The Pope: Not a Scientist, But Listening to Science

April 29, 2015

popetweet1The editorial excerpted below from the Louisville Courier Journal is a perfect illustration of why climate deniers are freaking out about the Pope’s imminent Encyclical on Climate Change.
Some of the greatest barriers to climate awareness are not the scientific ones, but emotional and visceral among a large number of otherwise good people. Leadership from the Pope, and representatives of other traditions, is a growing force for affirmative action on climate change.

The Church got it catastrophically wrong that time with Galileo 500 years ago, and they are still trying to live it down. Today, with a world class Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the Pope is receiving the right kind of advice.

The Flat Earthers won’t win this time around.

Louiseville Courier Journal:

The Roman Catholic Church hasn’t always been on the right side of science.

It’s yet to live down the 1633 condemnation of the Italian astronomer Galileo for correctly arguing that the sun, not the Earth, is the center of solar system — a colossal miscalculation the Vatican spent the ensuing centuries trying to put right.

But a new development in Rome puts the Catholic Church squarely at the forefront of the latest science on climate change and global warming.

The church is teaming up with the United Nations to alert the world to the growing crisis of climate change, a partnership on display Tuesday at the opening of a Vatican conference on the environment.

Climate change deniers are about to encounter a powerful new obstacle: Pope Francis.

The mild-mannered, bespectacled pontiff likely will rock the world later this year through the release of an encyclical, a sort of papal position paper, in which he is expected to state that global warming is real, is caused by human activity and — his chief concern — will have the most severe impact on the poor, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

Pope Francis, like many politicians — some from Kentucky — is not a scientist. That’s the common dodge politicians use to avoid acknowledging the harmful environmental impact of hugely profitable fuels such as coal and oil.

But unlike those politicians, the pope apparently knows how to listen to some of the world’s top scientists who agree that climate change is real and caused largely by human activity such as burning fossil fuels.

New York Times:

Since his papacy began in March 2013, Pope Francis has amply demonstrated his readiness to take on tough social and political causes. Now, much to the dismay of some conservatives, he is confronting human-caused global warming. A high-level workshop in the Vatican this week on the moral dimensions of climate change is one of several major events planned by the Roman Catholic Church in anticipation of an encyclical on the environment the pope plans to issue this summer. Though only the broad outlines are known, the encyclical is already raising hopes among environmentalists and deep alarm among climate-skeptics.

Though there is broad scientific consensus that global temperatures are rising, in large part because of the emission of greenhouse gases, international efforts to do something about it have been secular, political and largely unsuccessful. Conservative skeptics have actively campaigned to depict climate change as a hoax, while governments, especially in emerging economies, have been loath to take steps that might hamper growth.

The pope’s encyclical will not be the Roman Catholic Church’s first word on the issue. His predecessor, Benedict XVI, also linked environmental and moral issues, but his thoughts lacked the unique authority of an encyclical. Francis, moreover, has developed a far more engaged following than the scholarly and conservative Benedict, and his proclamation of what he calls an “integral ecology” linking development, concern for the poor and responsibility for the environment could well have an impact far beyond his Catholic fans.


(U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon), opening the conference of some 60 scientists, religious leaders and diplomats hosted by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, urged industrialised countries to invest in clean energy and reduce their carbon footprints.

“Mitigating climate change and adapting to its effects are necessary to eradicate extreme poverty, reduce inequality and secure equitable, sustainable economic development,” he said.

The gathering’s final joint declaration said “Human-induced climate change is a scientific reality, and its decisive mitigation is a moral and religious imperative for humanity.”

The Paris summit on climate change in December “may be the last effective opportunity to negotiate arrangements that keep human-induced warming below 2 degrees C,” adding that the “current trajectory may well reach a devastating 4degrees C or higher,” it said.

Ban said he and the pope discussed Francis’ keenly awaited encyclical, which will be addressed to all of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics and which the pope has said he hopes will influence the Paris conference.

“It (the encyclical) will convey to the world that protecting our environment is an urgent moral imperative and a sacred duty for all people of faith and people of conscience,” Ban said.


15 Responses to “The Pope: Not a Scientist, But Listening to Science”

  1. John Says:

    Reblogged this on jpratt27.

  2. A good way to respond to deniers who denigrate the Pope for being “religious” is to point out to them that he has a Master’s degree in chemistry (he really does). So this Pope has more scientific training than 99% of the deniers out there.

    He also worked as a nightclub bouncer when he was younger; that in combination with his scientific background makes him uniquely qualified to deal with deniers.

  3. Gingerbaker Says:

    I don’t trust this Pope any further than I can throw him. Just like every other Pope before him. This fellow has a fine fettle for making liberal public statements that get massaged back to meaninglessness by his PR flaks over the following week.

    In other words, he already has a history of making soft and friendly puppy dog sounds in the public limelight – that make him seem to be progressive – that get withdrawn later in the shadows. Watch what the Church actually does…. not what he says.

    He was elected for one purpose and it was NOT to reform the church. It was to rehabilitate the foulness of Ratzinger and his central complicity in the cover up of child rape by thousands of Catholic priests. Forgot about that? Yeah – that was the while point.

    • jimbills Says:

      Here’s an essential problem with activism – the very human inability to understand and sympathize with other people’s realities. Humans have the strong tendency to think everyone is like them, or, at least they SHOULD be like them. However, we’re all born into different circumstances (our region, our family background, our skin color, our sexuality, our gender, etc.), and even within these subsets we all have subtly different psychological wiring that causes each individual to see the world in a different way. Additionally, we all have different levels, and even types, of intelligence – someone can have an off-the-charts IQ and zero common sense, for instance.

      Activism often fails to account for these differences, and as a result, it often tends to repel those people with differences in all of the above.

      Let’s be clear here. The world won’t, and in fact cannot, change by the will of a handful of people – one subset of humanity with similar characteristics and shared interests. For actual change, consensus thought has to cross the multiple divisions that separate humans from each other.

      In this case, there’s a religious figure with ENORMOUS influence saying the exact same things (without the religious references) many would say here. The Pope’s influence reaches billions of people that our very tiny subset could ever hope to reach.

      You’re looking a gift horse in the mouth. These statements by the Pope are important, as they’ll extend consensus thought far beyond the abilities that many in the climate change activist group could ever dream of doing.

      • Gingerbaker Says:

        I hope you are right. 🙂

        Just keep your eye on him, is all. If his track record is anything to go by, he talks out of both sides of his mouth. I would not be surprised if, within the next few weeks or months, he (or his spokesmen) starts talking about AGW and fossil fuels in a way that many of us here would not.

        Remember – it is the Left who challenged the hideous record of the RCC on the child rape issue, not the Right. And here he is…… acting like a puppy dog on a topic dear to liberals. He made big media splashes on other topics loved by the Left – homosexuality, reproductive rights, and the role of women. Made liberals cry with a warm emotional response. Then, later, his statements were ‘clarified’ into oblivion.

        So far, the only changes this Pope have made have been completely superficial. As far as I know, actual church policy has not moved a millimeter. Which makes me very skeptical that what we see is cynical window-dressing, and not part of a sincere effort for reform.

  4. John Scanlon Says:

    “a colossal miscalculation the Vatican spent the ensuing centuries trying to put right”

    Those would presumably be the centuries after 1990, when future-pope Ratzi said the “verdict against Galileo was rational and just, and the revision of this verdict can be justified only on the grounds of what is politically opportune.”

    I expect their action on climate change policy to be about equally wise and timely, but have some hope that the stopped-clock principle operates.

  5. […] *Climate Denial Crock of the Week with Peter Sinclair: “The Pope: Not a Scientist, But Listening to Science” seems sane. […]

  6. pinroot Says:

    “…why climate deniers are freaking out about the Pope’s imminent Encyclical on Climate Change.”

    Maybe they just remember what happened the last time the Church took a position on science and don’t want to see that happen again.

  7. […] The editorial excerpted below from the Louisville Courier Journal ia a perfect illustration of why climate deniers are freaking out about the Pope's imminent Encyclical on Climate Change. Some of t…  […]

  8. […] the Catholic Church accepts guidance from Science and moves into the 21st Century, the US Congress heads for the Dark […]

  9. You totally missed the part where the Pope doesn’t listen to science when it comes to astrophysics. The Earth wasn’t created by “God’s will”. Whatever the Pope says about science means absolutely nothing. You could shoot darts at a dartboard and have equal effect.

  10. j4zonian Says:

    I’ve been no fan of the Catholic Church, or almost any other churches (Quaker and Flying Spaghetti Monster excepted) but to continue to demonize someone who has now said they’re on your side, and has made significant public statements to show it, is not very strategic. We have to move beyond self-righteousness now; we have to do what works. (It’s also pointless as well as morally questionable to hold this Pope accountable for the actions of his predecessors, over which he had no control, and to do so only hurts our credibility.)

    If a company believes all the people boycotting them will continue to boycott even if the company makes the demanded changes in behavior, there’s little motivation to change. We need to welcome the Pope, however late they are, to this aspect of reality, however bizarre and unreal their beliefs and actions are in other areas. There’s little harm in gently pointing out their other-Pope-caused lateness while singling out and comparing them to other churches and groups who still haven’t come around to obvious reality. But what we need to make completely clear is that we will now be paying particular attention to what they do and will vehemently protest any delay, wishy-washiness, hedging, backtracking, inconsistencies or other failures to follow through.

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