The Pope: Not a Scientist, But Listening to Science
April 29, 2015
The 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.
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.
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.