Reflections On The Pope's Agenda and Climate Change
Climate Change: Let’s take up first the Pope’s climate change campaign.
In his recent encyclical, Laudato Si’, Pope Francis has claimed that global climate change— formerly called ‘global warming’—is due to human abuse of the environment, particularly the market-driven and consumer-minded capitalist countries.
He has claimed that if thisis not urgently addressed, it could eventually lead to the extinction of the human race.
Therefore he has called upon world leaders to make climate change a top priority by signing and enforcing international environmental protection treatieswith penalties for those who do not comply.
This environmental message has hit a chord with powerful politicians. Governor Jerry Brown of California, who was trained in Jesuit schools and presides over the sixth largest economy on the planet was recently invited to the Vatican to participate in a summit on climate change and he couldn’t help but offer accolades to Francis for his moral leadership on this issue.
And then there is Mayor Bill De Blasio of New York City, the financial capital of the world. At the same meeting, he couldn’t help but gush about Francis as the ‘strongest moral voice in the world [who] is calling political leaders to action’.
Even many influential Protestant leaders have described Pope Francis with the same glowing terms. Times were when Protestants in the United States believed that the Bible was the greatest moral authority in the world, but times have changed!
It is interesting to note the words that Pope Francis I used in his recent encyclical on climate change, terminology that has been used by all popes in the last six decades and goes all the way back to the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas.
Francis claimed that: “International [climate] negotiations cannot make significant progress due to positions taken by countries which place their national interests above the global common good.” (Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ of the Holy Father Francis on the Care of our Common Home, paragraph # 169)
Did you notice the expressions, ‘national interests’ and ‘global common good’? Ban Ki-Moon, the Secretary General of the United Nations, echoed the Pope’s very words in a recent news report. The report explained that Ban Ki-Moon called on governments to ‘place the global common good above national interests and to adopt an ambitious, universal climate agreement’ at the United Nations climate summit in Paris this December.
And no less a heavyweight than Barack Obama, president of the world’s premier superpower, echoed the Pope’s words as well: “I welcome His Holiness Pope Francis’s encyclical, and deeply admire the Pope’s decision to make the case—clearly, powerfully, and with the full moral authority of his position— for action on global climate change ... We must also protect the world’s poor, who have done the least to contribute to this looming crisis and stand to lose the most if we fail to avert it. I look forward to discussing these issues with Pope Francis when he visits the White House in September. And as we prepare for global climate negotiations in Paris this December, it is my hope that all world leaders—and all God’s children—will reflect on Pope Francis’s call to come together to care for our common home.”
It is significant that President Obama linked the issue of global climate change with the plight of the poor. As we shall soon see, in this he reflects the very strategy of the Jesuit Pope. Of course, one of the Pope’s provisions of the ‘save the planet’ crusade is making Sunday a day for the environment to rest, for families to strengthen their ties by attending Mass, and to give the poor a break from what he perceives as the endless and dehumanizing cycle of capitalist life. The not-too- subtle insertion of Sunday at the end of the encyclical appears innocuous at first sight, but as Adventists we know what the papacy’s ultimate purpose is in bringing global climate change to the forefront. Regarding Sunday, the encyclical states: “On Sunday, our participation in the Eucharist has special importance.
Sunday, like the Jewish Sabbath, is meant to be a day that heals our relationships with God, with ourselves, with others and with the world ... Rest opens our eyes to the larger pic- ture and gives us renewed sensitivity to the rights of others. And so the day of rest, centered on the Eucharist, sheds its light on the whole week, and motivates us to greater concern for nature and the poor.” (Laudato Si’, p. 237)
Pontifical Academy of Sciences On April 15, 2015, some two months before the Pope released his encyclical, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences had released a statement titled “Climate Change and the Common Good: A Statement of the Problem and the Demand for Transformation Solutions”. Amount other things, the Declaration stated: “Climate change is a global problem whose solution will depend on our stepping beyond national affiliations and coming together for the common good.”
It further stated: “As early as 2100, there will be a non-negligible probability of irreversible and catastrophic climate impacts that may last over thousands of years, raising the existential question of whether civilization as we know it can be extended beyond this century.”
The document states that the increase in temperature has not been seen in ‘tens of millions of years,’ one clear indication among many that the papacy has fully embraced the evolutionary theory of origins. The Pope’s encyclical (released June 18, 2015), published about two months after the Declaration, suggested that the elimination of carbon gases, carpooling, planting trees, turning off unnecessary lights, restricting the use of air conditioning, recycling and boycotting certain products as well as giving the planet a Sunday, rest will help solve the problem.
The Pope also called for international treaties that would pressure the affluent countries to help poorer ones adapt, including a move to help them switch from fossil fuels to clean energies such as solar power. Thus he stated in Laudato Si’ 53 that the “establishment of a legal framework which can set clear boundaries and ensure the protection of ecosystems has become indispensable.”
Like President Obama, the Pope links the issue of global climate change with the need for the rich nations to help poor ones. In the Pope’s words: “The people who have done the least to cause this [climate change] suffer the most. That should, if nothing else, give weight to the argument that the [Northern Hemisphere] must shift serious resources to the poor world.”