Today Pope Francis made a big announcement that he’s soon to release an encyclical on climate change. Right away there were some people who gave the usual complaints, “there goes the church again sticking its nose in the middle of science that it knows nothing about!” Actually though, scientists are very enthusiastic about the Pope’s encyclical, because they feel he can reach a much larger audience than they’ve been able to do. His expertise in this field is being acknowledged, and they feel he has a strong ability to be able to get people to look at the real issue rather than automatically choosing sides. One of the telling signs about Pope Francis has been that he defies automatically pigeonholing into predictable categories. He has often seemed to make statements that defy categorization as “liberal” or “conservative.”
I personally think one of the biggest blows to honest discussion about global warming came about when Al Gore made it part of his presidential campaign, because all of a sudden if you were liberal you believed that global warming was a real threat that needed immediate attention, and if you will conservative you were holding back in denying the realities of it, even trying to claim that global warming is not happening. Every normal climatological variance was being used by liberals as proof of global warming. If we had a cold winter, a hot summer, too much rain, not enough rain, the call was the same: “It’s all due to global warming!” On the other hand, conservatives became convinced that global warming was nothing but a scare tactic used by liberals to get people to accept their entire liberal agenda, and as a result ended up in total denial of any climate change whatsoever that was outside the normal climatological fluctuations.
Whenever things get entrenched into camps it’s very hard to have an honest discussion about an issue. Hopefully Pope Francis’s encyclical will help people leave partisan issues behind and look at the true issue that is being discussed.
My college degree was in meteorology, and if I did not enter the priesthood I was seriously considering pursuing a Master’s degree in climatology. Even though it’s been 30 years since I studied meteorology, I still have maintained enough of my knowledge of the subject to know that every fluctuation in temperature or rainfall is not catastrophic. Climates do vary from time to time just due to natural processes that we have nothing to do with, so to automatically jump at every little thing that’s happening and see it as proof of global warming is irresponsible and ignorant. In addition, there are things such as El Niño which have tremendous effects on our climate and our weather patterns and we’re still not completely sure what causes El Niños to take place at all. On the other hand, it is certainly possible that many of the changes in climate are due to human involvement and that we are probably affecting the planet in negative ways. So what is important for us to do is to put political alliances aside and look at the facts as they are, and not try to see it as a matter of “liberal” versus “conservative” and see science as it really is. The involvement of the Pope in this issue should be a tremendous help in this area.
I am one of the people that needs to hear his message. Having always been on the more conservative side of things, I have been very hesitant to embrace any evidence about the real effects of global warming. Pope Francis, however, is changing my mind on this issue. It seems there is more and more evidence that global warming is indeed taking place and perhaps we are having an effect upon it. The important thing to do is not to jump to extremes, either thinking that everything is automatically going to make global warming more serious, as if we’re all going to die from it in the next 20 years unless we don’t do something, or to be completely blind and oblivious to any real problems that are there and deny the need to take action where it will be necessary. Pope Francis’ endeavors in this area are groundbreaking, and I personally hope it will help a lot of people realize that the Pope knows a lot more than people really think he does. Let us pray for the success of his new encyclical, and that people will listen to his voice and whatever he has to say about global warming and take his opinion seriously, and even be willing to go against traditional conservative versus liberal opinions on the matter and look at global warming as it truly is so that we can address it in an appropriate manner and do what must be done in order to preserve our planet.