappear) is not “negative birth rate” or “positive death rate” but “negative population growth rate”.

            I’ll say it again—-population IS the real issue—too many humans for the planet to sustain, period. We have entered a vicious cycle where our technology has allowed our population to balloon, and so much of the world’s population lives in an “undeveloped” state and wants to consume like the developed world that disaster looms. The planet can only support a fraction of 7 billion if they all live like Americans and Europeans.

            In spite of Omno’s confused take on things, we may yet see the new Pope advocating population control and family planning for the human race so that we can really become “custodians of creation” rather than destroyers.

  2. skeptictmac57 Says:

    I would also like to point out that the hugely effective site Skeptical Science is run by a devout Christian, John Cook. I do not share these people’s belief in a god,but I certainly welcome their belief in helping humanity avoid a worse future than what we are already faced with based on the current damage done.

  3. omnologos Says:

    I wouldn’t expect too much coming out of this. The Papacy’s hold on the day to day life of Catholics took a huge and perhaps terminal dent when the very idea of “family planning” was dismissed by a group of unmarried men, leaving millions in an impossible conundrum.

    So there will be a lot of chatting on sustainability but no change of minds. Nobody wants to destroy the planet, and just in case they will always have Confession.

    • redskylite Says:

      Not so sure on the “just chatting” things are moving along internationally albeit slowly:


    • dumboldguy Says:

      Leave it to Omno to look through the wrong end of the telescope and focus in on one small irrelevancy. I was born and raised a Catholic, and, like many Catholics before and after me, said “no self-serving self-perpetuating bunch of old unmarried men is going to make me have children for their greater glory and profit”. No impossible conundrum for any of us, Omno—-we just “planned” and had our two or three kids without a single worry for our mortal souls. I parted ways with the church in the 1960’s over the failure to deal with the pedophile issue and priests improperly involving themselves in local politics. As I have gotten older and wiser, I have come to believe that if there IS a god, he does not live in any of man’s “religions”.

      That being said, religion IS a big part of many folk’s lives, and the Pope IS both a powerful leader within the Catholic Church and among the citizens of the planet in general. He is NOT a rock star or athlete—-he has the power to sway billions, and him using it to address climate change can only be a good thing.

  4. jimbills Says:

    I think the Vatican’ summit statement is more worthy of attention than Pat Sajak’s Twitter:

    Bunch of freakin’ hippies – grown men walking around in robes all day, spouting ‘radical’ ideas for a fairer world.

    “Market forces alone, bereft of ethics and collective action, cannot solve the intertwined crises of poverty, exclusion, and the environment.”

    • rayduray Says:

      I sure hope the Pope has a good food taster. His ethical pronouncements make him sound like a godless communist. He’s no spitting image of the clergy in Franco’s Spain or any other Latin church where the explicit role of the Church hierarchy was to enforce the will of the aristocracy.

      Not since I was an altar boy and Pope John XXIII was shaking up the conservatives has the Church had such a wonderful, alive, compassionate and sensible man in charge. I look forward to witnessing any institutional changes that Pope Francis can create to match his superb pronouncements.

      BTW, does anyone know if Ratzinger’s golf handicap has improved since he sought the solace of suburban sequestration? 🙂

Leave a Reply to redskylite Cancel reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: