2015 SkS News Bulletin #6: Pope Francis & Climate Change

Coal-state lawmakers attack climate rule no matter what pope says

Pope Francis’ call for urgent action to combat climate change isn’t having much influence on members of Congress from the coal state of Kentucky, who are working this week to block the centerpiece of the president’s agenda to limit the greenhouse gases that are warming the planet.

The House of Representatives is expected as soon as Wednesday to pass a bill by Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., which would allow states to reject the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rule for carbon emissions from power plants. Whitfield’s bill also would ban the EPA from enforcing the rule until all the legal challenges are decided, which could take years.

There’s a similar effort in the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is calling on states to defy the Obama administration’s climate rule. He put language in the interior and environment spending bill that would allow them to do so without consequences, saying the Obama administration is at war “against Kentucky coal jobs, miners and their families.”

Coal-state lawmakers attack climate rule no matter what pope says by Sean Cockerham, McClatchy Washington Bureau, June 23, 2015

Inter-religious march in Rome demands action on climate change

Several thousand Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews and Muslims marched through Rome to the Vatican on Sunday to demand action on climate change and thank Pope Francis for his encyclical on the environment.

They marched behind banners reading "Many Faiths - One Planet" and "The Earth - Our Common Home - Climate Action Now!" to lobby leaders to take decisive action at a United Nations summit in Paris this year to stem the effects of global warming.

Speaking to crowds gathered in St. Peter's Square for his Sunday blessing and message, the pope acknowledged the groups and encouraged inter-religious collaboration for an "integral ecology" to protect "our common home".

Inter-religious march in Rome demands action on climate change by Philip Pullella, Reuters, June 28, 2015

Laudato Si’ and the Common Good

What business is it of the pope what goes on in politics and science? That’s a question that has come up in recent days and weeks surrounding the release of Pope Francis’s much-anticipated encyclical on ecology. Laudato Si’ (“Praise be to you” — the title comes from the beginning of a canticle addressed to Jesus Christ by St. Francis of Assisi) presents a fuller vision of creation and our responsibilities toward it than we’re liable to see on any given Vanity Fair Caitlyn Jenner cover-story reading day.

“The Church has the duty of scrutinizing the signs of the times and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel” is what Gaudium et Spes (Joy and Hope), the document on “the Church in the modern world” that came out of the Second Vatican Council, said about just this kind of thing. “In Laudato Si’, Pope Francis is applying the teachings of the Church to one of the most important and also meaningful controversies of our time,” says Matthew Bunson, senior correspondent for Our Sunday Visitor and editor of the Catholic Almanac. “In doing so,” Bunson says, “he builds his encyclical on the legacy of Catholic Social Teaching. Like his predecessors in their social encyclicals, Francis is not concerned with settling some scientific dispute, nor does he claim competence to do so. Rather, he reminds the world that the Church has the task of guiding discussions toward the deeper realities of issues and crises and to offer prudent and timely advice.”

The encyclical in fact says, “The Church does not presume to settle scientific questions or to replace politics.”

Laudato Si’ and the Common Good by Kathryn Jean Lopez, National Review, June 22, 2015

Neil deGrasse Tyson: Yes, The Pope can comment on climate change

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has a word for those who think Pope Francis shouldn't comment on climate change.

The pope released an encyclical, or papal letter, in June that not only affirmed climate change was happening but also blamed human negligence and pointed to science to support the need for reducing carbon emissions.

"Numerous scientific studies indicate that the majority of the global warming in recent decades is due to the large concentration of greenhouse gases ... emitted above all due to human activity," the encyclical read.

Neil deGrasse Tyson: Yes, The Pope can comment on climate change by Anonio Blumberg, The Huffington Post, July 1, 2015

On climate change, Hispanic Catholics hear pope's message – and it's personal

On a June morning, Father Rob Yaksich, a park ranger until he found his calling in mid-life as a Catholic priest, presided over his first ever Sunday Mass at the historic Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis in Santa Fe, New Mexico. That day, he chose the power of spreading the faith as the theme of his sermon.

“Think of the mustard seed,” he told those gathered for the early morning Spanish language mass. “We all carry little mustard seeds of faith in our hearts. This mustard seed grows, and if it is nourished, it grows into a great tree.”

The roots of the Catholic church run deep here; New Mexico is considered one of the most culturally Catholic states. The first permanent Franciscan mission is in present-day Santa Fe, which is surrounded by the Sangre de Cristo mountains.

The power of those Catholic faithful will now be put to the test twice over, with the pope’s radical message about climate change in the global economy, and his call for a phase-out of fossil fuels in the name of protecting the poor.

It’s now up to Yaksich and others to spread Francis’s message of urgency and make the seed of action planted by the pope grow, even in New Mexico, a poor rural state with a Republican governor caught in a pincer hold by the oil and gas industry on its northwestern and southeastern flanks. The industry accounts for about a third of the New Mexico’s general fund.

On climate change, Hispanic Catholics hear pope's message – and it's personal by Suzanne Goldenberg, Guardian, June 27, 2015

The Pope, climate change and the Catholic right in the U.S.

The conservative criticism of Laudato Sii, ("Praised Be"), Pope Francis's encyclical on the environment and poverty that began even before its release, has now reached a fever pitch.

It is of more than passing interest that many of the cadre of naysayers are members of the Catholic Right. And not coincidentally, many of them have strong ties to conservative Evangelicals. What is it that they truly fear about Laudato Sii? Is it the encyclical's inconvenient discussion of the disastrous implications climate change has upon the world's poor - or is it something else? To wit, does the Jesuit Pope Francis threaten to undermine the power of the Catholic Right-Evangelical political alliance? 

Among the rankled conservatives feeling the political heat are several hopefuls for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, including: Jeb Bush, Bobby Jindal and Rick Santorum.  

The Pope, Climate Change and the Catholic Right by Frank Cocozzelli, Talk to Action, June 20, 2015

The Pope's ecological vow

In the days just before its publication, those involved in drafting the pope’s controversial eco-encyclical Laudato Si’ were much exercised about how it would be received by conservative critics. But Pope FrancisVaticaninsiders tell me, was unfazed. He remains so in the face of the onslaught of criticism that has indeed ensued.

The pope’s acceptance that global warming is almost certainly man-made has irked the vocal minority with more skeptical views. They say Francis has overlooked the ability of technology to provide solutions to climate change. They’ve upbraided him for ignoring the role of free markets in lifting millions out of poverty. They’ve criticized his dismissal of birth control as the answer to an overcrowded planet.

The truth is that Francis saw all that coming. As the dust settles, after the whirlwind that accompanied its publication, closer examination of the encyclical reveals that the pope implanted within it strategies to rebut these attacks. Laudato Si’ turns out to be one of the shrewdest documents issued by the Vatican during the past century. It has revealed Francis as a wily and sophisticated politician of the first order.

The Pope's ecological vow by Op-ed by Paul Vallely, New York Times, June 28, 2015

The Pope’s Encyclical, at heart, is about us, not trees and snail darters

The “dialogue with all people” and the “forthright and honest debate” for which Pope Francis calls in his new encyclical on “our common home” will certainly include — and, by the pope’s own standards, should include — close scrutiny of many questions.

Does Laudato Si’ reflect a wrestling with the full range of scientific opinion on global climate issues? Does the encyclical acknowledge and accurately weigh the inevitable complexities and trade-offs involved in meeting its twin goals of empowering the poor and protecting the natural environment — and does it take sufficient account of why billions of people have become un-poor over the past several generations? Does Laudato Si’ take adequate note of the correlation between strong environmental protections and democracies with free economies (high) — and of the equally instructive correlation between vast amounts of pollution and authoritarian regimes (also high)?

These questions I leave to others, not least because I have no interest in recruiting (or refuting) the pope in aid of a political or public-policy agenda — for, as Francis himself says in the encyclical, “the Church does not presume to settle scientific questions or to replace politics.” Rather, my particular interest in reading Laudato Si’ is religious and cultural. What does Pope Francis have to say about humanity and the natural world at a moment when incoherence, skepticism, and nihilism dominate Western high culture, and when fanaticisms claiming various divine or quasi-divine warrants wreak havoc from northern Nigeria to the Levant to the Donbas? What does Francis write in this complex and inevitably controversial document that might speak, as a good pastor should, to the flaws in humanity’s understanding of itself today, and that might point us in a more noble direction?

The Pope’s Encyclical, at Heart, Is About Us, Not Trees and Snail Darters by George Weigel, National Review, June 18, 2015

What Jeb Bush can learn from Pope Francis about climate change

Like the Pope, the 2016 U.S. presidential hopeful is Catholic and would be politically wise to share his views on one of today’s biggest campaign issues.

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush has a climate change problem. He also has a Pope problem, and the two are converging with Pope Francis’ latest encyclical declaring humanity’s moral and ethical responsibility to tackle climate change.

Several prominent Bushes have had a nuanced, some might say tortured, relationship with climate change, expressing ideas that aren’t quite in keeping with the Democratic Party but are definitely not in line with the majority of Republicans either. H.W., George W. and Jeb Bush have taken similar approaches on immigration: not quite open-armed, but not hostile, either.

What Jeb Bush can learn from Pope Francis about climate change by Michael Webber, Fortune, July 1, 2015

Why Pope Francis killed it on addressing climate change

Beginning with my book Moral Politics in 1996 (Ch. 12), I have been arguing that environmental issues are moral issues. There I reviewed and critiqued conservative metaphors of nature as a resource, as property, as an adversary to be conquered.

Instead I argued that we needed to conceptualize nature as the giver of all life, as sustainer and provider, as having inherent value, imposing responsibility, and deserving gratitude, love, adoration, and commitment.

I suggested alternative metaphors of nature as mother, as a divine being, as a living organism, as a home, as a victim to be cared for, and a whole with us as parts inseparable from nature and from each other.

Why Pope Francis killed it on addressing climate change by George Lakoff, Alternet, July 1, 2015

Posted by John Hartz on Thursday, 2 July, 2015

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