Pope Francis Calls for Climate Action in Draft of Encyclical

Pope Francis Calls for Climate Action in Draft of Encyclical

Pope Francis offers a broad vision of an endangered planet, partly blaming human activity and fossil fuels for climate change while calling for people of all religions to take swift action, according to a leaked draft of his much-awaited environmental encyclical that was posted online Monday by an Italian magazine.

The unauthorized release of the 192-page draft, published by L’Espresso, angered officials at the Vatican, who warned that the document did not represent the final version of Francis’ encyclical, which remains embargoed from publication until Thursday.

In the leaked document, Francis often writes eloquently, citing scientific evidence about the human role in global warming. He repeats some of his familiar themes in calling on people to move away from a consumerist model that he says is depleting resources, to the detriment of the poor, and live simpler lives. He also calls on governments to work together for solutions at the global, national and local level — while at times focusing on specifics, like his opposition to carbon credits.

“In this encyclical,” he writes, “I intend especially to engage in a dialogue with everyone about our common home.”

Encyclicals, papal teaching letters to the Roman Catholic faithful, often fail to generate much outside attention. But Francis’ pronouncement on the environment and the poor has been eagerly awaited, especially by scientists and environmentalists, as a major event.

Seizing on the global interest, the Vatican prepared a careful rollout of the encyclical, which is titled “Laudato Sii,” or “Be Praised.” Bishops around the world have been sent instructions on how to spread the pope’s message to the world’s more than one billion Catholics.

Journalists accredited with the Vatican are supposed to receive official copies on Thursday morning so they can review the contents before the embargo is lifted at midday, after a news conference.

It was unclear how similar, or not, the final, official document will be to the leaked draft — or at what stage of the process the draft was written. The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, released a short statement calling on the embargo to be respected, adding, “Please note that it is not the final text.

The drafting process has taken more than a year, as Vatican officials elicited contributions from priests, theologians, scientists, economists and others from around the world. In the interim, Francis has spoken about the need to protect “creation.”

Speaking to reporters in January, Francis described global warming as “mostly” a human-made phenomenon and said that “man has slapped nature in the face.”

Environmentalists have wondered how Francis would address humans’ role in climate change, a point contested by many climate skeptics and some conservative Catholics. In one section, Francis writes: “Numerous scientific studies indicate that most of the global warming of the past decades is due to the concentration of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxide and others), emitted especially because of human activities.”

He adds that the problem is compounded “by the development model based on the intensive use of fossil fuels that is at the core of the global energy model.”

In the draft, Francis begins with a hymn, “Canticle of the Creatures,” written by the man whose name he took, St. Francis of Assisi, the 13th-century friar who dedicated his life to the poor and who is the patron saint of the environment.

The document is then divided into six chapters, with the first titled “What Is Happening in Our House?” It deals with a wide variety of issues, including climate change, pollution, water rights, the loss of biodiversity and global inequality.

In other chapters, Francis writes about the “wisdom of biblical accounts” (in a chapter titled the “Gospel of Creation”) and pointedly disputes the idea that population control and contraception are solutions to the planet’s limited resources.

In the third chapter, “The Human Root of the Ecological Crisis,” Francis explores how technology has changed the world, often in positive ways, but also has contributed to exploitation of the environment.

“An economic and technological development that does not leave the world a better place and with an integral superior quality of life cannot be considered progress,” he writes in the fifth chapter.

Many analysts have expected the encyclical to double as an economic critique. In the draft, Francis describes the maximization of profit as a “conceptual distortion of the economy” that fails to consider the long-term damage to the environment. He also describes the aftermath of the global financial crisis in 2007-8 as a missed opportunity “to develop a new economy, more careful to ethical principles, and for a new regulation of speculative financial activities and virtual wealth.”

Source: The New York Times

Date: June 2015

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