As American evangelical Christian leaders, we recognize both our opportunity and our responsibility to offer a biblically based moral witness that can help shape public policy in the most powerful nation on earth, and therefore contribute to the well-being of the entire world.1 Whether we will enter the public square and offer our witness there is no longer an open question. We are in that square, and we will not withdraw.
An Open Letter on Climate Change to the People, their Local Representatives, the State Legislatures and Governors, the Congress, and the President of the United States of America
In the postwar era, the church also started to pay more attention to the stark imbalances between richer and poorer countries, not just between the rich and the poor in a single country. Noting that excess and overconsumption often had its counterpart in exclusion and underdevelopment, it called for greater global solidarity between north and south and for citizens of richer countries to move away from lifestyles characterized by waste and surfeit.
It is fair to say that, until now, most of Catholic social teaching has been variations on a basic theme—the need for economic relations between people and nations to be guided by justice and mutual responsibility. This theme remains very pertinent in our world of enormous inequality. A mere 1 percent of the world’s population controls half of the world’s wealth. Over 2 billion people are mired in extreme poverty, and almost a billion people suffer from hunger. Elsewhere, and not always far away, we see astounding opulence and wastefulness. Catholic social teaching signals a clear moral imperative to correct these imbalances.
Harking back to Genesis, Pope Francis teaches that “human life is grounded in three fundamental and closely intertwined relationships: with God, with our neighbor, and with the earth itself.”
The global economy is now over two hundred times larger than it was at the outset of the industrial revolution. But its rapid expansion has come at the expense of the planet and its climate. Already, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has jumped to a level not seen in 3 million years—and this over a mere century and a half, a blink of an eye in planetary history. The overwhelming weight of science tells us that if we continue burning fossils fuels at this rate, we can expect global temperatures to rise by 4 to 6 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by the end of this century. This would have catastrophic implications for life as we know it. We would expect to witness more severe droughts, flooding, and extreme weather events. Crop yields would decline dramatically. Some small island nations would simply cease to exist. And those least responsible for climate change will be hit hardest by it. Pope Francis asks what kind of world we wish to leave our children. Surely not this one.
Climate change is not even the whole story. There is also the acidification of the oceans, depletion of freshwater resources, rapid deforestation, large-scale pollution caused by chemicals and fossil fuels, and a dramatic degradation of ecosystems and loss of biodiversity. It is remarkable thatLaudato si’ touches directly on many of these issues, displaying a keen awareness of the scale and complexity of the environmental crisis.
In conformity with prior teaching,Laudato si’ is deeply suspicious of the classical liberal emphasis on individual autonomy and promotion of self-interest as the prime motivating force of economic interaction. Francis understands that an ideology based on “collective selfishness” and a “deified market” cannot bring about social inclusion or environmental sustainability. It leads instead to an exaggerated focus on short-term profit, and it contributes to a throwaway culture that disdains both the earth and the excluded. One clear example of this short-sightedness can be found in the avaricious behavior of the financial sector, the force behind the global economic crisis of 2008.
Pontiff condemns global warming as outgrowth of global consumerism
Pope Francis has written the first papal encyclical focused solely on the environment, attempting to reframe care of the earth as a moral and spiritual concern, and not just a matter of politics, science and economics. In the document, “Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home,” he argues that the environment is in crisis – cities to oceans, forests to farmland. He emphasizes that the poor are most affected by damage from what he describes as economic systems that favor the wealthy, and political systems that lack the courage to look beyond short-term rewards. But the encyclical is addressed to everyone on the planet. Its 184 pages are an urgent, accessible call to action, making a case that all is interconnected, including the solutions to the grave environmental crisis.
OF THE HOLY FATHER
ON CARE FOR OUR COMMON HOME
I see the encyclical by Pope Francis, which will be published on Thursday, as a potential turning point. He will argue that not only the physical survival of the poor, but also our spiritual welfare depends on the protection of the natural world; and in both respects he is right.
I don’t mean that a belief in God is the answer to our environmental crisis. Among Pope Francis’s opponents is the evangelical US-based Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, which has written to him arguing that we have a holy duty to keep burning fossil fuel, as “the heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork”. It also insists that exercising the dominion granted to humankind in Genesis means tilling “the whole Earth”, transforming it “from wilderness to garden and ultimately to garden city”.
There are similar tendencies within the Vatican. Cardinal George Pell, its head of finance, currently immersed in a scandal involving paedophile priests in Australia, is a prominent climate change denier. His lecture to the Global Warming Policy Foundation was the usual catalogue of zombie myths (discredited claims that keep resurfacing), nonsequiturs and outright garbage championing, for example, the groundless claim that undersea volcanoes could be responsible for global warming. There are plenty of senior Catholics seeking to undermine the pope’s defence of the living world, which could explain why a draft of his encyclical was leaked. What I mean is that Pope Francis, a man with whom I disagree profoundly on matters such as equal marriage and contraception, reminds us that the living world provides not only material goods and tangible services, but is also essential to other aspects of our wellbeing. And you don’t have to believe in God to endorse that view.
- ‘I don’t get economic policy from my bishops or my cardinal or my pope’
- Coal industry lobbyist says pope should promote fossil fuels to help poor
Republican presidential contender Jeb Bush joined forces with the coal industry and climate deniers in a gathering conservative backlash against the pope, lashing out against a leaked draft of the spiritual leader’s letter on climate change.
In his first official day on the presidential campaign trail, Bush, who is Catholic, told a town hall event in New Hampshire that Pope Francis should steer clear of global affairs.
The energy industry also turned on the pope, with the lobbyist for one of America’s biggest coalmining companies sending out an email blast on Tuesday, rebuking the church leader for failing to promote fossil fuels as a solution to global poverty.
Look, first of all, the climate is changing. I don’t think the science is clear what percentage is man-made and what percentage is natural. It’s convoluted. And for the people to say the science is decided on, this is just really arrogant, to be honest with you. It’s this intellectual arrogance that now you can’t even have a conversation about it.
Unfortunately, denial of human-caused global warming may be a prerequisite for any viable Republican presidential candidate. Conservative and Tea Party Republicans are the one group of American voters among whom Stage 2 climate denial is the majority position, but they’re also the group that most reliably votes in GOP primary elections.
In American politics, a candidate first has to win a primary election before reaching the national ballot. For Republicans, that means appealing to conservatives. It’s not clear that a Republican presidential candidate can accept climate science and run a viable primary campaign.
.- Pope Francis used Sunday’s feast of Pentecost – the descent of the Holy Spirit – as an occasion to remind Christians of their duty to care for and respect the earth.
“The Holy Spirit whom Christ sent from the Father, and the Creator Spirit who gives life to all things, are one and the same,” the Pope said.
“Respect for creation, then, is a requirement of our faith: the ‘garden’ in which we live is not entrusted to us to be exploited, but rather to be cultivated and tended with respect.”
Two years into what he says will be a brief tenure, the pope’s putting climate skeptics on the defensive.
Fretting about the fate of the Earth is part of his broader condemnation of the global status quo, which Francis considers to be a “throwaway culture.” And it explains why he and some of his top aides came to call for a transition to greener energy.
Research May 1, 2015 2:45 PM EDT ››› DENISE ROBBINS
Does the pope’s support for action on climate change contradict Catholic principles? Climate science deniers want you to think so — and conservative media are running with their myths. Here are the facts:
- Taking Action On Climate Change Is Consistent With Catholics’ Concern For Helping The Poor
- Catholics Recognize That Overpopulation Is A Problem, And There Are Many Ways To Address It That Are Consistent With The Church’s Positions
- Environmental Stewardship Is An Important Part Of The Catholic Faith
- The Pope Isn’t Weighing Into An Unsettled Scientific Debate – The Science Of Climate Change Is Clear
Fossil Fuel-Funded Groups Attempt To Undermine Pope’s Action On Climate Change
Vatican Held Climate Change Summit In Advance Of Papal Encyclical. On April 28, the Vatican held a climate summit between religious authorities and climate and policy experts that aimed to produce a “joint statement on the moral and religious imperative of dealing with climate change in the context of sustainable development, highlighting the intrinsic connection between respect for the environment and respect for people – especially the poor, the excluded, victims of human trafficking and modern slavery, children, and future generations.” The summit is a precursor to Pope Francis’ forthcoming encyclical — an authoritative papal teaching — on climate change, which is expected to make similar connections between climate action and helping the poor. [Climate summit program, accessed 4/28/15; The Guardian, 4/28/15]
Climate Change–Denying Groups Attempted To Counter The Climate Summit. In response to the Vatican’s climate summit, the Heartland Institute sent their own delegation to Rome to “inform Pope Francis of the truth about climate science: There is no global warming crisis!” The Heartland Institute, joined by members of Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) and the Cornwall Alliance, attempted to dissuade the Pope from lending his moral authority to the climate change crisis.
These were the many English-language media outlets that covered this preliminary meeting favourably https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1koy-wIVpgBnZ90ydz_Z03VOBdmMiZy2T5gBRH0vYLDc/edit?pli=1#gid=0.
Wait until June when many of the major religions are expected to start campaigning seriously about climate change. Even the (conservative) Economist is calling for the Pope to be ‘tough-minded’ when he releases his Encyclical dealing with climate change. http://www.economist.com/blogs/erasmus/2015/04/pope-and-climate-change
It will be interesting to see how the Catholics of the Republican party respond. On the extremist blogs – ‘a liberal, a Marxist, a communist, an extremist, a socialist, a tree hugger and an anti-capitalist’ (nothing like a bit of name-calling, eh Ted?), but will the 30% of Republican congressmen who are Catholic follow suit?
COMPASSIONATE EATING as CARE of CREATION
[Faith Out reach]
MATTHEW C. HALTEMAN
COMMON DECLARATION OF JOHN PAUL II
AND THE ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH
HIS HOLINESS BARTHOLOMEW I
Monday, 10 June 2002
We are gathered here today in the spirit of peace for the good of all human beings and for the care of creation. At this moment in history, at the beginning of the third millennium, we are saddened to see the daily suffering of a great number of people from violence, starvation, poverty and disease. We are also concerned about the negative consequences for humanity and for all creation resulting from the degradation of some basic natural resources such as water, air and land, brought about by an economic and technological progress which does not recognize and take into account its limits.
Almighty God envisioned a world of beauty and harmony, and He created it, making every part an expression of His freedom, wisdom and love (cf. Gen 1:1-25).
At the centre of the whole of creation, He placed us, human beings, with our inalienable human dignity. Although we share many features with the rest of the living beings, Almighty God went further with us and gave us an immortal soul, the source of self-awareness and freedom, endowments that make us in His image and likeness (cf. Gen 1:26-31;2:7). Marked with that resemblance, we have been placed by God in the world in order to cooperate with Him in realizing more and more fully the divine purpose for creation.
At the beginning of history, man and woman sinned by disobeying God and rejecting His design for creation. Among the results of this first sin was the destruction of the original harmony of creation. If we examine carefully the social and environmental crisis which the world community is facing, we must conclude that we are still betraying the mandate God has given us: to be stewards called to collaborate with God in watching over creation in holiness and wisdom.
God has not abandoned the world. It is His will that His design and our hope for it will be realized through our co-operation in restoring its original harmony. In our own time we are witnessing a growth of an ecological awareness which needs to be encouraged, so that it will lead to practical programmes and initiatives. An awareness of the relationship between God and humankind brings a fuller sense of the importance of the relationship between human beings and the natural environment, which is God’s creation and which God entrusted to us to guard with wisdom and love (cf. Gen 1:28).
Respect for creation stems from respect for human life and dignity. It is on the basis of our recognition that the world is created by God that we can discern an objective moral order within which to articulate a code of environmental ethics. In this perspective, Christians and all other believers have a specific role to play in proclaiming moral values and in educating people in ecological awareness, which is none other than responsibility towards self, towards others, towards creation.
What is required is an act of repentance on our part and a renewed attempt to view ourselves, one another, and the world around us within the perspective of the divine design for creation. The problem is not simply economic and technological; it is moral and spiritual. A solution at the economic and technological level can be found only if we undergo, in the most radical way, an inner change of heart, which can lead to a change in lifestyle and of unsustainable patterns of consumption and production. A genuine conversion in Christ will enable us to change the way we think and act.
First, we must regain humility and recognize the limits of our powers, and most importantly, the limits of our knowledge and judgement. We have been making decisions, taking actions and assigning values that are leading us away from the world as it should be, away from the design of God for creation, away from all that is essential for a healthy planet and a healthy commonwealth of people. A new approach and a new culture are needed, based on the centrality of the human person within creation and inspired by environmentally ethical behavior stemming from our triple relationship to God, to self and to creation. Such an ethics fosters interdependence and stresses the principles of universal solidarity, social justice and responsibility, in order to promote a true culture of life.
Secondly, we must frankly admit that humankind is entitled to something better than what we see around us. We and, much more, our children and future generations are entitled to a better world, a world free from degradation, violence and bloodshed, a world of generosity and love.
Thirdly, aware of the value of prayer, we must implore God the Creator to enlighten people everywhere regarding the duty to respect and carefully guard creation.
We therefore invite all men and women of good will to ponder the importance of the following ethical goals:
1. To think of the world’s children when we reflect on and evaluate our options for action.
2. To be open to study the true values based on the natural law that sustain every human culture.
3. To use science and technology in a full and constructive way, while recognizing that the findings of science have always to be evaluated in the light of the centrality of the human person, of the common good and of the inner purpose of creation. Science may help us to correct the mistakes of the past, in order to enhance the spiritual and material well-being of the present and future generations. It is love for our children that will show us the path that we must follow into the future.
4. To be humble regarding the idea of ownership and to be open to the demands of solidarity. Our mortality and our weakness of judgement together warn us not to take irreversible actions with what we choose to regard as our property during our brief stay on this earth. We have not been entrusted with unlimited power over creation, we are only stewards of the common heritage.
5. To acknowledge the diversity of situations and responsibilities in the work for a better world environment. We do not expect every person and every institution to assume the same burden. Everyone has a part to play, but for the demands of justice and charity to be respected the most affluent societies must carry the greater burden, and from them is demanded a sacrifice greater than can be offered by the poor. Religions, governments and institutions are faced by many different situations; but on the basis of the principle of subsidiarity all of them can take on some tasks, some part of the shared effort.
6. To promote a peaceful approach to disagreement about how to live on this earth, about how to share it and use it, about what to change and what to leave unchanged. It is not our desire to evade controversy about the environment, for we trust in the capacity of human reason and the path of dialogue to reach agreement. We commit ourselves to respect the views of all who disagree with us, seeking solutions through open exchange, without resorting to oppression and domination.
It is not too late. God’s world has incredible healing powers. Within a single generation, we could steer the earth toward our children’s future. Let that generation start now, with God’s help and blessing.
Rome – Venice, 10 June 2002
Human-Induced Climate Change is Real and increasing international instability, which could
lead to more security threats to our nation. Poor nations and poor individuals have fewer
resources available to cope with major challenges and threats. The consequences of global warming will therefore hit the poor the hardest, in part because those areas likely to be signiﬁcantly affected ﬁrst are in the poorest regions of the world. Millions of people could die in this century because of climate change, most of them our poorest global neighbors.
The Consequences of Climate Change Will Be Signiﬁcant, and Will Hit the Poor the Hardest
THE EARTH’S NATURAL SYSTEMS
are resilient but not inﬁnitely so, and human civilizations are remarkably dependent on ecological stability and well-being. It is easy to forget this until that stability and well-being are threatened. Even small rises in global temperatures will have such likely impacts as: sea level rise; more frequent heat waves, droughts, and extreme weather events such as torrential rains and ﬂoods; increased tropical diseases in now-temperate regions; and more intense hurricanes. It could lead to signiﬁcant reduction in agricultural output, especially in poor countries.
Low-lying regions, indeed entire islands, could ﬁnd themselves under water. (This is not to mention the various negative impacts climate change could have on God’s other creatures.) Each of these impacts increases the likelihood of refugees from ﬂooding or famine, violent conﬂicts, Millions of people could die in this century because of climate change, most
of them our poorest global neighbors. Jesus said: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” —MK. 12:31
WHILE WE cannot here review the full range of relevant biblical convictions related to care of the creation, we emphasize the following points:
❂ Christians must care about climate change because we love God the Creator and Jesus our Lord, through whom and for whom the creation was made. This is God’s world, and any damage that we do to God’s world is an offense against God Himself (Gen. 1; Ps. 24; Col. 1:16).
❂ Christians must care about climate change because we are called to love our neighbors, to do unto others as we would have them do unto us, and to protect and care for the least of these as though each was Jesus Christ himself (Mt. 22:34–40; Mt. 7:12; Mt. 25:31–46).
❂ Christians, noting the fact that most of the climate change problem is human induced, are reminded that when God made humanity he commissioned us to exercise stewardship over the earth and its creatures. Climate change is the latest evidence of our failure to exercise proper stewardship, and constitutes a critical opportunity for us to do better (Gen. 1:26–28).
Love of God, love of neighbor, and the demands of stewardship are more than enough reason for evangelical Christians to respond to the climate change problem with moral passion and concrete action. Christians must care about climate change because we are called to love our neighbors.
Christian Moral Convictions Demand Our Response to the Climate Change Problem
THE BASIC TASK for all of the world’s inhabitants is to ﬁnd ways now to begin to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels that are the primary cause of human-induced climate change.
There are several reasons for urgency. First, deadly impacts are being experienced now. Second, the oceans only warm slowly, creating a lag in experiencing the consequences. Much of the climate change to which we are already committed will not be realized for several decades. The consequences of the pollution we create now will be visited upon our children and grandchildren. Third, as individuals and as a society we are making long-term decisions
today that will determine how much carbon dioxide we will emit in the future, such as whether to purchase energy efﬁcient vehicles and appliances that will last for 10-20 years, or whether to build more coal-burning power plants that last for 50 years rather than investing more in energy efﬁciency and renewable energy.
In the United States, the most important immediate step that can be taken at the federal level is to pass and implement national legislation requiring sufﬁcient economy-wide reductions in carbon dioxide emissions through cost-effective, market based mechanisms such as a cap-and-trade program.
On June 22, 2005 the Senate passed the Domenici Bingaman resolution afﬁrming this approach,
and a number of major energy companies now acknowledge that this method is best both for the environment and for business.
Numerous positive actions to prevent and mitigate climate change are being implemented across our society by state and local governments, churches, smaller businesses, and individuals.
The need to act now is urgent. Governments, businesses, churches, and individuals all have a role to play in addressing climate change—starting now.
We commend the Senators who have taken this stand and encourage them to fulﬁll their pledge. We also applaud the steps taken by such companies as
BP, Shell, General Electric, Cinergy, Duke Energy, and DuPont, all of which have moved ahead of
the pace of government action through innovative measures implemented within their companies in the U.S. and around the world. In so doing they have offered timely leadership.
Numerous positive actions to prevent and mitigate climate change are being implemented across our society by state and local governments, churches, smaller businesses, and individuals. These commendable efforts focus on such matters as energy efﬁciency, the use of renewable energy, low CO 2 emitting technologies, and the purchase of hybrid vehicles. These efforts can easily be shown to save money, save energy, reduce global warming pollution as well as air pollution that harm human health, and eventually pay for themselves. There
is much more to be done, but these pioneers are already helping to show the way forward.
Finally, while we must reduce our global warming pollution to help mitigate the impacts of climate change, as a society and as individuals we must also help the poor adapt to the signiﬁcant harm that global warming will cause.