Why is Pope Francis writing about climate change? Because he cares for the poor, and wants us all to look at how we use the resources of the world. His objective is to ask each of us to look at how we use the resources available to us, and how to be good stewards of creation. Whether we consider ourselves as owners or tenants of this planet we are asked to use it’s bounty to the good of all, and to avoid laying it waste to the detriment of our brothers and sisters.
He looks at a number of ways in which the poor more than most suffer from environmental damage that man has control over. The first thing he mentions (paragraph 20) is something well aired on these blogs: atmospheric pollutants affecting the poor, using as an example the breathing high levels of smoke from fuels used in heating and cooking. He talks of pollution caused by transport and industry, soil, fertilizers and insecticides. Then he mentions dangerous wastes and residues and the despoiling of landscapes. Again, his concern is primarily for the people these affect, and secondarily for the ecosystem (though he stresses our responsibility for that too).
The climate comes in at paragraph 23 and here the leaked paragraphs that have had such wide coverage are reasonably accurate. Climate is a common good, and science indicates that man is having some effect on this. The language is sufficiently vague that I doubt he’ll end up in a Galileo scenario of pinning his colours to a sinking ship, but there is no doubt that the rather partial advisers he has had have coloured the thinking to a very large extent. …
I can see how Pope Francis might view things like slave labour and the Third World’s inability to keep up with First World economic powerhouses as evils that have negative effects on the environment. Needless to say, Pope Francis is not a scientific scholar as Copernicus or Gregor Mendel were. Joe Ronan, who wrote this article, makes it a point to note the Pope’s lack of scholarship and referencing, as well as trust on biased advisors, as the enormous blemish on this encyclical.
If these is bright spot in all of this, Pope Francis calls carbon credit trading “a ploy“:
The strategy of buying and selling “carbon credits” can lead to a new form of speculation which would not help reduce the emission of polluting gases worldwide. This system seems to provide a quick and easy solution under the guise of a certain commitment to the environment, but in no way does it allow for the radical change which present circumstances require. Rather, it may simply become a ploy which permits maintaining the excessive consumption of some countries and sectors.
In case people were worried about “population control“:
For Pope Francis, caring about the environment goes hand in hand with taking a strong stand against abortion. “Since everything is interrelated, concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion,” the encyclical says. “How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties?”
Francis suggests that efforts to slow population growth are misguided and a distraction from the underlying cause of the world’s environmental crisis—the hoarding of the Earth’s resources by the rich and powerful. “To blame population growth instead of extreme and selective consumerism on the part of some, is one way of refusing to face the issues,” the encyclical says.
So there’s that.