Lake Karachay, Russia, often referred to as the most polluted lake on Earth
At The Federalist, a round-table discussion brought up several issues regarding the encyclical, Laudato Si’. A quick reading of the discussion sees several themes emerge: the pope shouldn’t be writing about science, this encyclical comes down too heavily against free markets, and that modernity has much to offer in the way of solving humanity’s many problems.
Now, if free markets and capitalism are really to blame for pollution, it would stand to reason that those would be the countries with the worst ecological problems. That is not the case.
On the contrary, the management of the environment in communist countries has been and continues to be much worse than in capitalist ones. For example, Richard Fuller, president of the environmental non-profit Blacksmith Institute once identified the former Soviet Union as having “by far and away the worst problems…” when it comes to environmental protection and land use.
It is perhaps no coincidence that Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, a radical environmentalist who had a part in drafting the encyclical, is a member of the Club of Rome. Schellnhuber was apparently selected for this role by Archbishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, the head of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.
Fossil fuel advocates are criticizing Pope Francis’ recent climate encyclical, claiming his call to phase out fossil fuels will harm the poor by preventing access to electricity and keeping them in “energy poverty.” But fossil fuels are not economically viable in most of the communities that suffer from a lack of electricity, and on-the-ground experts have explained that distributed renewable energy sources are often a more effective way to lift the world’s impoverished — who will be most affected by the adverse impacts of climate change — out of energy poverty.
Nonetheless, it is important to comprehend that Pope Francis intends to raise public awareness about the forthcoming perils in case the indispensible precautions are not taken now; it very effectively goes beyond religion and addresses the entire global population to adopt ‘changes in lifestyle, production and consumption’.
Here’s some irony for you. The same environmentalists that fervently supported the Pope’s call for global governance over the climate and oceans are also pushing explicitly anti-Catholic policies to fight global warming: more access to contraceptives and abortion.The Sierra Club was just one of many environmental groups that supported the Pope’s call to address man-made global warming. When Pope Francis published his encyclical in June, they issued a strong statement of support for the Bishop of Rome’s call to action.
Max Hohenberg, spokesman for the Vatican’s bank, told the newspaper the issue is largely irrelevant, because about 95 percent of the bank’s investments are in government bonds, so “there isn’t much to divest.”
But these announcements are not a cure-all for the problems that threaten to bedevil the climate summit. Conspicuously absent from all of these announcements were any concrete contributions to a proposed $100 billion fund intended to assist the world’s poorer countries in coping with climate change. As it’s currently sketched out, the developed world would pay into this massive fund annually, and that money would go towards helping the developing world mitigate and adapt to climate change. But as Bloomberg reports, little progress has been made towards seeing this policy realized:
After the June 18 release of “Laudato Si,” Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment and humanity’s responsibility to protect it, young Catholics decided to host a rally to spread awareness of climate change’s effect on the poor, particularly Latinos in Southern California. Some Catholics are hopeful that events like this, inspired by the encyclical, will spread and lead to a new emphasis on climate action within the faith.
“You see a lot of coalitions of Catholics and evangelicals working on the life issue together,” Scheffler said. “You could lose some Catholics to this. Some priests buy into that whole social justice, income distribution thing. But not all of them.”
The Vatican’s new papal encyclical on the environment is a highly political discussion of the theology of the environment. Pope Francis mixes heartfelt concern for ecology with an often limited or confused understanding of the problem of pollution and the meaning of markets. Despite his commitment to environmental values, the pope acknowledges that “this rediscovery of nature can never be at the cost of the freedom and responsibility of human beings.” Nevertheless, humanity’s obligation for the environment is complex and the pope discusses ecological values in the context of economic development and care for the poor.
The poor in wealthy countries, however, will suffer additionally from the efforts Pope Francis proposes to limit emissions, as the price of energy rises against their small and sometimes shrinking incomes. This will be particularly true in the United States if regulations like the Environmental Protection Agency’s draconian new rules to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants are implemented, because they effectively knock out use of the least costly sources of electricity.
Pope Francis’ recent Encyclical on climate change has rightly received broad attention worldwide for its forceful message that action on climate change is necessary to protect the world’s poor. But little has been written about the important Medieval Church figure who provides both the title and much of the inspiration for the Encyclical (which is a papal letter to Catholics and all people of goodwill worldwide). That is St. Francis of Assisi, the 12th century friar and preacher whose name and style Pope Francis adopted when he became Pontiff. St. Francis’ song “Canticle of the Creatures,” praising God for the beauty of nature, provides the title of the Encyclical – “Laudato Si” – meaning “praised be to you” in St. Francis’ native Umbrian. And St. Francis is also the direct source for much of the Encyclical’s spirit and message.
CNN’s Jake Tapper has offered an instructive example of how to address presidential candidates’ climate denial during his interviews with real estate mogul Donald Trump and former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA). On the June 28 edition of CNN’s State of the Union, Tapper responded to Trump’s declaration that he is “not a huge believer in the global warming phenomenon” by telling Trump that “the overwhelming majority of scientists say it’s real and it’s man-made.”
At the Oxford Martin School I debated with Anders Sandberg from Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute and Robert Walker from the University’s Social Policy department whether we achieved to build a better world.
The Pope will depart from Rome’s Fiumicino airport at 10 a.m. on Saturday 19 September and is expected to arrive at 4.05 p.m. in Havana, Cuba, where the welcome ceremony will take place. On Sunday 20 September he will celebrate Holy Mass in Plaza de la Revolucion in Havana and will pay a courtesy visit to the president of the Council of State and of the Council of Ministers of the Republic in the Palace of the Revolution. Later he will celebrate Vespers in the Cathedral with priests, men and women religious, and seminarians, and will subsequently greet the young in the Fr. Felix Varela Cultural Centre.
In this article, I consciously refrain from considering the parts of Pope Francis’s new Encyclical Letter, Laudato Si’ (hereafter LS) that have been the most contentiously received, namely: his views of a free market system, the nature and extent of the ecological crisis, the science of climate change, Francis’s alleged anti-modernism, and apocalyptic view of history, and so forth. I am concerned that the reception of this encyclical threatens to miss the forest for the trees, as it were. Hence, my approach to the encyclical is to consider the theological mind that informs its framework.
“The COP21 conference for climate change (Paris, 30 November to 11 December 2015) will be crucial in identifying strong solutions for climate change,” stated Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, whose remarks were read out at the conference. “The political dimension needs to re-establish democratic control over the economy and finance, that is, over the basic choices made by human societies.”
The President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Cardinal Peter Turkson, conveyed the greetings and encouragement of Pope Francis, and drew attention to the new Papal encyclical on ecology, Laudato si’. Listen to the full address by Cardinal Turkson:
As Adam Smith famously put it, “People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.”
Companies are often happy to raise prices if it hurts their competition or provides them with a competitive advantage. And in the case of carbon taxes, it’s important to recognize that not all fossil fuels are equally carbon-intensive, just as not all renewable sources are equally sustainable and resilient.
This is one of the economic realities that I wish Pope Francis had recognized more clearly in Laudato Si’, although I may have more to say about this later. For now, David Brooks expresses a similar desire in his column, “Fracking and the Franciscans.”
Mark Tooley, President of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, reacts to the recent encyclical from an evangelical perspective:
The climate change issue is portrayed by the activists as being a moral issue and they put themselves forward as defenders of the oppressed and the poor around the world. But, in fact, it is the poor, especially the extreme poor, who are the most arguably in need of increased access to what, at this point, only fossil fuels can provide.
Meanwhile, the response from the US leadership of the church to Francis’ urgent plea for action has been noticeably muted. Mark Silk reports that at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ eagerly anticipated presser on the encyclical last week, Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl and other leaders seemed to go out of their way to tone down Francis’ message….
As a lifelong Catholic with graduate degrees in religious studies and a long stint as the head of an environmental agency second in size only to the Environmental Protection Agency, I am deeply troubled by Pope Francis’ encyclical “Praise to You, Lord (Laudato, Si’): On Care of Our Common Home.” Long anticipated for revelation of the pope’s support for a global climate treaty, the encyclical is, and is not, focused on global warming.
Subversion of Christianity by the spirit of the age has been a hazard down the centuries. The significance of “Laudato Si” lies beyond its stated concern for the climate. Discount obfuscating religious language. The encyclical lays ground to legitimize global government and makes the church an instrument of propaganda—a herald for the upcoming United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference in Paris.
What makes this encyclical controversial is its reading of contested questions of science, economics, and politics. What makes it radical — in the sense of going to the root — is the pope’s reading of the profound human crisis that he sees underlying our modern world. Abuse of our environment isn’t the only problem facing humanity. In fact, Pope Francis sees the ecological crisis as a symptom of a deeper crisis — a human crisis. These two problems are related and interdependent. And the solution is not simply to eliminate fossil fuels or rethink carbon credits. The pope is calling on the world to rediscover what it means to be human — and as a result, to reject the cult of economic growth and material accumulation
Samuel Gregg, director of research at the Acton Institute, recently wrote for The Federalist that the overreach by the Pope into a wide range of environmental issues plagues the text of the encyclical:
Neither the pope nor the teaching authority he exercises is required to comment on every imaginable subject discussed in the public square, whether it is air-conditioning’s environmental impact, contemporary threats to plankton, the effect of synthetic agrotoxins on birds, or how dams affect animal migration (and, yes, all four are discussed in “Laudato Si”). The same goes for Catholic bishops. They’re under no obligation as bishops to articulate an opinion—let alone formal teachings—on every conceivable public policy issue.
One reason for this is that the Catholic Church itself teaches there is considerable room for legitimate disagreement among Catholics about the vast majority of political and economic questions (the legal treatment of matters like abortion and euthanasia being two of the better-known notable exceptions). But a second reason is that the primary responsibility for addressing most social, economic, and political matters belongs, as affirmed by Vatican II in its decree on the laity “Apostolicam Actuositatem,” to lay Catholics: not popes, bishops, priests, or members of religious orders.
The trouble with natural theology (the notion that nature itself points us to an understanding of the divine) is that nature herself is a nasty piece of work. When St. Francis of Assisi and his namesake, the reigning Pope, laud nature as “mother” and “sister,” they open a can of theological worms. Nature is no sister of mine. Christians like to view things in terms of teleology–their ultimate goal–and the teleology of the world we know is to be destroyed in a fireball.
No less a defender of Catholic truth than Barack Obama has made it clear: Pope Francis threw “the full moral authority of his position” behind the need to abandon fossil fuels, junk our unjust and exploitative free market system, and massively redistribute wealth via globalist institutions. These heroic measures are essential to save the earth and cushion the impact of switching to solar, thermal or hamster-treadmill power for poor countries worldwide.
For Pope Francis, the market and the economy must be bound by rules that serve “basic and inalienable rights.” At the center of these is work: “We were created with a vocation to work.” Work is the setting for “rich personal growth . . . creativity, planning for the future, developing our talents, living out our values . . . giving glory to God.” Therefore, priority should be given to “the goal of access to steady employment for everyone, no matter the limited interests of business and dubious economic reasoning.”
If successful, this pope’s encyclical will more than make up for the harm the Catholic Church caused in the past by its intransigent denial of the science proving that the Earth is not the center of the universe. Too bad Galileo isn’t here to see the church take the lead this time.