Thursday, June 18, 2015

Pope Francis Issues Encyclical On Climate Change

Pope Francis today issued his anticipated 'Laudato Si' Encyclical (authoritative teaching document) on the environment and climate change, calling on Catholics worldwide to make safeguarding the environment and battling climate change an urgent and top priority of the 21st century.

Pope Francis says most climate change is caused by human activity and calls it one of the most important moral issues facing society. The Pope has repeated over recent months, "Creation is a gift from God, and we have a moral responsibility to be responsible stewards of that gift for all of humanity and all life our planet."

In his encyclical message to the world’s 5,000 Catholic bishops and 1.2 billion Catholics, Pope Francis makes clear, unlike previous encyclicals, his message is directed to everyone, regardless of religion.
"Faced with the global deterioration of the environment, I want to address every person who inhabits this planet," the pontif writes. "In this Encyclical, I would like to enter into dialogue with all people about our common home."
The pontiff calls for an ethical and economic revolution to prevent catastrophic climate change and growing inequality. The pontiff lays out his case that humanity’s exploitation of the planet’s resources has crossed the Earth’s natural carrying boundaries, and the world faces ruin without a revolution in hearts and minds of humanity:
"Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. 'Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs.'”

"This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she “groans in travail” (Rom 8:22). We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters."

"The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all. At the global level, it is a complex system linked to many of the essential conditions for human life. A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system. In recent decades this warming has been accompanied by a constant rise in the sea level and, it would appear, by an increase of extreme weather events, even if a scientifically determinable cause cannot be assigned to each particular phenomenon. Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it. 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. Concentrated in the atmosphere, these gases do not allow the warmth of the sun’s rays reflected by the earth to be dispersed in space. The problem is aggravated by a model of development based on the intensive use of fossil fuels, which is at the heart of the worldwide energy system. Another determining factor has been an increase in changed uses of the soil, principally deforestation for agricultural purposes."
The most forceful statement on the environment and climate change yet from the outspoken pontiff is published in five languages on church websites around the world.  Pope Francis' encyclical states climate change isn't just a theoretical conjecture, scientific debate, or a partisan political issue. It's real, it's happening now, and it's dangerous. In January, Pope Francis told reporters he believes climate change is “mostly” caused by human activity.

According to The New York Times, the encyclical's release "will be accompanied by a 12-week campaign to raise the issue of climate change and environmental stewardship in sermons, homilies, news media interviews and letters to newspaper editors."

The encyclical, coming just 12 weeks before the pope's September visit to the United States to address the pope's a congress and the United Nations, is sure to cause a backlash from Republicans.  The pontiff not only aligns himself with the environmental movement and its objectives, President Obama's call to action, and the Democratic Party's platform planks on climate change, he endorses warnings of climate scientists and admonishes those who deny climate change or deny humanity is driving climate change by pumping CO2 into the atmosphere.
"Obstructionist attitudes, even on the part of believers, can range from denial of the problem to indifference, nonchalant resignation or blind confidence in technical solutions," the pontiff writes.
In his commencement speech at the United States Coast Guard Academy commencement in New London, Connecticut in May, President Barack Obama warned graduates climate change is one of the largest threats they will have to face as they defend the United States and our nation's interests abroad.

There is 99.9% scientific “consensus” among climate scientists around the world that human CO2 emissions drives global warming which in turn drives climate change, according to a study by James L. Powell, director of the National Physical Sciences Consortium. Powell reviewed more than 24,000 peer-reviewed papers on global warming published in 2013 and 2014. Powell found only five papers that reject the reality of rising temperatures or the fact that human emissions are the cause.

Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida and likely 2016 Republican presidential candidate, told Republicans at a house party in Bedford, New Hampshire, in May, all who say human use of fossil fuels is a main driver of climate change are intellectually arrogant and not to be believed.

Rick Santorum, another 2016 Republican presidential candidate, recently expressed Republican Party angst over the Pope's concern over climate change by suggesting he isn't qualified to talk about climate change because he’s not a scientists. The problem with argument small Pope Francis has an advanced degree in chemistry, worked as a chemist before joining the church, and is therefore a literal scientist. Rick Santorum on the other hand is a politician who can't garner enough votes to win election to office.

Other 2016 Republican presidential candidates also reject climate change. Marco Rubio says “there’s no consensus” on that science. Ted Cruz says people who believe in climate change are like “flat-Earthers.” Rand Paul has said the idea that humans cause climate change is “alarmist stuff,” and Ben Carson once said “We may be cooling.” Carly Fiorina; Mike Huckabee; Rick Santorum — all have expressed heavy to mild denial of the overwhelming scientific evidence that says humans cause climate change.

Senator James “Snowball” Inhofe, who has written the literal book on climate change denialism, focuses his legislative agenda on killing environmental protection bills from his chair on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

Longtime climate change skeptic Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said Pope Francis should refrain from sharing his thoughts on the subject. According to The Guardian, Inhofe made the comments while speaking at a climate change conference hosted by the Heartland Institute, a conservative think tank. “Everyone is going to ride the pope now. Isn’t that wonderful,” said Inhofe. “The pope ought to stay with his job, and we’ll stay with ours.”
The Heartland Institute is a Chicago-based conservative think tank funded by fossil fuel energy companies and the foundation controlled by fossil fuel energy industry titan and conservative activist Charles Koch. Joseph Bast, Heartland's president, advises the Pope in a statement, "Though Pope Francis's heart is surely in the right place, he would do his flock and the world a disservice by putting his moral authority behind the United Nations' unscientific agenda on the climate."

The Heartland Institute has organized conferences, churned out podcasts, videos, and white papers, and recently arranged a trip to Rome -- all in an effort to build opposition to the pope's environmental message.
Inhofe takes issue with Pope Francis' encyclical on human influenced climate change, saying humans aren't the cause of it, citing his interpretation of Bible verses as his proof. In his book, The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future, Inhofe states his frequent claim that human influenced climate change is impossible because “God’s still up there.”
Inhofe, speaking on the Voice of Christian Youth America’s radio program Crosstalk, said: "Well actually the Genesis 8:22 that I use is that ‘as long as the earth remains there will be seed time and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, day and night,’ my point is, God’s still up there. The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous."
Collin County's Republican Representative Sam Johnson introduced a bill in April to wipe out the Environmental Protection Agency. Johnson's bill would eliminate funding for the EPA regulation of greenhouse gases from power plants, the centerpiece of the Obama administration's climate plan, plus the regulation of emissions from vehicles. It also would wipe out the greenhouse gas reporting program. And the agency's environmental justice work. And climate research, regulation of ozone, the clean diesel campaign, and all EPA grant programs.

Clearly, Republicans claim their position as a politicians qualify them to overrule not only thousands of climate scientists around the world, but also the Pope, who himself is a scientist who holds an advanced degree in chemistry. Inhofe's public stunts include throwing a snowball on the House floor and citing the Bible to deny climate change is real.

Ultra-conservative Republican and Catholic League President Bill Donohue tells Catholics to ignore Pope Francis’ teachings on Climate Change because God never specifically expressed an opinion about it. Donohue recently told Newsmax the pope only has authority to speak on matters of faith and morals.”
Donohue argues the damage humans cause to the earth's environment is not a moral question, even though the Old and New Testaments of the Bible admonish mankind to be God’s stewards of the earth and its creatures. Donohue claimed in his Newsmax interview, only traditional issues like objections to “abortion and euthanasia” were “nonnegotiable” for Catholics — even though polls show most Catholics worldwide think abortion should be legal.

Dismissing Pope Frances' assertion air pollution is evil, Donohue states, “No one has ever said that air pollution is intrinsically evil ... So, people need to get up to speed on this.”
Conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh labels Pope Francis “scary” and continued, "the vicar of Christ, seems to have fallen in with the communist way of doing things..."  Limbaugh extensively referenced a National Catholic Reporter article, about Pope Francis' message that sacrificing for the poor are the heart of the Gospel, not signs of communism. On his conservative talk radio program “The Savage Nation,” Michael Savage labeled Pope Francis “a danger to the world,” a "false prophet in Revelation," and a “Marxist.” Savage told Catholics:
“I think it is up to the Catholic people to turn their backs on this Pope before it is too late, before they wake up and find out that they are in chains, this man is a Marxist through-and-through,” Savage said, claiming that he was “picked by the New World Order the way Obama was.”
A new Pew Research Center survey on global warming shows U.S. Catholics’ views on global warming broadly parallel overall U.S. public opinion; a solid majority believe that Earth is warming, but there is much more division over the cause and seriousness of climate change. The survey shows that like U.S. public opinion on climate change as a whole, American Catholics are sharply divided, mainly along political party lines.

About seven-in-ten U.S. Catholics (71%) believe the planet is getting warmer. Nearly half of Catholic adults (47%) attribute global warming to human causes, and a similar share (48%) view it as a very serious problem. But while more than eight-in-ten Catholic Democrats say there is solid scientific evidence Earth is warming, just half of Catholic Republicans say there is solid evidence. And while six-in-ten Catholic Democrats say global warming is a man-made phenomenon that poses a very serious problem, only about a quarter of Catholic Republicans agree.

The survey also finds large differences in views on global warming between Hispanic Catholics and white, non-Hispanic Catholics. Hispanic Catholics are much more inclined than white Catholics to say that global warming is occurring, is mostly a consequence of human activity and is a very serious problem. Here again, these patterns mirror differences by race and ethnicity seen among the general public.
Generally speaking, Catholics express higher levels of belief in global warming and concern about its effects than do Protestants, but lower levels than people who are religiously unaffiliated (atheists, agnostics and those whose religion is “nothing in particular”). However, analysis of the survey findings shows that political party identification and race/ethnicity are much better predictors of environmental attitudes than are religious identity or observance.

Among the U.S. public as a whole, belief that global warming is occurring is nearly twice as common among Democrats as Republicans (86% vs. 45%). The view that global warming is caused by human activity is roughly three times as common among Democrats as among members of the GOP (64% vs. 22%), as is the view that it represents a very serious problem (67% vs. 21%).

The continuing left right political split between American Catholics and the rest of American on global warming is largely the result of superficially balanced news coverage of global warming. American mainstream news outlets strive to give equal and uncritical coverage between the 99.9 percent of climate scientists — who wrote 23,995 peer reviewed papers saying climate change is real and man made — and the 0.1 percent of papers (5) rejecting the reality of rising temperatures or the fact that human emissions are the cause.  Ross Gelbspan writes in his books The Heat Is On and Boiling Point:
The professional canon of journalistic fairness requires reporters to present competing points of view. When the issue is of a political or social nature, fairness — presenting the most compelling arguments of both sides with equal weight — is a fundamental check on biased reporting. But this canon causes problems when it is applied to issues of science, especially where the science is largely settled by overwhelming consensus.

The professional canon seems to demand that journalists present competing points of view on a scientific question as though both viewpoints have equal scientific weight, when actually they do not. This falsely balanced reporting leaves an impression the scientific community is embroiled in an unsettled debate on whether or not humans contribute to global warming, where there is no legitimate scientific debate.
Fox News makes no pretense of even superficially balanced coverage on climate change. Fox News frequently and unequivocally reports man-made climate change is both "patently absurd" and part of a liberal Democrat "scheme" to promote federal government Environmental Protection Agency regulation over fossil fuel and petrochemical industries.
In recent years, Fox News has called climate change a "superstition," a "scam" and a "hoax."
Fox hosts have also accused NASA of "fudging the numbers" on climate change and said the phenomenon is something only "corrupt" scientists believe in.
More U.S. adults think Fox News is a more reliable source of information about climate change than most other news sources, and President Barack Obama, according to a new poll from St. Leo University. A 2013 study found as consumption of conservative media decreases, both trust in scientists and belief that global warming is occurring increases. Arguably, Fox News is an essential actor in maintaining the left right political split between on global warming.

What organized deniers have accomplished in this country is unique in the world, going far beyond the spread of disinformation. They have convinced more than half of America that there is no climate change and that there is no consensus among scientists that global warming is happening. They have also allowed fossil fuel interests to “capture” almost an entire political party.

Fox News pundits are clearly poised to make every effort to discredit Pope Francis and his encyclical on the environment and climate change. But what if Fox News suddenly stopped bashing climate change as liberal hoax conspiracy. Fox News personality Greg Gutfeld on Wednesday accused Pope Francis of being “the most dangerous person on the planet.” But what if Fox News started reporting global warming and climate change are not only real, but a clear and present danger. What if Fox News started reporting Pope Francis' encyclical is accurate and should be taken seriously.

By the time Pope Francis visits the U.S. in September to speak before the United Nations General Assembly the tenor of Fox News reporting on global warming and climate change may have already started to evolve from climate change denying to climate change reality. This change may be only a matter of time as Rupert Murdoch turns over control of his 21st Century Fox media conglomerate on July 1st to his two sons Lachlan and James, who reportedly detest the Fox News Channel and its longtime head, Roger Ailes. 21st Century Fox announced that Ailes would be reporting to Lachlan and James Murdoch beginning on July 1st. Rupert Murdoch, currently chairman and CEO of 21st Century Fox, will pass to his younger son, James, the CEO title while retaining his title as chairman. His other son, Lachlan Murdoch, will share his father's title as co-executive chairman of the company. Ailes' contract as Fox News Channel chairman and CEO expires next year.
For much of the past 19 years, Roger Ailes has operated the right-wing political operation under the auspices of a cable TV news channel. Media mogul Rupert Murdoch founded the Fox News Channel and appointed Ailes as permanent CEO of the "news operation" in 1996.
James Murdoch's wife Kathryn Murdoch is active with environmental nonprofits, serving as active trustee of the Environmental Defense Fund and director of strategy and communications for the Clinton Climate Initiative from 2007 to 2011. James Murdoch was instrumental in News Corp’s company-wide green carbon reduction strategy and he wrote in the Washington Post that clean energy should be a cause that conservatives embrace.

Will Lachlan and James Murdoch curb Fox News' constant climate change denial and bashing of climate scientists? Will the instruct Fox News pundits to positively report Pope Francis' encyclical?   We will see...

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