Pope Francis Calls Global Warming a Threat And Urges Action

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from The Wall Street Journal,

Draft of encyclical calls reducing carbon emissions an ‘urgent’ matter

Pope Francis calls global warming a major threat to life on the planet, says it is due mainly to human activity, and describes the need to reduce the use of fossil fuels as an urgent matter, in a published draft of a much-awaited upcoming letter on the environment.

The draft copy of “Laudato Si’ ” (“Be praised”), his encyclical on the environment, has been eagerly awaited by business, policy makers and environmental groups. It was published online on Monday by the Italian magazine L’Espresso, three days ahead of its scheduled publication date.

The Vatican said the posted text wasn’t the final document, which would remain under embargo until Thursday, but it didn’t say whether there were material differences between the draft and the final document.

An encyclical is widely considered one of the highest forms of papal writing, intended to explain and elaborate Catholic teaching.

“Laudato Si’ ” is addressed not only to Catholics but to “every person who lives on this planet,” the pope wrote. In it, the pontiff related ecological concerns to his signature theme of economic justice, especially the gap in wealth between the global north and south.

In the draft, the pope wades into the debate over climate change, writing of a “very consistent scientific consensus that we are in the presence of an alarming warming of the climactic system.”

He writes that there is an “urgent and compelling” need for policies that reduce carbon emissions, among other ways, by “replacing fossil fuels and developing sources of renewable energy.”

While acknowledging that natural causes, including volcanic activity, play a role in climate change, the pope writes that “numerous scientific studies indicate that the greater part of global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxide and others) emitted above all due to human activity.”

The encyclical has acquired outsized importance in recent months, given the moral suasion and the popularity of Argentina-born Pope Francis, the first pontiff from the developing world and one who has been particularly vocal in his advocacy of the poor and criticism of big business. Moreover, the encyclical comes at a time when governments, investors, industry executives and environmentalists are debating policy measures to address climate change.

The pope’s letter brings a new dimension to the wrangling over the issue. In 2013, a landmark United Nations report concluded that there was a 95% level of certainty that humans are responsible for most global warming and reiterated that a long-term planetary warming trend was expected to continue. The report said that air and oceans are getting warmer, ice and snow are less plentiful, and sea levels are rising. The U.N. report is believed to broadly reflect the views of most climate scientists.

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