Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Pope Francis scolds U.S., ‘irresponsible’ Western lifestyle in climate plea. (WaPo)

Pope Francis, our first Jesuit Pope was a university chemistry professor in Argentina before becoming a bishop.

From The Washington Post:

 Pope Francis scolds U.S., ‘irresponsible’ Western lifestyle in climate plea

Pope Francis walks through flower arrangements in St. Peter's Square in 2019. (Vincenzo Pinto/AFP/Getty Images)
6 min

VATICAN CITY — Warning that “the world in which we live is collapsing and may be nearing the breaking point,” Pope Francis issued a renewed call for climate action Wednesday, singling out the United States for “irresponsible” Western excess and decrying the “weakness” of world leaders for failing to take bold steps.

Eight years after his landmark environmental encyclical, “Laudato Si’,” in which he scolded climate change deniers and called for an “ecological conversion” among the faithful, Francis released a follow-up, known as an apostolic exhortation. Considered a lower-level document, it was far more concise — 12 pages, compared with his 180-page encyclical. Its impact, too, may be more limited.

Release of encyclical reveals pope’s deep dive into climate science

Francis summarized accepted science and again took aim at skeptics who deny human-made climate change. He strayed beyond climate, couching artificial intelligence as representative of a worrying inclination to “increase human power beyond anything imaginable.” In what reads much like a policy paper — apart from a smaller section of religious references toward the end — the “green pope” denounced the scale of emissions from high-consumption cultures and argued that the world’s poor were paying the price.

“If we consider that emissions per individual in the United States are about two times greater than those of individuals living in China, and about seven times greater than the average of the poorest countries, we can state that a broad change in the irresponsible lifestyle connected with the Western model would have a significant long-term impact,” the pope wrote.

While criticizing the United States, Francis also made a point to praise U.S. bishops for aptly expressing that “our care for one another and our care for the earth are intimately bound together” — though that quote from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops was just a paraphrasing of the pope’s language in “Laudato Si’.”

Francis’s call in 2015 brought applause from climate advocates, who saw him as helping to build momentum for what would become the sweeping Paris accords to curb global emissions, adopted in December of that year. A Vatican delegation that attended the Paris negotiations was credited with helping to influence commitments from Poland and Catholic countries in Latin America.

How climate-change doubters lost a papal fight

In his new document, Francis noted how little world leaders have accomplished since then and blamed an absence of mechanisms to hold countries to their commitments, along with a “failure of conscience and responsibility.”

Vatican City’s own climate commitments do not stand out in their ambition. Like Italy and the European Union, it has pledged net-zero emissions by 2050. The Vatican also reports that it recycles most of its trash, makes compost for its gardens and has banned single-use plastics.

Francis devoted a section of the document to his expectations for this year’s United Nations climate summit, or COP28, scheduled to start in late November. The annual conference — where countries lock heads over policy details and fight for incremental progress — has been a source of disillusionment for environmental activists. And this year’s summit is hosted by the United Arab Emirates, a country with cutting-edge renewable projects that has grown rich by pumping oil and has one of the world’s largest carbon footprints per capita.

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Among the many fault lines, less-developed countries say they need dramatically more financial help in preparing for and coping with the consequences of a warmer climate — the result primarily of emissions from the world’s wealthy countries.

“We must move beyond the mentality of appearing to be concerned but not having the courage needed to produce substantial changes,” the pope wrote.

Francis — who took the name of the patron saint of ecology — stands out among popes in his push to make environmentalism a core part of the faith.

After making some unwelcome interventions related to the war in Ukraine, and amid the Catholic Church’s continued failings on clerical abuse, he is returning to a theme on which he remains an authoritative voice. It is also one that is highly relevant to the younger generationswith whom he has sought to connect.

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Cardinal Michael Czerny, a senior Vatican official seen as close to Francis, said in an interview: “This … is not just for Catholics or other pious and holy people. It is for the world community.”

He continued: “To the powerful, Pope Francis dares to repeat this question: ‘Why do you want to preserve today a power that will be remembered for its inability to intervene when it was urgent and necessary to do so?’”

But Francis’s positions on climate change no longer offer much surprise, and he may not have as captive an audience as he did earlier in his papacy.

“In the eight years [since the environmental encyclical], many things have happened outside and inside the church that have weakened its power,” said Luis Badilla, editorial director for Il Sismografo, a Vatican-related blog. “The position on Russia. Ineffectiveness on pedophilia. … Francis’s words now can feel like speaking in a desert.”

In the new document, Francis focused on what he described as a broken multilateral system for global decision-making and avoided calling on Catholics to take specific steps to combat climate change.

Some observers suggest he has missed an opportunity. For instance, a study led by Cambridge University found that a call by Catholic bishops in England and Wales to reinstate the old practice of not eating meat on Fridays had a significant impact on behavior and saved the equivalent of 55,000 metric tons of carbon emissions over a year.

Catholic views are mixed on Francis’s climate efforts. Some conservatives criticize the pope for his environmental focus, saying he is pushing the faith beyond its religious boundaries. In a notably political moment, in 2017, he gifted a copy of his encyclical to a visiting world leader: President Donald Trump.

Pope Francis presents Trump with a ‘politically loaded gift’: His encyclical on climate change

According to the Pew Research Center, 54 percent of American Catholics say the planet is warming mostly because of human activity — in line with the average among all American adults, but well behind the 90 percent figure among atheists.

“It is safe to say that many Catholics still do not view care for the environment as a central aspect of what it means to be a Catholic,” said David Cloutier, a professor of moral theology at Catholic University. “They view it as an optional activity that some Catholics might be involved in on the side, not a central commitment. But Pope Francis clearly is trying to move the church in that direction.”

Stefano Pitrelli contributed to this report.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Compared to Europeans, in general, Americans eat too much, spend too much, consume too much. Yet we claim success can be measured more by our economic success. I disagree. Just look at the problems we fail to solve or even deal with using our economic resources. Still people without medical care who need it, 6 million people on some kind of supervision or behind bars, bad politics, grifting, high tuition and housing costs, these things are not a sign of success but rather a sign that we've taken certain things too far and in general people really don't care. Otherwise, these problems wouldn't exist.