Pope to Trump: Climate Change is Real and we have to act in Solidarity

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Pope Francis gave Donald J. Trump a going away present after their meeting on Wednesday. It was a copy of his Encyclical on the challenge of climate change, Laudato Si’, mi Signor,”Praised may you be, my Lord.”

This document begins with a paean to Saint Francis, which celebrates the natural world as a revelation of God rather than as a set of resources to loot and exploit and deplete.

Pope Francis wrote,

“The urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change.”

The key words here are ‘family,’ ‘sustainable’ and ‘development.” Francis is making it clear that humanity is all one family and that he is not advocating any sort of Luddism or ecological escapism. He wants development– scientific advance and economic improvement. But he wants it to be accomplished in a sustainable manner.

Sustainability means that resources aren’t permanently depleted– resources like water and fuel.

“Regrettably, many efforts to seek concrete solutions to the environmental crisis have proved ineffective, not only because of powerful opposition but also because of a more general lack of interest. 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. We require a new and universal solidarity.”

Francis considers the challenge of acting to prevent debilitating climate change. He warns that we cannot sit back and just hope for a technological fix. New technologies are key, of course. But he points to powerful opposition and also to public apathy. The opposition can interfere with technology, as with those states, like Florida, that levy punitive taxes or fees on solar panels in an attempt to keep people hooked on fossil fuels.

The answer to both obstructionism (stemming from greed) and apathy is solidarity, is standing together across the social categories.

When he gave Trump this work, Pope Francis was aware that Trump is a major climate obstructionist. He is nevertheless appealing for human solidarity in the face of a dire threat. Believers don’t give up on people.

“Some forms of pollution are part of people’s daily experience. Exposure to atmospheric pollutants produces a broad spectrum of health hazards, especially for the poor, and causes millions of premature deaths. People take sick, for example, from breathing high levels of smoke from fuels used in cooking or heating. There is also pollution that affects everyone, caused by transport, industrial fumes, substances which contribute to the acidification of soil and water, fertilizers, insecticides, fungicides, herbicides and agrotoxins in general. Technology, which, linked to business interests, is presented as the only way of solving these problems, in fact proves incapable of seeing the mysterious network of relations between things and so sometimes solves one problem only to create others.”

Millions of people, the Pope says, are killed every year by air pollution. The seas are in danger of a mass die-off of marine life because of acidification. An ecology is a dense network of inter-relationships, he underlines. Trying to address one problem (e.g. transportation emissions) may only create others if a broad, holistic approach is not taken. Electric cars, e.g., are only able substantially to reduce emissions if the power plants that provide their electricity are not run on coal.

“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.”

Pope Francis notes the near unanimity of scientists on the danger of human-made climate change. Extreme weather and sea level rise are among the dangers. We have to stop emitting so much carbon dioxide, and that will require changes in our styles of life.

But above all it will require a conscience and dedication and solidarity.

Trump is a little unlikely to get it. But the point of publicly bestowing on him this gift is that the Pope hopes the rest of us will.


Related video added by Juan Cole:

ROME REPORTS in English: “President Donald Trump begins crucial meeting with Pope Francis,”

8 Responses

  1. How dare Pope Francis attempt to school the mental giant many elected to be our President. The pope had better get it right! Climate changes caused by human activity is a Obama/Clinton HOAX!! The melting of the Earth’s poles and all the glaciers is GODS WILL! As is everything this amazing President utters, the pope should count himself fortunate to have even met with such a learned and divinely connected superhuman as Donald J. Trump.

    Did Pope Francis and his highness Trump dance with swords or decorate each other? Nope. Did the pope offer a bomb-proof lodging to super POTUS? No. Did the pope purchase 115 M1A2 General Dynamics tanks? Vatican parking is limited. So, no.

    Pope Francis insulted our divinely-elevated rotund President by asking our Slovenian First Lady what she was feeding him? Potica?

    link to washingtonpost.com

    Good thing Melania is a devout Catholic or that pope would be fresh Twitter-bait.

    The Vatican leg of the “Religions for Profits Tour” was a failure because the pope was unable to schedule Trump’s exorcism.

  2. There is an attitude of mind that I began to notice changing sixty years ago, and over the intervening years it has become almost its direct opposite. In essence it is the principle of economy, it used to be a virtue and now it’s almost a joke. One bought things to last and maintained and looked after them. I still wear suits, trousers and a couple of overcoats bought in the 70’s. Kids’ clothes were handed down from older to younger siblings, socks were darned; when I was first called up into the army in 1955 we were issued needles, thread, and buttons with which to keep our kit mended. We didn’t throw away wrapping paper or string; I still can’t. If you needed to buy something, you saved for it, you saved for marriage and a home. Things were only discarded after serious consideration and if they could not be put to further use, I suspect that may be the practical origin of the patchwork quilt. Although my childhood was passed in the war and its immediate aftermath, that was not the reason for such economies, people had always been economical, it was natural and in a sense virtuous, waste was sort of sinful, waste not, want not, was the oft repeated mantra. Looking back it seems to me such attitudes of mind and their resulting behaviour patterns need to be reinvigorated, and the concepts of ‘want’ and ‘need’ separated again; this is surely not impossible in the era of social media. By the way, even four years ago the UN estimated that a third of the world’s food is wasted link to un.org . I really do believe that if we could rediscover the virtues of economy, the rest would follow.

  3. As hard as it might be to believe, uranium is a sustainable source of energy, enough energy if used properly in fast neutron reactors. There is always more in seawater.

    • Solar (permanent free energy), wind (which is just solar in a different form) , geothermal (the earth’s “permanent” heat) and tides (universal gravity) are ALL much much less expensive to harvest than nuclear.

      While there are much safer systems than light water reactors that are designed to FAIL, nuclear is still a very expensive way to harvest energy.

    • When figuring uranium’s sustainability, is the heavy environmental cost of mining and disposing of radioactive waste counted? Or the cost of reclaiming aged nuclear power plants?
      And what about the costs of accidents, inevitable in any human activity? Three Mile Island was costly, Chernobyl was a horrorshow, and so is Fukushima.

      There’s a reason sky-high insurance rates are making nuclear plants too expensive to build

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