Four Key Points on Human Ecology and Climate We Hope to See Pope Francis Make


Pope Francis has the opportunity to put the human person back in the center of climate concerns

The secular media, which is no friend of the Catholic Church, seems to specialize in misrepresenting the views of its prelates. Pope Francis has been particularly ill served in this regard and, at the same time, seems to shrug it off. So it is hard to know what to make of The Guardian’s story that the Holy Father is preparing to address global warming and lobby for decisive international action to combat climate change. Is it just the secular media attempting (once again) to sensationalize the papacy (and sell newspapers)? Or is it really on to something?

Here’s what we know:

We know that Pope Francis, like his predecessor, Pope Benedict wants us to be good stewards of the wonderful planet that God has given us. (But who doesn’t?)

We know that Bishop Marcelo Sorondo, chancellor of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences, has spoken of the pope’s wish to influence next year’s UN climate meeting in Paris.

We know—again from Bishop Sorondo—that the pope wants to convene an ecumenical meeting to discuss climate issues, human ecology, and what Sorondo called “the tragedy of social exclusion.”

And we know that there is an encyclical being drafted on these matters, although no one seems to know exactly what’s in it, since it is still in its early stages. The Vatican has so far not officially given any hint the encyclical will cover the theme of climate change, only that “human ecology” will be a major topic.

I, for one, am looking forward to the Holy Father’s contribution to the debate on man and the environment. Here are some points I hope he’ll present:

First, I hope that he will point out that, while we are to be good stewards of the environment, this does not mean that we are to worship it. Many of the radical environmentalists behave like the animists of old, regarding trees and rocks as living spirits. Others are, in effect, pantheists, viewing the entire earth, or even the cosmos as a whole, as a gigantic living organism.

Only man is made in the image of God, I imagine the Pope saying, and only God, the creator of both man, the earth, and the universe that surrounds them, is worthy of worship. This would put things in their proper perspective and help to save souls from modern-day green heresies.

Second, I hope that the Pope will emphasize the good news that the pace of global warming is far lower than the original UN climate models predicted. In fact, the models’ prediction of a 2.80C rise over the course of a century were off by half.  

It turns out that the earth’s climate is far more complicated than was originally thought, and that we simply do not know how much impact human activity will have on the climate compared to the planet’s natural warming and cooling cycles.

This means that we have more time to gather data, to improve faulty climate models, and to reach international understandings than was once thought. There is no need to hastily conclude a treaty in Paris next year drastically reducing carbon dioxide emissions on the basis of extreme warming scenarios that have simply not come to pass.

The Pope should invoke the great Catholic scientists of the past, from Copernicus to Mendel, in arguing for the need for cautious, careful science. Propaganda is no substitute for hard science, he should argue, and is a misuse of the intelligence that God has gifted us with and trusted us to use.

Third, I am greatly looking forward to his discussion on “human ecology,” where I anticipate that he, like Pope Benedict, will put the welfare of human beings at the very center of Catholic concern for the environment.

The poor and powerless must not be made scapegoats for environmental problems. Above all, they must not be deprived of the resources that they need to improve their lives.