I don’t have much to say about the Encyclical Letter. It’s long and full of words. I am pleased that the Catholic Church is taking this seriously, but not because it’s the Catholic Church specifically, but because I think everyone should be taking this seriously. I know this is a cliche, but the Earth really is the only known, naturally habitable planet in the universe. It is still possible that life only exists in a thin shell, tens of kilometres thick, around a rocky planet, orbiting a G5V-star, in the outer parts of a galaxy we call the Milky Way. Maybe not, but we currently don’t know of life anywhere else in the Universe.
What’s maybe most amusing is how some have responded to the Encyclical. As Eli points out, it’s hard to distinguish some of the rants from what one might see on a site like Bishop-Hill. My own view is that anyone who invokes “the poors” when assessing someone else’s argument is struggling to defend their own position.
Even though I didn’t read through the Encyclical in full, I did try and find the bits that discussed the science itself. It’s not perfect, and I’m sure some will find reasons to criticise some of what is said and how it’s framed, but it is reasonably good, and that, in my view, is – at least – a good start. I thought I would simply repeat some of it below. I’ve highlighted bits that I found interesting, and simply removed some of what was said, mainly just to keep this reasonably short. You can always read it all by following the link at the beginning of the post.
23 …… A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system. In recent decades this warming has been accompanied by a constant rise in the sea level and, it would appear, by an increase of extreme weather events, even if a scientifically determinable cause cannot be assigned to each particular phenomenon. …. It is true that there are other factors (such as volcanic activity, variations in the earth’s orbit and axis, the solar cycle), yet a number of scientific studies indicate that most global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxides and others) released mainly as a result of human activity. Concentrated in the atmosphere, these gases do not allow the warmth of the sun’s rays reflected by the earth to be dispersed in space. The problem is aggravated by a model of development based on the intensive use of fossil fuels, which is at the heart of the worldwide energy system. …..
24. Warming has effects on the carbon cycle. It creates a vicious circle which aggravates the situation even more, affecting the availability of essential resources like drinking water, energy and agricultural production in warmer regions, and leading to the extinction of part of the planet’s biodiversity. The melting in the polar ice caps and in high altitude plains can lead to the dangerous release of methane gas, while the decomposition of frozen organic material can further increase the emission of carbon dioxide. ….. Carbon dioxide pollution increases the acidification of the oceans and compromises the marine food chain. If present trends continue, this century may well witness extraordinary climate change and an unprecedented destruction of ecosystems, with serious consequences for all of us. A rise in the sea level, for example, can create extremely serious situations, if we consider that a quarter of the world’s population lives on the coast or nearby, and that the majority of our megacities are situated in coastal areas.
25. Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods. It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day. Its worst impact will probably be felt by developing countries in coming decades. Many of the poor live in areas particularly affected by phenomena related to warming, and their means of subsistence are largely dependent on natural reserves and ecosystemic services such as agriculture, fishing and forestry. They have no other financial activities or resources which can enable them to adapt to climate change or to face natural disasters, and their access to social services and protection is very limited. ……
26. Many of those who possess more resources and economic or political power seem mostly to be concerned with masking the problems or concealing their symptoms, simply making efforts to reduce some of the negative impacts of climate change. ….