Laudato Si 26: Obfuscation, Policies, Research

Earth from Apollo 8The encyclical letter Laudato Si is available here on the Vatican website.

More descriptions here, first those that concern:

26. Many of those who possess more resources and economic or political power seem mostly to be concerned with masking the problems or concealing their symptoms, simply making efforts to reduce some of the negative impacts of climate change.

Is it fair to impugn the motives of some? There are a lot of intelligent people in the skeptic camp. But much of Western culture aims at short-term gain, or maintaining profit. Nearly all Western politics has a short memory, narrow vision, and a stunted reach.

However, many of these symptoms indicate that such effects will continue to worsen if we continue with current models of production and consumption. There is an urgent need to develop policies so that, in the next few years, the emission of carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gases can be drastically reduced, for example, substituting for fossil fuels and developing sources of renewable energy. Worldwide there is minimal access to clean and renewable energy. There is still a need to develop adequate storage technologies.

Some praise:

Some countries have made considerable progress, although it is far from constituting a significant proportion. Investments have also been made in means of production and transportation which consume less energy and require fewer raw materials, as well as in methods of construction and renovating buildings which improve their energy efficiency. But these good practices are still far from widespread.

More research is definitely needed. Pope Francis hasn’t addressed this, but resources wasted in military adventurism would be better-used to provide for the future.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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8 Responses to Laudato Si 26: Obfuscation, Policies, Research

  1. Liam says:

    I should add that deep historical memory is *not* an unequivocal blessing, nor is historical amnesia an unequivocal curse.


  2. FrMichael says:

    “…the emission of carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gases can be drastically reduced, for example, substituting for fossil fuels and developing sources of renewable energy.”

    Here is where the encyclical starts making controvertible scientific assumptions. Since when is carbon dioxide “highly polluting”? It is a natural product of respiration for mammals, and as far as I know, all other vertebrates. An Earth without CO2 would quickly be a lifeless one, as the plant kingdom would die off and soon enough most other life. Granted, the effects of human industry is such that we apparently are the cause of a highest concentration of the gas detected in the atmosphere, perhaps ever. But calling it “highly polluting,” and thereby classifying it with such nasty atmospheric characters as CO, NO, and CFCs, is not appropriate. I have read in multiple sources that the effects of CO2 in the atmosphere are overshadowed greatly by the effects of water vapor, yet we aren’t on a campaign to (fruitlessly) reduce water vapor in the atmosphere.

    I’ve been telling people that the Catholic Church is good for a Galileo moment every 3 to 400 years. LS might be ours.

  3. Todd says:

    On the other hand, you have a planet like Venus where the atmosphere is 300 times as massive and is nearly all carbon dioxide. Not a pleasant place, that. Carbon dioxide is lethal to animals at more than 5%. It’s not that CO2 is a problem in the theoretical, but as a part of a greater whole. CO2 in greater amounts than we have today would indeed be higher polluting.

    I have some day lilies on the edge of my backyard. If they were to suddenly proliferate and edge out the grass, they would be weeds, by definition–an unwanted plant. Once I had a corn plant growing up next to my wife’s rosebush. It was a weed. Corn is a great agricultural resource, but it doesn’t belong in a flower garden. Likewise CO2 is needful for life on Earth, but at lower concentrations than we have today.

    As Pope Francis reminded the reporters yesterday, context is vital. One cannot be truthful by taking single words and sentences out of context and cite them for one’s own use.

  4. FrMichael says:

    “It’s not that CO2 is a problem in the theoretical, but as a part of a greater whole. CO2 in greater amounts than we have today would indeed be higher polluting.” Really? If we had the choice of doubling the O2 content of the atmosphere or doubling the CO2 content, which would be worse? I would take the doubling of oxygen as the worse of the two options, and yet I still wouldn’t call it “a highly polluting gas.” It would be too much of a good thing.

    • Todd says:

      Yes, really.

      And this would be an example of the dialogue needed. I suspect that one side of the discussion would be willing to excise “highly polluting” from its vocabulary in return for affirmative action on the increasing levels of CO2. For me, the language itself means little. It’s really time for action, and if a little vocabulary tweaking gets it done, that’s fine with me.

      Oxygen levels increasing 10% to 23% of the atmosphere would mean natural fires at nearly every opportunity.

      The CO2 increase in the past 300 years has been 40%, bringing it to levels likely not seen in the past 10-20 million years. It’s extremely unlikely this is not caused by human waste from the industrial age, and that we’ve just happened to stumble into a one-in-a-million situation.

      • Atheist Max says:


        You will have a hard time arguing against Armageddon believers who have been told all of this coming cataclysm was foretold and is to be celebrated – not altered.

        Yes, the coming catastrophe might be averted somewhat if we apply science, teach proper conservation worldwide, focus on sustainability instead of consumption and advocate for banning oil and coal in the same way we had to abandon DDT. Solar power and wind power are increasingly being used in Europe but they have yet to break 5% of the energy sources. Rampant population growth in highly religious countries is also a nightmarish problem – as you know.

        Religion – Armageddon and Parousia – argues for total inaction on all fronts.
        I’m glad you at least agree about that.

      • Todd says:

        Armageddon, as a real world event, is a fantasy. The real battle is within a person where the instincts for grace and evil come into conflict. Apocalyptic literature of the ancients may have looked outside the person–blaming is what I’d call it–but the truth is that one can find spiritual meaning for the believer in all of this.

  5. Devin says:

    I am all for cutting CO2 and similar gas emissions. I firmly believe that humans can alter the global climate, but we are one of many factors influencing it (for example, solar activity). And even if all greenhouse gas emissions were to cease, our climate would eventually change in one direction or another. It is sort of like President Obama’s false promise that people could keep their same insurance when Obama care was passed. Yes, people’s insurances changed with the Affordable Care Act, but they many plan’s would have changed anyway due to the underlying insurance market.

    Oil markets supporting oppressive regimes and the eventual oil peak (whenever that is) are enough reasons to diversify our energy sources (especially cleaner sources) and to increase conservation measures.

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