When Pope Francis thinks of climate change, he thinks of social justice. In his 2013 inaugural homily as pope, Francis implored “all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political, and social life” to “be ‘protectors’ of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment.” Speaking at an Italian university a year later, Francis announced, “This is our sin, exploiting the Earth and not allowing her to give us what she has within her.” In 2015, Vatican-watchers expect Francis to produce an encyclical that situates climate change within the framework of Catholic social teaching.
Francis’s position on the injustices of climate change is not new to the Roman Catholic Church.
Last night, Congress came within a single senator's vote of passing legislation to authorize a major crude oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico that would pump more than 830,000 barrels of high-polluting tar sands oil a day and carry and emit 51 coal plants worth of CO2 (pdf)—despite the fact that U.S. oil demand is falling and, you know, the planet is burning up—in exchange for 35 whole permanent jobs.
I'm sorry, I buried the lede: what I meant to say is that the runoff Senate race in Louisiana hasn't happened yet.
Earlier this year, the Century published a piece by an environmental scientist on just how radical the current shift in CO2 levels are—from the perspective of 50 million years. As I was working with that scientist, Lee Vierling, on the piece, we struggled to find a language that he and I and readers of the Century could share.
He wanted something that was fluid and scientifically absolutely accurate. He also wanted to be certain that he was not using scare tactics.