Retiring Pope Should Get More Credit on Climate Change
With all the attention to Pope Benedict's surprise announcement about retiring at the end of this month, one important part of his legacy is being ignored.
During his term as leader of the Catholic Church, the Vatican produced one of the boldest papers yet about the dangers and actions required regarding climate change.
Published in January 2011, the succinct, easily read 17 page document may have been overlooked because of it's benign title, "Fate of Mountain Glaciers in the Anthropocene." For convenience, the full PDF report is downloadable on this blog post.
Their findings were so profound, that I use them to open the final chapter of my book, High Tide On Main Street: Rising Sea Level and the Coming Coastal Crisis, which reads:
"In our time, science has again come under attack, but this time not by the Church. In fact, though largely overlooked, the Vatican has taken an exemplary position regarding the catastrophic challenge posed by climate change, and specifically by sea level rise. In May 2011, the Pontifical Academy of Science produced an easily read, 17- page, outstanding report. Its summary, three major findings, and powerful one-sentence conclusion are:Since a sustainable future based on the continued extraction of coal, oil and gas in the “business-as-usual mode” will not be possible because of both resource depletion and environmental damages (as caused, e.g. by dangerous sea level rise) we urge our societies to: I. Reduce worldwide carbon dioxide emissions without delay, using all means possible to meet ambitious international global warming targets and ensure the long-term stability of our climate system. II. Reduce the concentrations of warming air pollutants (dark soot, methane, lower atmosphere ozone, and hydrofluorocarbons) to slow down climate change this century. III. Prepare to adapt to the climatic changes, both chronic and abrupt, that society will be unable to mitigate. The cost of the three recommended measures pales in comparison to the price the world will pay if we fail to act now. ~From Fate of Mountain Glaciers in the Anthropocene
The case could not be made more succinctly or firmly, and stands in sharp contrast to the explicit efforts of the U.S. Congress to squash measures to address the problem and deny the realities we face. [From Chapter 17, page 177, High Tide On Main Street, by John Englander]
The fact that the conservative Catholic church, under a generally rigid germanic Pope, would publish such a clear doctrine about climate change is worth noting. With all the attention that this Pope's legacy will bring today and in the coming weeks, this is an important and powerful story to share.