Candidates Should Rethink Impious Remarks on Encyclical

“…man is not the lord of creation, with an omnipotent will, but a part of creation, with limitations, who ought to observe a decent humility in the face of the inscrutable.”
Richard Weaver

Pope Francis’ recently released Encyclical on the environment (Ladauto Si’drew dismissive comments from two Catholic GOP presidential candidates. Just before the Encyclical was released, Rick Santorum commented “...we probably are better off leaving science to the scientists and focusing on what we’re really good at, which is … theology and morality.” After its release, Jeb Bush quipped “I don’t get economic policy from my bishops or my cardinals or my pope.” Bush also added that religion “ought to be about making us better as people, less about things [that] end up getting into the political realm.”

Photo of Cascade PondsThese comments are striking in just how selective and limiting they portray the role of faith. As Christians, it can be assumed that both Santorum and Bush believe that God created the earth and charged man with its stewardship. If so, it is hard to understand how they can dismiss care of the environment–whether the issue is climate change, mercury pollution that harms the unborn, or wildlife protection–as being completely outside the realm of faith and morality. Such an attitude is impious.

In a speech to the 1990 World Climate Conference, the late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher properly framed safeguarding our planet’s ecology as a “duty.” She said “We must remember our duty to Nature before it is too late. That duty is constant. It is never completed…It will weigh on our shoulders for as long as we wish to dwell on a living and thriving planet, and hand it on to our children and theirs.”

She recognized the moral imperative of addressing climate change 26 years ago, and yet here we have candidates today who seem mostly concerned with avoiding that duty.

While the Pope’s challenge on climate change is what Bush and Santorum were probably reacting to, the Encyclical broadly addressed our obligation to be good stewards of creation. Which is as it should be. Climate change is only one of many challenges we face.

Just last week a very conservative study published in the Journal of Science Advances found that because of human actions the earth is experiencing a mass extinction of wildlife species. Extinction rates over the past century are up to 100 times higher than natural average background rates. The report notes that “loss of biodiversity is one of the most critical current environmental problems, threatening valuable ecosystem services and human well-being.” Statistics from World Wildlife Fund (WWF) reveal that since 1970 we have lost 52 percent of earth’s bird, mammal, fish, reptile and amphibian populations.

In another study that came out last week, scientists at University of California, Irvine found that nearly a third of the world’s 37 largest freshwater aquifers are being drained faster than they are being replenished.

And earlier this year a study published in the American Medical Association’s journal JAMA Psychiatry found that a common pollutant in vehicle exhaust, power plant emissions and cigarette smoke can shrink white matter in the fetal brains of humans and cause developmental damage during the toddler years.

Under the most fundamental standard of stewardship, safeguarding the ability of earth to sustain life, we appear to be falling short.

One does not have to agree with every word in Laudato Si’ in order to take the stewardship message seriously and be, as President Reagan once said, “worried about what man has done and is doing to this magical planet that God gave us.” 

One can find similar concerns and warnings contained in Pope John Paul II’s 1991 Encyclical Centesimus Annus. In it the Pope wrote:

Man, who discovers his capacity to transform and in a certain sense create the world through his own work, forgets that this is always based on God’s prior and original gift of the things that are. Man thinks that he can make arbitrary use of the earth, subjecting it without restraint to his will, as though it did not have its own requisites and a prior God-given purpose, which man can indeed develop but must not betray. Instead of carrying out his role as a cooperator with God in the work of creation, man sets himself up in place of God and thus ends up provoking a rebellion on the part of nature, which is more tyrannized than governed by him.

Whether Santorum and Bush want to acknowledge it or not, the reality is that most of the environmental threats facing earth and its life-sustaining ecology are the result of human decisions and actions–and none of them fall outside the purview of faith and morality.

President Reagan, after expressing concern for the health of our planet, wisely pointed out: “This is our patrimony. This is what we leave to our children. And our great moral responsibility is to leave it to them either as we found it or better than we found it.”

It is a “great moral responsibility,” one that we cannot afford for our leaders, or prospective leaders, to dismiss.

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New IPCC Climate Report Paints Urgent Picture

The world’s climate scientists have spoken and it would be prudent for our elected leaders to listen–especially those whose standard response to media and voter questions about climate change has been “I am not a scientist.” You don’t have to be a scientist to understand what is happening to our climate and recognize the need for action.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) just released its Fifth Assessment Report. This is its first full IPCC report since 2007 and represents the culmination of five years of work by 2000 scientists combing through 30,000 studies.

The Report concludes with a 95 percent certainty that man-made greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are responsible for most, if not all, global warming since the 1950s and that those emissions have pushed atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide to levels “unprecedented” in the past 800,000 years.

It also concludes that the adverse impacts of this climate change are being felt now, and include massive forest die-offs, more frequent and severe heat waves, melting of land ice, changes in precipitation patterns and acidification of the oceans.

The report calls for urgent action to reduce global GHG emissions and says failure to do so will inevitably lead to a drastically altered climate, along with mass extinction of plants and animals, extreme precipitation events, flooding of major cities, island nations lost to sea level rise, extreme heat, and drought–all leading to food shortages, displaced populations and tremendous economic loss.

Decision makers have a moral responsibility to take these dire warnings seriously and work constructively towards solutions.

In 1988 President Reagan, when faced with warnings from climate scientists about a dangerous erosion of earth’s protective ozone layer from the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), he responded by pushing through an international treaty to phase-out of CFCs.

We deserve that same kind prudent leadership from our leaders today.

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God’s Climate Plan

An Easter-themed post on the U.S. News & World Report website discusses climate change from the perspective of earth’s design and explores how burning fossil fuels runs contrary to that design by taken carbon that earth’s processes naturally sequestered underground and releasing it back into the atmosphere.

Check out the link below:

God’s Climate Plan

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Fox News Op-Ed Urging Climate Action

There is a sobering op-ed up on the Fox News website that compares our current response to climate change to the short-sited decisions and inaction by the U.S. and Europe in 1914 that lead to World War I.

The piece, entitled “Time for Real Leadership on Climate Change, Energy and National Security,” was written by David Slayton, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, and David Titley, a Professor of Practice in Meteorology at Penn State.

Check it out.

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Terrific New Guide to Climate Change Science

Way too often scientists produce dry, academic publications that make the average person’s eyes glaze over. That is not the case with a booklet just out from U.S. National Academy of Sciences and The U.K. Royal Society. Entitled “Climate Change: Evidence & Causes,” it provides a very clear and accessible source of information on the state of climate science in 2014. It answers commonly asked questions about climate change and explains what scientists know for sure and what they do not.

The booklet was produced by a team of leading climate scientists as a reference resource for policy makers, educators and others who are seeking to better understand climate change

Please check it out. You will find a direct link to the report in the first paragraph of this post and a link to the NAS page for downloading the booklet below.

Climate Change: Evidence & Causes

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What’s Up with the Deep Freeze?

Along with the recent blasts of arctic air dipping south over the U.S. this winter has come the predictable ranting from commentators opposed to action on climate change. They tout the cold weather as proof that global warming is some kind of hoax. Equally predictable, is that come summer, when we are sweltering under triple digit heat, these same folks will be arguing against any climate connection.

Unfortunately, that kind of agenda-driven rhetoric is designed more to manipulate than illuminate.

So, what should a conservative make of this cold weather as it relates to climate change?

The first thing to keep in mind is the difference between weather and climate. Weather events are relatively localized, short-term conditions that are influenced by a wide variety of factors, whereas the climate reflects long-term trends. A changing climate can impact weather in a variety of predictable and unpredictable ways.

The amount of global warming we are experiencing in 2014 does not preclude winter weather, or even a few weeks of record-breaking cold, but it does mean that our winters will be milder (and summers hotter) on average. Ironically, as bitterly cold winter weather becomes more uncommon, the media makes a bigger deal out of every cold snap we have.

While here in the U.S. this winter has been cold compared to recent ones, it is not very cold compared to the record-breaking winters of the late 1800s, early 1900s, 1930s, or late 1970s.

It does not mean a lot globally either. This past December was among the warmest on record worldwide and Australia is currently experiencing an extreme heatwave that is shattering records. It is so hot Down Under that 100,000 bats fell out of the sky and died from heat stress.

The Weather Channel has a well done article on its website explaining our winter weather in the context of climate change. You can read it by clicking on the link below:

Polar Vortex and Climate Change: Why Rush Limbaugh and Others Are Wrong

So dress warmly, drive safe, and enjoy the cold while it lasts–but don’t let anyone fool you into thinking that we no longer need to worry about climate change.

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Nice Op-Ed by Reagan’s EPA Chief on Climate Change

President Reagan’s EPA Chief Lee Terry has written a very powerful op-ed recalling how Reagan responded when climate scientists discovered that compounds used in aerosol sprays and refrigeration equipment (chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs) were destroying the earth’s protective ozone layer.

He recalls that then, like now with climate change, skeptics and special interests opposed action. They wanted Reagan to ignore the problem, but he didn’t. He did what a true conservative is supposed to do, he listened carefully to the experts, weighed all the facts, and took prudent action to safeguard our atmosphere.

It is a great lesson in conservative leadership as told by someone who was there. Read it here: Lee Thomas: Climate change, a present danger .

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Two Great Conservative Op-Eds on Climate Change

Congratulations to two longtime members of Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship for recently having terrific op-eds published urging conservatives to take the lead in efforts to address climate change. South Carolina member Chester Sansbury’s piece, titled Conservatives must counter climate change, appeared in the Charleston Post & Courier, and Wyoming member Paul Vogelheim’s piece, titled Conservatives need to lead on climate change, appeared in the Casper Star Tribune.

Both of these op-eds reference an opinion piece co-authored by four past Republican EPA Administrators that appeared in the New York Times back in August. In their op-ed (A Republican Case for Climate Action) these officials, who served in the Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Bush administrations, recalled past Republican leadership on environment issues, lamented the lack of such leadership today, and noted that we cannot wait any longer to address climate change.

Each of these make compelling cases for conservative leadership on climate and are well worth a read.

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Are Climate Skeptics Ignoring God’s Design

A month or so ago Rush Limbaugh commented on his radio show “If you believe in God, then intellectually you cannot believe in man-made global warming.” Since then several articles debating this have appeared on the Christian Post website.

The latest is a guest column written by the author of this blog and titled: Are Climate Skeptics Ignoring God’s Design? It responds directly to a piece written by Calvin Beisner, a well-known climate skeptic and spokesman for The Cornwall Alliance.

Please check it out.

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Conservative Columnist Reacts to Latest IPCC Report

Washington Post Columnist Michael Gerson has written an insightful piece in reaction to the latest report issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In it he points out that the IPCC report “represents consensus not conspiracy,” that the “evidence for human-caused climate disruption is increasingly clear” and that the most deserving target of skepticism is not the science, but rather “the ability of political institutions …to respond prudently” to scientifically established risk. It is another sad commentary on the state of politics today and how responsible stewardship has fell victim to short-term self-interests.  His piece is linked below and definitely worth a read.

Politics is poorly suited to address global warming

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