Thursday, June 18, 2015

My quick take on the Environmental Encyclical:

Pope Francis writes:

//23. 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.//

I accept the teaching that the climate is a common good with all that entails from the standpoint of Catholic teaching.

If human activity were causing a dangerous change in the climate, then this would be absolutely accurate.

However, there is no mention of the pause in global warming, which suggests something other than a simple correlation, and that suggests that the Holy Father did not get briefed on all the relevant, current information.

From a moral/theological standpoint, I accept the Encyclical; from an empirical/scientific standpoint, I don't think his description is accurate as a matter of empirical data.  From the standpoint of an attentive Catholic, I welcome his call for examination of this issue and if it turns out that the science validates him, then his concern will have been warranted; if not then his concern is still warranted.

Obviously, the Pope can no more end scientific inquiry than the minority of scientists who the media has dubbed "97%."

I appreciate the contribution that the Holy Father has made to framing the issues as a teacher and his reminder that humans have an obligation to each other in our treatment of the environment.

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