As widely rumored, Pope Francis has issued a historic papal encyclical that agrees with the vast majority of scientists that global warming is real, largely caused by mankind, and threatens the very future of humanity. He has called for emergency action to curtail carbon emissions by reducing fossil fuels and developing renewables.
The Pope denounced the massive levels of pollution that are making the Earth into “an immense pile of filth”. He criticized deniers and said that “doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain.” He acknowledged other contributors to global warming but insisted: ““It is true that there are other factors (such as volcanic activity, variations in the earth’s orbit and axis, the solar cycle), yet a number of scientific studies indicate that most global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxides and others) released mainly as a result of human activity.”
The papal encyclical sent to 5,000 Catholic bishops worldwide seeks to mobilize the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics and is viewed as one of the significant new voices for action both in terms of its political and religious impact.
He stated “A number of scientific studies indicate that most global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxides and others) released mainly as a result of human activity.” He insisted that without extreme measures “this century may well witness extraordinary climate change and an unprecedented destruction of ecosystems, with serious consequences for all of us.” To achieve such emergency measures, he called for drastic reductions in fossil fuels and the rapid development of renewable energy sources.
He further suggested that special interests and greed are driving the campaign against recognition of the problem and measures needed to address it.
It will be interesting how the papal announcement changes the political landscape, particularly with conservative Catholics and other Christians. The Obama Administration has been in the forefront of seeking global action, a position that I agree with (even though I do not agree with some of its unilateral actions). The Administration will have to convince skeptics in Congress and this Papal encyclical will certainly help, though I doubt it will dramatically change the political position in Congress.