Has Pope Francis violated the 8th Commandment, speaking out against climate skeptics?
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Pope Francis has issued a stinging rebuke against those who deny that human-caused global warming is real. He called the notion a "perverse attitude." His remarks were intended to spur negotiators to an agreement. Dignitaries have gathered in Germany seeking to find a way to implement the 2015 Paris Accord.
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Pope Francis has made clear that care for creation is a major concern of the Church and humanity.
LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) -- Pope Francis has issued a message containing a sharp rebuke to climate negotiators in Bonn, Germany, working to implement the 2015 Paris Accord. Pope Francis referred to the idea that climate change is fake, as a "perverse attitude."
The Holy Father urged the negotiators to come to an agreement and to take quick action, free of special interests. He referred to human-caused global warming as "One of the most worrisome phenomena that humanity is facing."
According to the majority of scientists, human activities are releasing carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere faster than nature can take it back in. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, which traps heat in the atmosphere. Plants take up CO2 and store it, releasing oxygen in exchange. However, when humans burn plants or fossil fuels, which are the liquefied, decayed remains of prehistoric plants, we release stored carbon into the atmosphere.
The buildup of CO2 in the atmosphere has been correlated with the steady rise of Earth's temperature. Although the process has been slow to humans, the warming process has been rapid compared to natural fluctuations in the planet's climate. The planet has been both hotter and colder than it is now. But at no time in Earth's history has the temperature increased so rapidly. This rapid change is much faster than natural selection can keep up, which causes many species to either migrate or go extinct. Animals, even whole forests are on the move. Meanwhile, human activity is increasing, and natural plant and animal habitats are disappearing. The impact on human populations is significant and more detrimental than beneficial.
Insofar as these objections are sincere, and they are based on the work of scholars with integrity, those who hold them should not be criticized. Nobody who speaks what they sincerely believe to be the truth should be silenced. Instead, the world should engage with their ideas and use the skeptic's criticisms to check their own beliefs. If the planet is indeed warming, then there should be no concern over the one-off conclusion of a skeptic.
Science is naturally contentious. The process of peer review pits researchers against one another, which is how conclusions are tested. This is science working the way it's supposed to work. As a man with a background in scientific studies, Pope Francis probably understands this.
However, these are not the people who concern the Pope. Instead, Pope Francis' comment is directed more towards politicians and capitalists who seek to deny the phenomenon of anthropogenic climate change in the name of profits.
The Pope supports scientific research. The Pontifical Academy of Sciences is the world's oldest, continual scientific mission. The Academy has concluded that human-induced climate change is real and is a humanitarian issue worthy of Church attention. The Church has called for responsible stewardship of resources, pointing out that the poor in the developing world suffer most from the ill effects of climate change and many environmentally unfriendly for-profit development schemes.
Regardless of one's view of climate change, we should be mindful not to violate the 8th commandment against false witness and make an effort to understand and appreciate those who speak with integrity, even if we believe they are wrong. It is a sin to lie, and to slander, but not to be wrong. Good science is filled with wrong conclusions, and the way we uncover those errors is by testing them. We may not agree with the contrarian, but his or her work is as essential to the greater good as that of the one who wins the Nobel Prize.
We believe the Pope was not criticizing the scientists in this case, but those who would profit without regard to integrity. In that case, we agree, such an attitude is perverse.
Read the Papal Encyclical on the environment here. FREE COPY
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