Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Pope Francis Climate Change Encyclical Seeks to Transform Debate

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Pope Francis Climate Change Encyclical Seeks to Transform Debate

Article excerpt

In anticipation of the upcoming UN summit on climate change this year, Pope Francis will release a papal encyclical on Thursday urging people to act.

The document, called "Laudato Si (Be Praised), On the Care of Our Common Home," will paint climate change as a moral, rather than a political, issue, focusing on how poor communities are affected, Reuters reports. Those familiar with the encyclical have said it will censure the "throw-away" lifestyles of wealthy nations.

This will be the first papal encyclical to focus exclusively on protecting the environment. Some have criticized the pope for getting involved in climate change discussions; US Republican 2016 presidential candidate Rick Santorum recently advised him to "leave science to the scientists." But examining the moral side of a political or scientific issue, others argue, is part of the papal territory.

"It is within the pope's competence and authority to call attention to our moral responsibilities and duties in the face of the best scientific theory out there," John Cavadini, University of Notre Dame professor of theology and director of the Institute for Church Life, told Reuters, "especially when the consequences of not doing so are serious."

Researchers have extensively studied the impact of climate change on the poor. Results have generally shown that global warming does not affect everyone equally; its impacts are likely to be felt more acutely by the developing than by the developed, a 2012 World Bank report found.

Poor communities' vulnerabilities to climate change, the study suggested, stem from several disadvantages, including geographic location and inadequate infrastructure. "No nation will be immune to the impacts of climate change," the report said. "However, the distribution of impacts is likely to be inherently unequal and tilted against many of the world's poorest regions, which have the least economic, institutional, scientific, and technical capacity to cope and adapt. …

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