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Published on June 19th, 2015 | by Sandy Dechert


Sparks Fly From The World’s Highest Pulpit

June 19th, 2015 by  

“The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.” With words and images as pointed as these, on Thursday Pope Francis I infused his Church–and all the world’s faiths–with the prevailing view of environmental scientists and heads of state: we should waste no time in redressing the balance of nature lost to anthropogenic climate change.

Word cloud for the first encyclical from Pope Francis I (Catholic News Service)

Word cloud for the first encyclical from Pope Francis I (Catholic News Service)

Overall, the world appears to applaud the Pope’s moral stance in Laudato Si (Praise Be): On the Care of Our Common Home. The pontiff’s first encyclical strongly combines ethics with scientific fact to urge immediate action.

Correspondents from The New York Times cite the Pope’s belief in the pressing need for “a radical transformation of politics, economics and individual lifestyles to confront environmental degradation and climate change, blending a biting critique of consumerism and irresponsible development with a plea for swift and unified global action.”

Christiana Figueres, head of the UN’s climate change branch, has called for a similar rearrangement of world values and economic policy. For her very large constituency, Figueres stated:

“This clarion call should guide the world towards a strong and durable universal climate agreement.”

Other international leaders echo her view and call for nations to redress the industrial imbalance of “progress” that has actually proven harmful. 2015 is a crucial year for climate action, with a multinationally approved successor to the Kyoto Protocol expected in December from the worldwide COP21 summit conference.

The Washington Post relates the Pope’s graphic and shocking portrayal of “a toxic cocktail of overconsumption, consumerism, dependence on fossil fuels and the errant indifference of the powerful and wealthy… a hell on Earth should nothing be done, one filled with more methane and carbon dioxide, acidification of oceans, and the crippling of the global food supply.” Calling the encyclical a “deep dive into climate science,” Post reporters sum up another common reaction:

“The encyclical reads in many places almost like a scientific document, speaking of the ‘bioaccumulation’ of chemicals in the bodies of organisms and concerns about methane seeping into the atmosphere from the Arctic tundra.”

Climate scientist Michael E. Mann communicates his delight that the Pope consulted scientists at length in preparing the encyclical and that he deeply understands the topic and its ramifications for all species on earth.

Citing recent research on volcanic and solar climate influences, Mann feels the science the pontiff put across may even reflect a conservative bent.

On carbon trading, Francis appears to have goosed the movement by coming out against the practice:

“This system seems to provide a quick and easy solution under the guise of a certain commitment to the environment, but in no way does it allow for the radical change which present circumstances require.”

Mainstream journalists have stated that dismissing the carbon credit strategy Europe pioneered is disappointing because many environment-minded economists, liberal thinkers, and heads of state have lauded it as a good answer to carbon emissions.

In fact, politicians and scientists who have supported carbon trading may do so largely because they have found the scheme politically acceptable in situations where carbon taxation—a faster, more effective restructuring of the fuel balance—might never fly. The Pope’s bold perspective leaves wider open a door for stricter, more effective pricing options to be investigated in the six months between now and the Paris talks. 

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About the Author

covers environmental, health, renewable and conventional energy, and climate change news. She's currently on the climate beat for Important Media, having attended last year's COP20 in Lima Peru. Sandy has also worked for groundbreaking environmental consultants and a Fortune 100 health care firm. She writes for several weblogs and attributes her modest success to an "indelible habit of poking around to satisfy my own curiosity."

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