Vatican prepares to make climate change policy plan

by Kirkland An
Posted 5/30/15, 11:30 am

The Vatican will meet next week to form Pope Francis’ campaign to persuade world leaders to take action against climate change.

Francis’ expected encyclical, a letter sent from the pope to all the bishops in the Roman Catholic Church, will be the Vatican’s first official, detailed word about climate change and what Church members should do about it.

Last month, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences issued a statement about their stance on climate change. 

“The case for prioritizing climate-change mitigation depends crucially on accepting the fact that we have a responsibility not only towards those who are living in poverty today, but also to generations yet unborn” the statement said. “We have to reduce the potentially catastrophic threat that hangs over so many people.”

The short, 11-page statement released in April combines theological reasoning with scientific evidence. Veerabhadran Ramanathan of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography said the combination is a rare one because science and religion do not usually mix.

“But environment is an exception where science and religion say the same thing,” Ramanathan said. “I think we have found a common ground.”

The Heartland Institute, an outspoken, libertarian think tank that spreads the message, “climate change is not a crisis,” countered that claim in The New York Times. Its president, Joseph Bast, said Pope Francis was “misled” by scientists to approach the matter head-on as he did.

“Though Pope Francis’ heart is surely in the right place, he would do his flock a disservice by putting his moral authority behind the United Nations’ unscientific agenda on the climate,” Bast said.

The Vatican plans to back up its scientific evidence with theological reasoning. It focuses on provision for the poor, arguing in its statement the poorest three billion people contribute a fraction of what the world’s richest contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, but they will be affected the most by climate change.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Kirkland An

Kirkland is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute's 2015 course.

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