(12m) Roman Catholic Church and climate change

Pope Francis I published his much anticipated encyclical about climate change and the state of our planet. I didn't read the document but read some commentary and it seems it is quite a moderate document although it changes the language by acknowledging that actions are really needed, now.

Discussion of document


This article summarises the document in eight points and I can agree with seven of them while one point (point 7) shows the pope's age. Indeed, we need new energy sources and mainly renewable energy produced at a local level (point 4). This doesn't mean we shouldn't be realistic by accepting there is a transition period with the continued use of other sources such as gas and nuclear energy but with the need to stimulate investments in new energies and much less in the old ones as they are very expensive (point 1) as it seems President Obama's climate deal is trying to do.
Still, the burning of coal should be stopped as soon as possible (again point 1) as this is an energy source used by the poor that doesn't help them in their struggle to get out of poverty as some wealthy claim. On the contrary, coal keeps people in poverty as it means people have to work in poor working conditions with bad air while even after work they continue to live in air of toxic quality that even destroys crops so people have less but also unhealthy food but of course politicians should think about alternatives before closing them (e.g. local production of sun panels). Not a single wealthy person who is honest would ever want to live in these places, not even to see each day how their efforts in keeping open a coal mine may lift people out of poverty (as they know it keeps people in poverty but makes some very rich). In the West, we often even panic when in summer air pollution levels rise above a certain threshold while we know that smoking something as little as a cigarette can kill after a few years (although that is a personal choice as long as it doesn't affect others while air pollution affects everyone).
Indeed, renewables are the way forward, certainly for small local communities (point 4) that are far away from the electricity grid. And renewable energy also needs people to produce and maintain the equipment and thus provide work although makes certain people less quickly rich. Still, many in developed countries promote the use of fossil energy as it enrich themselves instead of promoting the use of new energies although one day will cost billions as well as lives.

I also agree with the pope that progress towards a cleaner world has been much too slow (point 2) and the will for real change would have resulted in more renewables but certainly in less talk about the need to invest in more 'clean' old energies such as gas and nuclear energy (the latter results in waste we don't know how to handle). The reasons why investments in old energies are still discussed is:
    (a) because many politicians still believe renewables can't produce all the energy we need. Indeed, we may still need to use the cleanest old energy sources for e.g. power to run trains although wind energy parks may produce sufficient amounts of electricity, but also
    (b) local energy production doesn't make those in the industry rich but empower local producers or even ordinary people as they don't need to buy energy. However, equally local production shouldn't enrich those producing it at the expense of others. For instance, people sell their electricity from sun energy to energy companies so the energy becomes more expensive than centrally-produced energy as companies need to pay many producers while only little money is left to help finance more renewables. Still, people can sell their overproduction to neighbours or even better, together they can buy the equipment to produce the energy so more people can benefit from any production while the initial investment is less heavy because shared by many, resulting in community production (point 4). I imaging local production of energy (e.g. via solar panels or small windmills) that is then shared between everyone who helped with the initial investment while if exceptionally more energy is used (e.g. due to use of heavy equipment) then electricity from the grid can be used while overproduction can be stored in batteries (that are getting better) and used during the night.
    (c) Finally, some people simply can't imagine 2°C can be as disastrous as predicted and thus don't feel the need to change behaviour as many in colder countries even hope for higher temperatures.

However, the pope's comment concerning the new media (such as the use of smartphones and tablets - point 7) shows his age. Indeed, personally speaking, those machines allow me to take pictures from humans but equally animals, plants and landscapes and share them with friends and family members close and far so we stay in contact; it even allows to contribute to scientific communities to help research (although some will criticise this and claim it is bad data while scientists can filter the data as they always have done to extract the data they need and in case of open data, other scientists can check whether there were no flaws in the calculations). Further, I can research the internet and read books and thus gain knowledge without the need for the destruction of forests to produce the paper for the words that I may only read ones in my life while also remote places can have access to up-to-date information (where people can charge their equipment using sun energy).
Thus, the new equipment can be used to take pictures, play games, read and write both books and articles, watch movies and listen to music, stay in contact with others via social media or emails, even help to monitor the health of people and warn the person or others when something seems wrong and this with reduced impact on nature. Of course, as always there are dangers such as criminals who try to abuse the system to damage people but even they are getting it more difficult as spy agencies are trying to trace them and then hunt them down. This too has dangers as for instance we need to understand how to recognise real criminals who send out spam versus victims whose accounts are used to send spam. Equally, while paedophiles tried to trick children into meeting them, this too may become a thing of the past although again we need to be careful not to overreact and threat everyone as a suspect.

Stormy weather ahead although a sun is peeping above the clouds?

Change is slow in its progress

Nevertheless, it may still be difficult to change something because, even before the publication when only some extracts were known, there was already resistance by some very powerful people who said that the pope should stick to his job, i.e. he can talk about God and Jesus but should keep silent on economy as if there are no ethics and morality involved. Many of these powerful people are Christian presidential candidates in the US (some protestants while others are part of the Roman Catholic Church - RCC) who, as all people do, only follow the teaching of what they think is right (and thus for instance many do not oppose that gay people are marginalised as that doesn't make them poor (at least not in the past but even this is changing as many people no longer accept that nice people are excluded and thus people start to boycott companies that discriminate)). Still a long way to go although attitudes are changing as climate change deniers are starting to panic that the climate conference later in Paris may be a turning point and thus money is needed to finance actions such as spreading misinformation and lies to prevent that an agreement will be reached. In Europe, the crisis is helping deniers as investments in renewables are reduced while some are now claiming fracking is clean although it also burns gas. An agreement may also allow a lasting legacy for a black president while many powerful climate change deniers are white and prefer no lasting legacy for a black person and thus the GOP and some Democrats promise harsh resistance to try to undermine President Obama's climate deal that intends to stop more pollution.

Therefore, we may be able to predict Mrs Clinton may win the election as she acknowledges climate change and the need to act as so many ordinary people do. Republicans on the other hand may become even more angry they didn't win on their argument that fossil fuel is needed to stimulate the economy. As a result, they may become even more anti-science but also anti-ordinary people who they may consider are too stupid to understand that, to stimulate the economy, we need to continue as before although some will accept the fact we need to change but then they may loose support from their party.
Already a powerful person is so convinced of his own righteousness that he is loosing support from often like-minded people (read the article and notice how the person who disinvited him speaks in a similar way about other people while a possible reference to menstruation went too far). As the powerful person wants his way and doesn't seem to be interested in the GOP, many Republicans even fear he may cause a split in conservative votes and this in favour of Mrs Clinton, a woman. Indeed, how do ordinary people dare to thrust and listen more to scientists than to those who know everything about economy and how to stimulate it by denying that doing things in another way may be possible as those new methods may reduce their income.
But it is not only because people listen to scientists, it is also that people start to experience scientists (and God in his revelations) are right. On the other hand, the very rich deny the reality because often they don't experience it (yet) or choose to ignore the evidence as otherwise they have to change their own behaviour while claim nothing can be done as it is God's will and find easy targets by blaming others such as scientists or progress in human rights. But even Mrs Clinton's election, if she may become president, will have consequences for women as either she is a bad woman if she continues to oppose more fossil fuel in favour of renewables (how dare she as a woman not to listen to men who know everything about economy just as they condemn a black president and thus his race for daring to oppose them?) or, as a good women, will listen to the powerful and approve for instance pipelines to transport tar sand from Canada via land.

The current pope needs to be given a chance

If the pope means what he is doing than he really needs to be given a chance. Of course, he can't change the direction of the ship within only two or three years as he will meet opposition from within (by conservatives who hope things will go wrong to be able to return to power as can be read at the end of the article) as well as from outside - including from people who find he is not changing the Institute quickly enough; still it seems he is trying to change things for the better:
   During a speech in Latin-America he apologised for the crimes the RCC committed during the conquest of the continent while previous popes could have done this before instead of appearing together with dictators who killed many people, including the young because they were so-called left, i.e. defending the right of ordinary people.
   He also repeated his pledge about our responsibility concerning looking after our planet and preventing more damage while spoke about unbridled capitalism as the 'dung of the devil'. Indeed, how can it be defendable when people become richer at the expense of people who are less lucky while the system forces people to behave in a similar manner or they are unable to even buy their own house (e.g. sell at a higher price in order to buy a new house that is already more expensive and thus forcing prices upwards). Becoming too wealthy inevitable changes people, making them paranoid that people only want to know them for their wealth, powers and connections and thus they start to protect themselves to such an extend that they loose connections wit the real world and many even become psychopaths trying to get even more and protect their wealth at the expense of others. He also spoke about humane solutions for countries in need instead of implementing only harsh austerity while this doesn't mean people should not try to repay their debts.
   It seems he is also the first pope to speak with what many religious people consider as devils, i.e. gay people. Earlier he ones asked who is he to judge them and thus, why should ordinary people judge others if the highest Catholic authority doesn't even judge. Of course, this is still no apology for the many atrocities done over the past centuries to (supposedly) gay people such as burning them but at least talking with each other can lead to understanding.

Indeed, slow progress and future will tell how the Church evolved as before other movements to modernise the Church and bring it closer to humans were also halted. E.g. what with the recent huge paedophile crisis and so many other crises after centuries ruling the world? But he needs to be given a chance. Of course, many will not like what he says and does, certainly not those who may loose their position within the power structure (in 2014, pope Francis mentioned he would only have a mandate of another two or three years, what did he suggest?). He may be a (moderate) reformer in contrast to his predecessor. Still, we need to acknowledge that it was positive that pope Benedict XVI retreated (it seems on the request of God himself) to give another person a chance to reform. Who may be the next pope, maybe the last one if the inner battle will grow?

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