Has Green Pope Francis Made a Difference on Attitudes to Global Warming?




by Des Pensable copyright 2015

Catholic Pope Francis, the leader of 1.2 billion Catholics around the world has taken up the mantle as a world champion of Global Warming action. He has written an extensive 246 point guide (encyclical) to the members of his faith called “Laudato Si” outlining the problem of Global Warming, its causes and the need for urgent action. However, the document is not just targeted at the Catholic faithful but all mankind as the problem and need for urgent action affects us all.

Internationally, the Pope’s encyclical stimulated a very positive backing from the Islamic community and the Dali Lama.

Following the publication of his encyclical he travelled to the USA and spoke to the US Congress in an appeal for logic and sanity to Global Warming denier Republican congressmen who currently control the congress and are blocking serious US Global Warming mitigation action. His visit was well publicized, timely and his pro Global Warming action message widely distributed around the country.

The question of interest to everyone is whether Pope Francis has had any significant effect at convincing the people of the USA that the problem is both real and needs urgent attention.  A second question is whether his personal appeal to the Global Warming denier politicians especially the Catholic deniers in US congress will yield a change of heart leading to policies that favour action rather than hindrance and inaction.

With 246 points, the encyclical is rather large and strong on the world’s moral obligation to care for God’s creation, our home; to fix wealth inequality and reduce poverty. It has been reduced to 10 main points but can be neatly summarized into three main areas.

  1. it is based unequivocally on the scientific consensus that global warming is taking place and that climate change is man-made; it rejects the denial of anthropogenic warming;
  2. it unmasks the political and economic structures of power behind the climate change debate and stresses the importance of non-state actors in achieving change; and
  3. it defines the atmosphere and the environment as a common good rather than a “no man’s land”, available for anyone to pollute. This underlines that climate change is strongly related to the issues of justice and property rights.

To many conservative US citizens and perhaps conservatives around the world the Pope’s message is likely to be a shocking awakening. It leaves no doubt that the scientists are 100% correct. Global warming is real and if we ignore it then our civilization is likely to perish through our own negligence.

He places the blame for Global Warming squarely on the materialism caused and promoted by the poorly regulated free market Capitalism championed world-wide by the USA.  He is aware that the current continual growth economic philosophy in our world of finite resources is both technically and logically impossible.

He states that the current western neoliberal economic policy is causing an increasing wealth gap between the rich and the poor, increased poverty and damaging nature, the water we drink and the air we breathe. It is destroying the Earth’s life support system.

He argues both a moral and practical case for an urgent world-wide transition from fossil fuel use to renewables. More controversially, he calls for a revolutionary transition over the next few decades from the materialistic free market growth economics to a more socially benevolent and sustainable democratic economic system favoring people over profit.

This will need to be a social economic revolution carried out by the people as the politicians and wealthy elite are unlikely to either be in favor or help.

In short, this effectively means moving the USA and world away from a failing Capitalism which is dooming the planet to a more communal oriented Socialist style world. It favors communal ownership over privatization and a political system responsive to people rather than corporations.

The Pope is a realist in that he understands that asking US politicians, industry and commerce to change its ways is likely to fall on deaf ears. So he has pleaded directly to the courageous responsible clear thinking people of the USA and the world.

He is asking you and me for a peaceful revolution where we transform the world dragging the ignorant, the deniers, the greedy, the blind politicians and arrogant selfish wealthy self-styled elite along with us.

It is a mighty challenge that many would say is impossible but to others it’s inconceivable that we idly sit by waiting to perish without trying. So what is the reaction to the Pope’s call for world-wide action? Well two US opinion polls taken before (spring) and after (fall) the Pope’s pilgrimage to the USA are giving the first response of the US people (see here and here).

In short, it’s very positive. There was a definite Pope Francis effect. Indeed a 10-20 point swing. Significantly more people agree that Global Warming is real, caused by humans and requires urgent action. They are very much in favor of moving quickly towards a carbon emissions-free world using renewables.

opinion poll 0n pope visit

Click on graph for clearer view.

The Francis effect in the USA, has not only changed Global Warming opinion among the US people but reinvigorated the whole US Catholic Church.  Catholic leaders from many countries have signed and submitted a 10 point plan to the organizers of the Paris Climate conference calling for firm international action at the conference in December.

What the polls didn’t ask was whether the people in the USA are willing to move away from the current free market vulture capitalism that profits from fear and war towards a more socially inclusive, sharing and sustainable peaceful economy.

Judging by the popular responses to Bernie Sanders’s Presidential campaign advocating strong Global warming action and an economic move towards a sustainable economy there are millions of enlightened US citizens who would be prepared to move in that direction.

By the same token there are likely to be millions of ignorant authoritarian mass media controlled sheeple who are extremely fearful of any change.

The real unanswered question is whether the US congress has listened to the Pope and is mature enough to place the well-being of the world’s future before their own petty personal agendas and dreams of a US empire. Few have faith in the US congress so it’s likely that the US people will need to do as the Pope suggests and show true leadership at the community level.

You might also like “The World’s Christians Are Global Warming Believers But Does It Matter?

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For more stories on Global Warming by Des Pensable

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Des Pensable

Des is a native of Sydney where he currently lives with his partner Joanne. He has a PhD in neuroscience and worked as a biomedical scientist where he published widely in several areas of science. Since retiring, he’s been a keen writer of poetry, stories and philosophy which appear on his web, blog site and on line literary publications. He is also a performance poet that appears regularly in venues around Sydney.

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