Newspaper article Roll Call

The Pope Gives Me Climate Hope | Commentary

Newspaper article Roll Call

The Pope Gives Me Climate Hope | Commentary

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By William Snape

He's the world's most powerful climate activist. And when it comes to protecting our planet's poorest people and fragile web of life from global warming, Pope Francis does not seem willing to accept denial or half measures.

"Reducing greenhouse gases requires honesty, courage and responsibility, above all on the part of those countries which are more powerful and pollute the most," the pope wrote in his landmark encyclical on the environment earlier this year.

That's why the pope's visit to America this week has the potential to utterly transform our national debate over climate change.

I've been around D.C. a long time. I've been to what seems like thousands of hearings and legislative debates on climate change. And I've been disturbed to see one of the most dangerous problems on Earth become mere fodder for political theater.

We seem caught between oil industry-financed politicians who think a snowball somehow refutes decades of scientific research and a president who warns us about climate change and then green-lights Arctic drilling.

But having the pope in town changes the atmosphere. When Pope Francis talks, people listen. And the pope is telling President Barack Obama and other leaders that only bolder action can prevent a climate catastrophe.

This is a man who has more popularity than any pop star I can think of. And Pope Francis' popularity is coupled with humble sincerity and profound moral authority.

But what truly makes the pope powerful is his clear-eyed vision of the climate threat. He doesn't see global warming as an "issue" or a "problem." He recognizes that it's a clear and present danger caused by human irresponsibility. And as oceans rise and droughts intensify, he knows that the fates of millions of people hang in the balance.

The pope's activism has already ratcheted up pressure on Obama and other world leaders to take big steps to fight global warming ahead of December's United Nations climate talks in Paris. …

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