So I asked the Vatican about global warming... Special Report
The Church agrees with the scientific consensus.
Recently, I wrote an article for Catholic Online about global warming. The comments from so many readers, obviously intelligent, gave me pause and I took it upon myself to conduct further research, specifically into the Church's teachings on the subject. I pledged in advance to accept what I would discover, no matter what my personal opinions were, after all, I am Catholic and I have faith in my Church. Surprisingly, I soon found the Church has a well-developed, scientific position on the subject.
Yes, it's real and getting worse and it doesn't just hurt polar bears. It hurts people.
Publicly championed by liberal celebrities such as former Vice President Al Gore, conservatives often scoff at the claim. At one time, I confess even I scoffed at the claims, for it also happens that many American Catholics also tend to be conservative since American political conservatism fits most closely with Catholic teaching on many subjects.
However, global warming is by definition global, and therefore it is a Catholic issue, and the people of other nations have different views on the subject as a matter of political debate.
This is especially true in the third world, where the impacts of global warming are felt most acutely.
In the United States, there are several charges against global warming.
- Global warming is a myth constructed by the left to justify restrictions on liberty.
- There is no scientific consensus on the issue of global warming so any policy changes are premature.
- Global warming is part of natural climate change and beyond our control, so we should not concern ourselves with changing behavior.
- The science done to demonstrate the fact of global warming is flawed by poor methodology.
- The science is fabricated by researchers seeking grant money or wishing to make a name for themselves.
As mentioned above, I decided to seek the teaching of the Church on the subject rather than listen to possibly tainted and biased mainstream reporting. I contacted the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and received a reply from Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, the Bishop-Chancellor of the Academy.
I asked him for teaching on the subject and his reply included several links to papers and research, which the Academy itself conducted. The Bishop-Chancellor also noted that much of the work was done in coordination with academicians, Paul Crutzen, Mario Molina, and V. Ramanathan who are noted researchers in the field.
Perhaps this was the most conclusive statement I read in the publication he sent, Geosphere-Biosphere Interactions and Climate:
"There is now a growing consensus that human activities are having a discernible effect on the Earth's climate (IPCC, 1996). An enormous amount of effort has gone into the scientific research that forms the basis for this judgment. There is also growing concern that such human-influenced changes to the Earth's climate could have negative effects on human societies and on the Earth's ecosystems and therefore that these changes should be avoided or slowed." (Toward a New Approach to Climate Impact Studies, sec. 16.1, Will Steffen).
In another publication from May 2011, and bearing the very seal of the Pontifical Academy I found this statement, "We call on all people and nations to recognise the serious and potentially irreversible impacts of global warming caused by the anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gasses and other pollutants."
Ultimately, this was a conclusive read for me.
I trust the Holy Church and the wisdom of the scientists it employs. Their agenda isn't research money, but truth, which is one of the most sacred values espoused by the Church itself.
Of course, I'll admit, my argument here is a logical fallacy, an appeal to authority - albeit the highest one on the matter I might add.
So what about all those objections? Where are they coming from and why are some scientists saying no? The answer has much to do with American politics and capitalism, and even the nature of science itself.
Science is skeptical by nature. A scientist who can find evidence that challenges a broadly accepted theory can make a reputation that may last for their entire career. It's a powerful incentive to review the work of other scientists and to detect their shortcomings and flaws.
To discern facts, scientists must submit their work and results (potential facts or conclusions) for peer review. Those of you who are scientists already know how this works. For those who may not know, peer review means that other scientists in the discipline try to replicate the results of the original research as well as detect flaws in methodology. If enough scientists agree with the methods and the findings then they may come out in support of the research or simply remain silent. In cases where they detect a problem, they speak ...
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