2015 SkS News Bulletin #5: Pope Francis & Climate Change

Behind the scenes with the Pope's secret science committee

Several dozen of the world’s most prominent scientists sprang from their seats and left the Vatican hall where they were holding a conference on the environment in May 2014. They were bound for a meet-and-greet with Pope Francis at the modest Vatican hotel where he lives, the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

Among the horde was Veerabhadran Ramanathan, a climate scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Since 2004, he has also been a member of a 400-year-old collective, one that operates as the pope’s eyes and ears on the natural world: the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

Behind the Scenes With the Pope's Secret Science Committee by Eric Roston, Bloomberg, June 16, 2015

'Climate Is a Common Good': Pope Francis calls for justice on warming planet

A message to leaders and supporters of the Roman Catholic Church by Pope Francis, cataloging the threat of climate change and the moral imperative to act aggressively to combat its root causes, is being heralded around the world on Thursday as a powerful—even 'radical'—statement from one of the world's most recognizable religious leaders.

Released in the form of a 180-page Papal Encyclical(pdf)—a formal letter to all the bishops of the church—the document codifies an official message from the spiritual leader, who makes the case that acting on climate change is not just a matter of decreasing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that are fueling global warming, but also involves addressing the inequities and injustices caused by the fossil fuel-driven economy and resulting climate change.

"This home of ours is being ruined and that damages everyone, especially the poor," reads the pope's message on the environment, climate, and social justice. 

'Climate Is a Common Good': Pope Francis calls for justice on warming planet by John Quealy, Commom Dreams, June 18, 2015

Eight things we learned from the pope's climate change encyclical

Pope Francis has released an unprecedented encyclical on climate change and the environment. The 180-page document calls on rich nations to pay their “grave social debt” to poorer countries and lambasts the UN climate talks for a lack of progress. Here are eight things we learned:

  1. He thinks we should phase out coal
  2. He thinks the UN climate talks have failed to achieve much
  3. He doesn’t like carbon trading
  4. But he does like community energy
  5. He is neither pro nor anti genetically modified food
  6. He thinks consumption is a bigger problem than population
  7. He says iPhones and all our other gadgets are getting in the way of our relationship with nature
  8. Our gift to the next generation may be desolation: 

Eight things we learned from the pope's climate change encyclical by Adam Vaughan, Guardian, June 18, 2015

Environmental activist Tom Steyer: Pope’s climate message may be “most important” — ever

Billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer says that Thursday’s much-anticipated encyclical from Pope Francis on climate change could be the single “most important” and impactful statement made on the issue — ever.

“I view him as an absolutely inspirational world leader … someone who has done an incredible job of staking out moral leadership,” said Steyer, the founder of the advocacy group NextGen Climate, in an interview with The Chronicle this week. “And I think this could be the most important (statement) in the history of confronting climate change.”

“He is somebody who has won over more people in the world than anybody … and what he has to say on this could have an absolutely dramatic impact on how this issue is viewed,” Steyer said.

Environmental activist Tom Steyer: Pope’s climate message may be “most important” — ever by Carla Marinucci, SFGate, June 16, 2015

Ideology subsumes empiricism in Pope's climate encyclical

Religion and science are at best strange bedfellows, as the Catholic Church has found since the time of its unfortunate experience with Galileo. So it is significant that Pope Francis, who has shown great appetite for departing from some of the harsh rhetoric and methods of his predecessors, is issuing an encyclical on the environment at a time when the world’s leaders are once again considering a global approach to dealing with climate change.

Whenever religious figures enter into a debate on policy issues that have a strong scientific basis there is a slippery interplay between the desire to do good by addressing real problems, and the constraints that ideology and dogma impose upon the ability to do so objectively. Pope Francis’s encyclical follows this pattern.

Ideology subsumes empiricism in Pope's climate encyclical by Lawrence M. Krauss, Scientific American, June 18, 2015

Leak of Pope’s Encyclical on climate change hints at tensions in Vatican

The unexpected leak of Pope Francis’ much-anticipated environmental encyclical has meant the return of something that not long ago was fairly common around the Vatican but had become often dormant during the two-plus years of Francis’ mostly charmed papacy: intrigue.

Who leaked it and why? Was this the work of frustrated conservatives in the Vatican, as some experts have speculated? Does it portend big fights at a pivotal October meeting in which church officials are expected to grapple with homosexuality and divorce? Or is it just a tempest in a teapot?

“Somebody inside the Vatican leaked the document with the obvious intention of embarrassing the pope,” said Robert Mickens, a longtime Vatican expert and editor of Global Pulse, an online Catholic magazine.

Leak of Pope’s Encyclical on Climate Change Hints at Tensions in Vatican by Jim Yardley and Elisbetha Povoledo, New York Times, June 16, 2015

Pope’s encyclical makes grade in climate science

When it comes to the science of climate change, Pope Francis’ environmentally focused encyclical makes the grade, experts said Thursday.

rancis makes clear in the document that humanity bears most of the blame for the warming of the planet and he lays out the main findings of climate science — that greenhouse gases are causing global temperatures to rise, that sea levels are also rising, that extreme weather events are becoming worse, and that polar ice is melting, further imperiling the planet.

Though discussing the science is not the main purpose of the Pope’s message, which centers more on the moral reasoning for taking care of the environment, “he gets the science right,” climate scientist Michael Mann, of Penn State, said in an email.

Pope’s Encyclical Makes Grade in Climate Science by Andrea Thompson, Climate Central, June 19, 2015

Pope Francis backs science, warns of climate risk

When Pope Francis seeks advice, one doesn't hesitate to respond – even if you're a German professor of theoretical physics who had been baptised as a Protestant and is no longer an active member of the church.

"The Pope is interfering in the writing of my book," Hans Joachim Schellnhuber jokingly told visiting Australian journalists on Tuesday, just days before he was to help unveil the pontiff's controversial encyclical on climate change in Rome.

"[The request] is a pain in the neck, but you have to accept it, as it comes from above."

Pope Francis' climate scientist: the German adviser who primed the pontiff by Peter Hannam, Sydney Morning Herald, June

Pope Francis backs science, warns of climate risk

In a historic document addressed to every person living on this planet,” Pope Francis warns that climate change and other forms of environmental degradation have reached a crisis point.

Francis frames “Laudato Si’,” the first papal encyclical devoted solely to ecological issues, as an “urgent appeal ... for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet.” Encyclicals are among the highest forms of Catholic teaching a pontiff can publish.

“A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system,” Francis writes, pinning the majority of the blame for rising temperatures on man-made greenhouse gas emissions.

Pope Francis backs science, warns of climate risk by Scott Detrow, ClimateWire/Scientific American, June 18, 2015

Pope Francis puts GOP in a corner on climate change

Pope Francis is expected to take a provocative stance on global climate change Thursday, releasing an encyclical — a teaching letter addressed to Catholic bishops — that not only affirms the reality of man-made warming but issues a moral call for changes in lifestyle, consumption and policy to stave off environmental disaster.

That puts Republican lawmakers in the United States, many of whom outright deny that human activity has contributed to the warming of the earth, in an awkward position. Many of those conservative politicians, after all, have often cited their deeply held religious convictions as informing their political beliefs.

“I think it’s easy for Republicans to dismiss Greenpeace and other people who they see as tree-hugging leftists,” said John Gehring, the Catholic program director of Faith in Public Life, a religious advocacy group in Washington, D.C. “It’s much harder for them to brush off one of the greatest moral leaders of the world.”

Pope Francis puts GOP in a corner on climate change by Naureen Khan, Al Jazeera America, June 17, 2015

Pope’s views on climate change add pressure to Catholic candidates

As the steamy hurricane season descends on Miami, the city’s Roman Catholic archbishop, Thomas G. Wenski, is planning a summer of sermons, homilies and press events designed to highlight the threat that a warming planet, rising sea levels and more extreme storms pose to his community’s poorest and most vulnerable.

His sermons and speeches are meant to amplify the message of Pope Francis’ highly anticipated, highly controversial encyclical on the environment, which the Vatican is expected to unveil on Thursday. A papal encyclical, or teaching document, is among the strongest and most authoritative statements made by the Catholic Church.

In a draft of the document leaked on Monday, Francis reiterated the established science that burning fossil fuels are warming the planet, said the impact threatened the world’s poor and called for government policies to cut fossil fuel use.

Pope’s Views on Climate Change Add Pressure to Catholic Candidates by Coral Davenport, New York Times, June 16, 2015

The most radical part of Pope Francis’s message isn’t about climate change

Rarely has a papal encyclical caused so much buzz outside of the Catholic community. But Pope Francis’s newest one, which focuses on environmental issues, has caused a frenzy among reporters.

Scheduled for official release this Thursday, the much-anticipated encyclical was leaked early on Monday. The most talked-about thing in the document: it includes a strong stance on human-caused climate change, a move that is sure to be controversial among some conservative critics.

Sources in the Vatican reportedly caution that the leaked draft is an “intermediate” version of the document and not necessarily identical to the final text. Still, the text states clearly that human activity is causing climate change. “Plenty of scientific studies point out that the last decades of global warming have been mostly caused by the great concentration of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxide and others) especially generated by human action,” according to a Washington Post translation.

The most radical part of Pope Francis’s message isn’t about climate change by Chelsea Harvey, Energy & Environment, Washington Post, June 17, 2015

Why Pope Francis’s climate message is so hard for some Americans to swallow

With the official release of Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment, it’s clear that several strains of thought prominent in the U.S. will be particularly challenged by the document. That includes U.S. individualists who tend to support limited government and fewer environmental restrictions — Rush Limbaugh has already accused Francis of Marxism — and also those who perceive a strong conflict between science and religion.

The Pope’s entire case for caring for “our common home,” as he puts it, is moral. And the precise moral worldview being articulated — what might be called communitarianism, the idea that we’re all in it together, that “it takes a village” — deeply challenges an individualistic value system that research suggests is quite prevalent in the U.S. In several places in the text, indeed, the pope explicitly critiques “individualism” by name.

“In the particular case of the United States of America, which does have a strong individualistic trend, we will be challenged by the Pope,” says Bill Patenaude, a Rhode Island based Catholic commentator who writes the blog Catholic Ecology.

Why Pope Francis’s climate message is so hard for some Americans to swallow by Chris Mooney, Energy & Environmnet, June `8, 2015

Posted by John Hartz on Friday, 19 June, 2015

Creative Commons License The Skeptical Science website by Skeptical Science is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.