Climate Change, The Pope, and a Call to Zion

Two weeks ago I attended a conference in Claremont California, called the Seizing the Alternative Conference. Sixteen hundred scientists, theologians and philosophers gathered to explore the question of how to best respond to the ecological changes the earth is experiencing due to climate change. These people were among the world’s top researchers, thinkers, writers, ethicists, and others concerned about how best to respond to what scientists are calling the Anthropocene–a geological era dominated by the influence of humans who are changing the fundamental ecology of Earth. At BYU we just had a semester long series of climate change talks, sponsored by BYU’s Environmental Ethics Initiative and the Kennedy Center for International Studies. Every week we brought in scientists from around the country to talk about their research on different aspects of global warming. This was a nice setup for my participation at Claremont. The conference was a call to action for the spiritual and intellectual communities to more clearly communicate what’s happening to the planet. However, a concise statement of much of what we discussed is framed in the Pope’s recent encyclical on climate change.

The evidence of these changes is overwhelming, from melting Arctic polar ice, to the global retreat of glaciers. From rising sea levels and the acidification of the oceans (literally dissolving the coral reefs and the calcium-based exo- and endoskeletons of the plankton; the base of the ocean’s food chain). Widespread droughts, floods, and changes in the jet stream (which we see in the movement of the polar vortex dropping into the Northeast in winter, to earlier springs and warmer winters) are effecting every ecology of which I’m aware. The evidence is abundant, clear and uncontroversial—unless you include the 500 million dollars used by the Heartland Institute’s disinformation campaign to undermine the science and politicize what should be of concern of every political party on the planet (ironically, that amount of money is about the same amount that the National Science Foundation spends on Climate Change research). This should never have been considered a political issue. It simply is not, although it has been made such.

But I don’t want to talk about that. If you don’t believe in science, then you will reap the consequences. I find it ironic that I often find members of the church so willing to cling to the most tenuous evidence to embrace the claims of essential oil and herbal remedy enthusiasts, yet deny what the best and most rigorous science going on in the world is saying. Which research is revealing and documenting the widespread and clear evidence that the climate is reeling to and fro like a drunken man. Straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel indeed.

I do, however, want to talk about how to establish an spiritual and ethical response to the current ecological crisis—especially in light of the Pope’s recent encyclical on the matter. He rightly notes that this is in fact a spiritual crisis. The greatest threat to families right now is not the things that many Americans are most concerned about in their political discourse and divisions. The most obvious and perilous threat to the family on a global scale is poverty, which is expanding its reach due to droughts, rising sea levels, floods, changes in the growing season, redistribution of crop pests and diseases, water resources diminishing, and other climate effects, making agriculture (and especially subsistence agriculture) much more difficult. This in turn is causing population redistribution, due to worldwide crop failures and resource wars, creating pressure to move off the land and into the cities, or by immigrating to more stable areas. This causes pressure and unemployment in the cities, removing fathers from homes as they try to eke out a living in urban settings rather than enjoying the lifestyles their families had embraced for centuries in traditional landscapes. Conflicts worldwide but especially in the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa are now recognized as crisis precipitated by the ecological changes that have been brought about by the warming planet. More conflicts are on the horizon as Himalayan glaciers retreat setting up future regional water conflicts.

If we genuinely care about the family there is nothing on the world stage as damaging as poverty and war—two plagues growing more and more common as the ecological basis of our economies—agriculture and other ways of life are disrupted. The Pope provides a nice framework for discussing this.

The entire encyclical is a call to Zion. There is no other way to describe it. The Pope quotes St. Francis,

This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she “groans in travail” (Rom 8:22). We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.

This is reminiscent of our own scripture,

And it came to pass that Enoch looked upon the earth; and he heard a voice from the bowels thereof, saying: Wo, wo is me, the mother of men; I am pained, I am weary, because of the wickedness of my children.” Moses 49:48.

The encyclical is divided into six chapters. Each of them addresses an aspect of the current ecological crisis. In every chapter, the Pope returns again and again to the poor. Throughout the entire document, he keeps us focused on the fact that climate change is disproportionately affecting the poor of the earth. This also is in line with our own scripture. When we talk about the unequal distribution of goods and its effect on the poor, we often quote D&C 104: 17

For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves.

Yet we neglect the context. It is good to remember the scripture before (vs. 16) that says,

But it must needs be done in mine own way; and behold this is the way that I, the Lord, have decreed to provide for my saints, that the poor shall be exalted, in that the rich are made low.

When was the last time you heard a member of the church say in a lesson that it is normative Mormon ethics to insist that the rich be made low? The scripture that follows (vs. 18), says,

Therefore, if any man shall take of the abundance which I have made, and impart not his portion, according to the law of my gospel, unto the poor and the needy, he shall, with the wicked, lift up his eyes in hell, being in torment.

The first chapter of the encyclical goes over the effects, established by science, of climate change. Especially as it affects the disenfranchised peoples of the earth. It goes over the harms that our current social and economic practices have had on the earth. He provides an excellent overview of these.

In the second chapter, the Pope goes over the theology of caring for creation, the purposes for which the earth was made, and how the spiritual and the ecological aspects of our planet are connected.

The human technological condition frames the third chapter, in which we come to understand how sin, greed, and avarice, are widespread in our attempts to control nature through technology. This is not a rant against modern tools and methods, but rather an attempt to show how we have failed to remember the Lord in its application.

How to live ecologically and harmoniously with the earth is the focus of the fourth chapter. It explores how depended we are on ecological services and how their neglect through ignorance is inadvisable if we are to live spiritual lives.

Chapter five is a call to action, with specific recommendations on how to turn our lives around and live with greater spiritual awareness of the poor and the services we rely on for or our happiness and well-being.

The last chapter is a call to education about ecology and spirituality.

The entire document is a call to remember the poor of the earth and our effect on them. It is a direct call to action to bring about the condition that “There were no poor among them.”

For the next six months, I will join the Mormon Lectionary Project with a post on each chapter of the encyclical. I hope that you will take the time to read with me the entire document and discuss how as LDS people we better understand creation, and our relationship to it. This is especially important as we claim to be a Zion People and it will be useful to see if we can reframe our actions to better reflect that claim.

It is important to recall a specific reason given for why the Lord is displeased with the condition of world,

But it is not given that one man should possess that which is above another, wherefore the world lieth in sin. D&C: 49:20.

We knew in the last days that the elements would be in commotion. Should we be surprised that what is happening to our planet is being caused by our sins, rather than being brought about for our sins?

Comments

  1. Steve, this is wonderful, beautiful, important, and essential. Thanks for taking this on, for you too are wonderful, beautiful, important, and essential.

  2. Good grief, YES, Steve. Excellent.

  3. For the next six months, I will join the Mormon Lectionary Project with a post on each chapter of the encyclical. I hope that you will take the time to read with me the entire document and discuss how as LDS people we better understand creation, and our relationship to it.

    I’m on board, Steve. I look forward to learning from both Pope Benedict and you in the months to come!

  4. Brilliantly worded. Essential, important truths. Thank you for writing this – and for sharing it with us.

  5. Mary Lythgoe Bradford says:

    Count me in!

  6. Well done. I just listened to Bob Rees address the Eugene England group at UVU – his hope is that maintaining or caring for the earth will be the 5th mission of the church. After listening to it, I began looking at my yard, my life. Tonight, I am stepping up more. Thank you.

  7. Emily Butler says:

    I’m looking for ways to “reframe [my] actions” so I’ll be following this with interest, you bet.

  8. hinduFriend says:

    Vomit. Third-worldism run amock, and I would know. Note the weird anti-technology stance, even though first-world countries are a lot less polluted. Vomit.

  9. First world countries avoid much polution by exporting it to third world countries. In the US we enjoy low prices on goods because they are produced abroad to lower environmental and labor standards.

  10. Joel Winter says:

    I can’t even begin to point out everything judgmental and wrong about this post. I have been reading and studying about climate change for a long, long time now, from all sides of the argument. You espouse the same anti-science consensus diatribe so common to rabid alarmists. You spout but don’t have any support for the laundry list of claims. You do a great disservice to those who would truly come to an understanding of the science by using any of the space here to approach such a vast and complex subject rather than directing them to educate themselves and pointing them to the most neutral websites and blogs you could find–because science really is and must remain neutral in order to remain science.
    Of course we teach the we are stewards of the earth and we must do a much better job at teaching care of this stewardship, so if you stick to that I could be interested but simply regurgitating so much of the garbage put forward by the alarmists which close study reveals is fraught with irresponsible politicking. NO, I am not a “denier”. I have 12 kilowatts of solar on my roof in central California, and I use the least amount of any chemical I can around the house. I am sparing with water and recycle everything I can and wear out what I can’t. Pollution hurts.
    Please desist talking about the “ecological crisis” until you have studied more. Talk about good stewardship all you want.

  11. “Please desist talking about the “ecological crisis” until you have studied more.” I’ll try, but since I’m a professor of ecology, working in Africa on problems related to climate change, talking to ecologists all over the world, reading and publishing the scientific literature, attending international meetings on the subject regularly, teaching the literature in university classes, and communicating with scientists about their findings in peer reviewed papers, I’m not sure I have any more time to study than I give to it. But good for you and your green behaviors. All of that helps.

  12. Joel Winter says:

    Queue the weighing of credentials. Reverse ad hominem. Even if you know more about it than I do it is not enough for you to speak with such finality. Science itself is too vast for any one person to master. Humility in the face of it is all I ask. The climate and the factors which influence it are also vast. Neither you nor I with decades of study and attendant credentials can possibly say anything conclusively. You could do much good with your experience by focusing on stewardship and not worldly fear. Do we still believe that God is in control and that the earth will fill the measure of its creation? I do. The earth groans (a spiritual groaning rather than a tectonic or climatic one) from the weight of sin. We each will be judged based on our stewardship individually, of our fellowmen, other creatures, and of course of the earth itself.

  13. I felt informed not fear. I also felt motivated to be a better steward.

  14. Joel Winter, will you be ready to discuss it if our Prophets, Seers and Revelators ever get around to addressing the issue?

  15. It’s Pope Francis; Pope Benedict retired.

  16. Ack! Can’t believe I made that mistake. Please read my above comment correctly, everyone. My apologies to Vajra2 and His Holiness.

  17. Pope Francis is clearly striving to be worthy of the name he assumed, and I salute him for it. The Franciscans challenged the wealthy and powerful of their day, with their vows of poverty, and Pope Francis is likewise challenging the wealthy and powerful with this encyclical. (Of course, in the global context, “wealthy and powerful” includes most of the people of the U.S.!)

    Thank you for highlighting the encyclical, SteveP. It may be the most important religious document of our time, and though it will face much opposition (see above for a few examples), it has the potential to make the greatest change in our time.

  18. N. W. Clerk says:

    Pope Francis: “A simple example [of harmful habits of consumption] is the increasing use and power of air-conditioning.”

    Good luck to all the Catholic Mormons in the Sun Belt!

    (I only hope that the window fan that makes summer bearable for me here in the North does not fall under his anathema.)

  19. Terry H says:

    While I appreciate Steve’s comments, I wonder how one reconciles this with the recent book by Naomi Klein, where she basically admits that the (used to be “global-warming” now “climate change”) phenomena is a weapon to be used to get rid of capitalism. I also wonder when I see how those scientists who are climate change skeptics (and I’m assuming they’re real scientists, not merely propaganda foils) are banned from these so-called conferences (including that of the Vatican) or how some of the research is modified (like they found in England, or is that just made up).
    NIbley’s Approaching Zion IS important as well as his comments on the economy, but I believe the major part of our stewardship over the Earth is to meet our obligation to the lives that are here on Earth–particularly in raising their living standards.
    I wish more attention would be paid to Bjorn Lomborg. While he acknowledges man’s affect on the climate, he does a cost-benefit analysis as to where our money could be going to improve life on Earth. I don’t believe (without a blanket global authority) that so-called “first world” economies tying themselves down will do much since other countries like China and India are doing far more damage to the world environment than the First World combined (that might be an overstatement).

  20. “Humility in the face of it is all I ask.”

    A modest thing, indeed, for a stranger to demand of another.

    Anyway, Steve, I look forward to your insights over the coming months.

  21. I look forward to the series, SteveP!

  22. Mark B. says:

    This in turn is causing population redistribution, due to worldwide crop failures and resource wars, creating pressure to move off the land and into the cities, or by immigrating to more stable areas. This causes pressure and unemployment in the cities, removing fathers from homes as they try to eke out a living in urban settings rather than enjoying the lifestyles their families had embraced for centuries in traditional landscapes.

    “[E]njoying the lifestyles their families had embraced for centuries” is an odd way to describe the “joys” of subsistence agriculture.

  23. Terry H says:

    I think we should also remember that Pope Francis (along with President Obama) is also a likely proponent in “liberation theology” which is primarily Marxism with a religious face.

  24. it's a series of tubes says:

    Steve, I’d be interested to hear how you propose to be “made low”. You teach at a top University. Let’s be ridiculously conservative and say you earn only $60K / year. That puts you in the top 0.19% of the world by income – the ultra-rich. You are richer than 499 out of 500 people globally

    What are you doing to ensure that you don’t possess that which is above another?

  25. it’s a series of tubes–the world is actually doing quite a bit better, income-wise, than that. https://www.givingwhatwecan.org/get-involved/how-rich-am-i
    Factor in family size, how much money we donate to charities, etc., and the numbers aren’t necessarily all that high. Since we have no idea how much money any of the rest of us donate, in time or money, to charity, there’s not much use in calling out strangers on the internet regarding the issue.

  26. That being said, I do think that the U.S. Mormon culture does focus too much on the wearing of fine apparel, driving fancy new cars/trucks, and living in large houses. We have, as a society, become too materialistic, often at the expense of others. Instead of focusing on judging other individuals, though, our thoughts should be more along the lines of “society as a whole is too materialistic and not charitable; what am I doing so that I’m not a part of that trend?” We should also be thinking, like Jackson Browne says in “The Rebel Jesus,” about why there are poor, and then do what we can to change that.

  27. it’s a series of tubes, you are right I am rich beyond measure. However, I don’t let this accident of fate, blind me to the suffering of others. Hence the post. We all do what we can given what we’ve been given.

    Terry H. Real scientists are never banned. Just bad ones. Lomborg was thoroughly discredited. The Heartland Insitute promotes this as conspiracy, and yes science is very biased against poor scientific work, but thankfully so.

  28. it's a series of tubes says:

    Steve, my question was serious. As Americans, we are all outrageously wealthy – what do you suggest we do about it? CFL bulbs and donations to third-world focused charities feel like drops in the bucket.

  29. It’s a series of tubes, that is the question of the day, but it is also what the encyclical has great specifics on. I’ll save this important question when we get to that chapter of the encyclical. It really is a conversation we need to have.

  30. an odd way to describe the “joys” of subsistence agriculture.

    Naledi Pandor, Minister of Science and Technology of South Africa, mentioned just today that one of two trends putting pressure on her country is rapid urbanization (the other is unsustainable economic growth), so it’s not like Steve (or the Pope) is simply pulling things out of his hat in noting that the “pressure to move off the land and into the cities” is an issue.

  31. Amen to this post! Wonderful. We as a Church are so lucky to have you, SteveP, and other scientists with similar expertise levels in this and many related fields. This is truly a day in which revelation of God’s truths is coming from all sources — our job in Zion is to circumscribe it into one great Whole. I view your efforts as a major contribution to this project.

  32. Terry H says:

    SteveP. I’m curious how Lomborg was discredited. Can you send me a link? I always try to view opposing opinions to my own, in spite of contrary appearances. It appears his work is more focused on the economic opportunity cost of suggestions like the Kyoto treaty.

  33. Lomborg is a business professor not a scientist, he’s been soundly trashed by the scientific community, here is an older review that goes over his scientific reception nicely, but google him and look at reviews from scientific sources (rather than the Wall Street Journal). His institution is funded by the Koch Brothers, well-known agents in the disinformation campaign. Follow the scientists in this. Not those who do no science but spend vast sums in promoting suspicions of science. This is a scientific story not a political one. That’s all I’m going to say about this. I have no interest in debating the merits of the non-science story which being stage managed by the same people (literally the same people–see Naomi Oreskies book Merchents of Doubt) who managed the Big Tobacco campaign against cancer. Lomborg is an Ad Man. Nothing more.

  34. No need to apologize for having included Pope Benedict in this discussion. He’s still alive, after all, and he had some good stuff to say about the degradation of the world and our need to repent for it: “Humanity needs a profound cultural renewal; it needs to rediscover those values which can serve as the solid basis for building a brighter future for all. Our present crises—be they economic, food-related, environmental, or social—are ultimately also moral crises, and all of them are interrelated.”
    –Pope Benedict XVI

  35. More from Pope Benedict: “Preservation of the environment, promotion of sustainable development and particular attention to climate change are matters of grave concern for the entire human family.”
    (Pope Benedict XVI, Letter to the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople on the Occasion of the Seventh Symposium of the Religion, Science and the Environment Movement, September 1, 2007) – See more at: http://www.interfaithsustain.com/pope-benedict-xvi-on-the-environment/#sthash.rPf0MQC4.dpuf

  36. I find two aspects of the tone of this post troubling, whether intended or unintended. 1) The implication that the climate change problem is a fundamental driver of poverty. 2) The implication that the LDS church is somehow failing to address poverty while the Pope is addressing this issue wonderfully.

    I am no sociologist, but my understanding is that climate change is only an aggravator of poverty. The fundamental drivers of poverty are things like violence, corruption, ignorance, lack of education, and immoral decisions of both the wealthy and the poor themselves (things I imagine are also addressed in the encyclical). If we somehow completely solved the climate change problem, it would only preserve the status quo. In our current situation, preserving the status quo cannot be our goal. Environmental stewardship has its place on the list of priorities facing mankind, but I don’t think we should market it as a solution to poverty.

    I appreciate Pope Francis’ focus on poverty. I think we as a world are far too resigned to the persistent problem of poverty. I have a hard time, though, when people imply that the LDS church is doing little about poverty (I doubt this implication was the intent of this post). If you examine poverty and its fundamental drivers, I imagine a sociological argument could be made that by simply teaching strict morals and a strong emphasis on educating their members, the LDS church does a disproportionately large amount in the fight against poverty, considering their small membership numbers. This would be a valid argument even before you consider its humanitarian efforts. From my own, non-scientific experience as a missionary in South America, alcohol addiction of the father was one of the primary reasons his children had little food.

  37. Gorman, of course this was not saying the church is not doing anything about poverty. (One cannot visit Welfare Square and not be stunned by what the church is doing to fight poverty on a worldwide basis. Stunned!). However, climate change is affecting poverty in frightening ways–more than an ‘aggravator’ of poverty, is the principal driver in many areas and is expected to become more and more significant as it affects agriculture, access to fresh water, and the ability to make a living. All the things you mention affect poverty, but too many members are ignoring this aspect and that is my, and the Pope’s, point. This is something we need to add to our arsenal in considering global poverty as members of the church, not fight against because we think it is required of our politics.

  38. SteveP, I agree that climate change can contribute to poverty, and I understand that in some localities it is becoming a primary contributor, but I still have a hard time with its marketing. If we as scientists continue to claim climate change is the primary way to cure a longer and longer list of modern ills, we are essentially saying, “Solve climate change, and all your wildest dreams will come true.” To the layperson, how is this any different than the essential oils salesman? The public distrusts climate change primarily because it has been heavily politicized. I wonder if we scientists are a significant part of that problem. When we say, “climate change is worsening poverty, hurricanes, droughts, etc., etc.,” what the layperson hears is, “climate change is causing poverty, hurricanes, droughts, etc., etc.,” Ultimately, if climate change were to cease tomorrow, we would still have poverty, and the layperson knows it. That is why they smell something fishy in our marketing.

    Yes, climate change should be addressed, but the constant barrage of headlines making climate change ‘public enemy number one’ turns us into inadvertent snake oil salesmen to the public. Their common sense tells them that public enemy number one would probably be violence, greed, pride, immorality, or something along those lines. These are things religion can address in a unique way. I hope the Pope does not get sidetracked.

  39. Scientists aren’t very good marketers, true. But no one is saying that stop climate change and all ills will disappear. They are saying stop climate change or we will loose multiple agriculture systems (as we have already), fisheries will collapse due to ocean acidification, and widespread ecological changes will occur that will be bad for humans, including rising sea levels and losses in biodiversity. They are saying some of the resource wars for water and land we see now are going to get worse. They are saying look at the climate refugees fleeing Africa to Europe in droves, these problems of people having to relocate because of ecological collapse is going to become a constant problem in the 21st century.

    I know of no climate scientist that has claimed that if we stop it that all problems will go away. The science literature I read talks of specific harms and mechanisms and likely results if we do nothing. You are putting words in scientist’s mouths that misrepresents their claims. They aren’t saying stop climate change and things will get better, they are saying stop it or it’s going to get worse. And we already see it.

    And we should never, ever, cease to to speak good science because we fear to offend public common sense and their false impressions of the causes of world problems. We should educate them with good data and meaningful analyses.

  40. I’m not talking about what scientists say. I’m talking about what the public hears.

    Yes. Scientists aren’t good marketers, but I’m concerned they aren’t good educators either. Somehow the “good science” we try to pass on to the public is not making it. I don’t know whether it is co-opted by the politics, or the message gets lost in some other way. The end result is the public views climate science as either a far-reaching conspiracy to keep people under the yoke, or a noble war waged against the anti-science. Climate science is neither of these. There is a disturbing lack of level-headedness in the entire affair. I’m not sure if phrases like, “If you don’t believe in science, then you will reap the consequences,” help the situation.

  41. I am no science guru. Hand me history and I am there. This past winter my son was assigned an Earth Science class. To help him complete it, I walked along side. So many great stories of natural lessons learned. It inspired me to want to be more aware. I had been into recycling and such for years. My husband owns a home energy audit business. In short I thought I was doing my part, but when I read about how Japan saved it’s country through tree regrowth and land use, I paid a little more attention to my world. The tree’s saved in Japan happened 300 years ago. Balance and wisdom are the keys here. If I can be alerted and taught, everyone can. Also the less politically it is presented the more receptive the clientele. IMHO.

    http://ecotippingpoints.org/our-stories/indepth/japan-community-forest-management-silviculture.html

    https://www.lds.org/topics/environmental-stewardship-and-conservation?lang=eng

  42. I wonder what is going to happen when the LDS Church itself finally announces (confirms) the reality of, and dire consequences of, Climate Change, planetary climate disruption and the human species’ destructive use of fossil fuels. Anyone who needs to say, “I am not a Climate Change Denier” (reminds me of Nixon’s I am not a crook, declaration), and then pokes at this piece with parochial wishful thinking has in that declaration destroyed his/her credibility with science. I teach architecture, ecological architectural theory, ecological urban design, and ecological literacy at the University of Utah on three different faculties. The resistance seen here to Steve’s piece is expected, but not taken seriously, at least by me. It is the final shrill sound of those who are and will probably remain willfully blind and ignorant about the issue. Your next move should be for you to simply get out of the way, sit down, and shut up.

  43. Steve, you mention the Heartland institute and how they’re politicizing this. What do you think Al Gore and Pres Obama have done and are doing?? Great, so let’s take politics out of the equation and absolutely look at true science. The problem with the climate alarmist movement is that they completely fail to do either. Governments and politics are controlling the movement to make true science unrecognizable. “Science” as disseminated by the IPCC and others in this movement is being completely manipulated to achieve a nefarious ends. More insight comes from UN Climate Chief Christina Figueres who said: “we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally changing the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years…” It doesn’t appear to be about the science for these folks, more about changing economic models. Now, all this being said, I believe it’s important to be good stewards of the planet but not under the forced mandates and regulations the government is imposing that will cripple the economy.

  44. Nothing will cripple the economy more than the ecological collapse of its base. The arrow that says ‘Natural Resources’ that appears at the base of all economic models? Yeah, that’s the one that’s in trouble. You don’t have to go to secondary sources at all. See what the scientists are saying themselves. Also, there is a growing economics literature on the effects of climate change on economies. It’s not pretty.

  45. it's a series of tubes says:

    Steve, what are your thoughts on Schnellnhuber’s role in producing the document? Because I have access, I’ve read his 1999 Nature paper “Earth System Analysis and the Second Copernican Revolution” as well as several others. He seems to take a fairly pro-Gaia view.

  46. it’s a series of tubes, I’m not a big fan of the Gaia-hypothesis. Not that I could not have my mind changed, but right now it seems weak and needs significant work before it could be considered mainstream science. Even so, research is ongoing and if it starts looking plausible I’ll gladly jump on board.

  47. it's a series of tubes says:

    Steve, likewise. Why do you think the Pope utilized this individual, a theoretical physicist and self-professed atheist, as his key advisor on this encyclical?

  48. Possibly to engineer the perfect joke.

  49. Steve nails it.

    Really, though, the truth of scientific findings is not dependent on one’s belief about God or other things. Good information is good information. I don’t really care what my mechanic’s faith commitments are as long as she can fix my car.

  50. It doesn’t appear to be about the science for these folks, more about changing economic models.

    The policy response to climate change is obviously not going to be free of politics.

  51. it's a series of tubes says:

    the truth of scientific findings is not dependent on one’s belief about God or other things. Good information is good information.

    I don’t disagree – just seems worthwhile to consider the possibility that the advisor is seeking to achieve, as a puppet hand behind the encyclical, economic and/or political objectives he could not otherwise obtain. Schnellnhuber has made many public statements as to what his objectives are.

  52. Of all people, Mormons should be the biggest supporters of global warming as it provides a physical mechanism for quite nearly every calamity prophesied as a Sign of The Times prior to the Second Coming: drought, famine, natural disaster, disease, war, etc, etc. But no, my good Mormon friends insist that those will proceed thru “magic”.

    And every once in awhile you can find a world renowned theoretical physicist who is intimately familiar with climate models acts like a contrarian:

    http://e360.yale.edu/feature/freeman_dyson_takes_on_the_climate_establishment/2151/

    Although to be fair, his allegedly ill informed views are easily attributed to the influence of one of the books he keeps on his shelf:

    http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865626879/Physicist-tells-New-York-Times-he-keeps-a-copy-of-Book-of-Mormon-on-his-shelf.html?pg=all

    But I must say there is little motivation to do anything about the Earth since it only prolongs the inevitable return of Christ and the paradiscal renewal of our planet. I try to keep that in mind when packing my eight kids into the extended passenger van that gets 10 miles per gallon on the way to church.

  53. Mark B. says:

    I’m reminded of what Mary McCarthy said about Lillian Hellman: Every word Jeff writes is a lie, including “and” and “the.”

  54. “But I must say there is little motivation to do anything about the Earth since it only prolongs the inevitable return of Christ and the paradiscal renewal of our planet. I try to keep that in mind when packing my eight kids into the extended passenger van that gets 10 miles per gallon on the way to church.”

    Thank you for my laugh today Jeff, I hadn’t had it yet. We need a dang applause button.

  55. Cat, I’m here all week….. And anytime

  56. Mark B. –

    I take great umbrage at the inclusion of both a conjunction and a definite modifier. And perhaps “lie” is entirely too strong a term and a bit inaccurate. May I draw your attention to the distinction made by Harry G. Frankfurt ‘ “As such, b.s. either can be true or can be false; hence, the b.s.’er is someone whose principal aim — when uttering or publishing b.s.— is to impress the listener and the reader with words that communicate an impression that something is being or has been done, words that are neither true nor false, and so obscure the facts of the matter being discussed In contrast, the liar must know the truth of the matter under discussion, in order to better conceal it from the listener or the reader being deceived with a lie; while the b.s.’er’s sole concern is personal advancement and advantage to their own agenda.”

    I can get on board for that.

  57. Excellent post. If our bodies are temples that should not be defiled, we should not defile the earth’s body. Those who say it doesn’t matter because the earth will be cleansed anyway should consider admonitions to care for our temporal bodies even though Mormons believe we will be resurrected. My son pointed out that the earth isn’t supposed to be cleansed til after the millennium. What kind of earth do Mormons want to provide for Christ’s Millennial reign?

  58. Jeff, did God need coal fired power plants, SUVs, power guzzling air conditioning systems, soil depleting industrial agriculture, and etc to bring about the plagues of Egypt? It baffles me that people believe in the miracle of those plagues but deny that God has the power to do the same in the last days, apparently He used up all his power reserves and needs us to bring about the calamity of the last days.

    Back to Owen’s comment: “First world countries avoid much pollution by exporting it to third world countries. In the US we enjoy low prices on goods because they are produced abroad to lower environmental and labor standards.”
    This is where I see a lot of dissonance with the ‘green living’, ‘fair trade’ crowd. When you support fair trade you support manufacturing in countries where the environmental regulations are nonexistent or ignored.

    And I don’t need the scaremongering images of melting glaciers and homeless polar bears to motivate me to not pollute the air I breath, the ground I grow my food in, and the water I drink. My reasons are more selfish I guess.

  59. I’m not a scientist or anything even close. I have no way of knowing if global warming (or whatever they’re calling it this week) is real or not? But it’s obvious that the believers are not really believers at all. Otherwise they would be working on ways to deal with it, instead of ways to stop it. About half of the world’s population do not have heating or A/C or cars or any of the many other energy consuming luxuries that we enjoy. Are we going to doom them to continue to live in the dark ages? Or allow them to develop and progress with the rest of the modern world? If it’s real, let’s learn to adapt. There are benefits too. Crops growing in areas that they previously couldn’t, etc. If we have to build sea walls, or dikes to hold back rising sea water – then let’s get on with it. All the global warming alarmists ever want it $$$$ to try and fund a stupid study to pet project, all in hopes of reducing the temperature .001 degrees….maybe. And why does it matter if it is man-made or not? Are you going to say that we are all doomed! But we’ll only do something about it if we are causing it. If it’s happening naturally, then we won’t. That’s why I can’t take them seriously.

  60. Do we have the next piece in the works? I’m eagerly awaiting it :)