Papal Encyclical on Climate Change

Document leaked condemning ‘Enormous consumption’ two days before its official publication date on 18 June 2015

The 192-page draft of the encyclical – which is the highest level of teaching document a pope can issue – is entitled “Laudato Si: On the care of the common home”. In the paper, Pope Francis presents both scientific and moral reasons for protecting God’s creation. He puts much of the blame for global warming on human activities, mentioning the continual loss of biodiversity in the Amazonian rainforest and the melting of Arctic glaciers among other examples. The draft also says that developing countries are bearing the brunt of the “enormous consumption” of some of the richest. The pontiff calls on all humans – not just Roman Catholics – to prevent the destruction of the ecosystem before the end of the century and to establish a new political authority to tackle pollution. The encyclical has been months in the writing, and the Pope is said to be keen for it to set the tone for the debate at a UN summit on climate change in November in Paris.

Here is the BBC report after the release of the encyclical on 18 June.

No hiatus in global warming?

This short article reports on recent NOAA research in the USA that appears to contradict the widely held conclusion that there has been a slow down or even levelling off of global warming in recent years. The research examined how data collected that were used to justify the hiatus conclusion. These data were inadequate according to the researchers who provide an improved data-set.

Anthropologists on climate change

The Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California recently held a symposium “Exploring a World of Our Own Making”.  This Yale Climate Connections link is to an article summarising key presentations. Below is an extract from a presentation by Scripps Institution of Oceanography climate scientist Veerabhadran Ramanathan:

“We have two separate but co-dependent worlds. One-billion people live with seemingly unlimited fossil fuels, and they are responsible for 50-70 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions, he said. The most needy three billion, meanwhile, lack access to fossil fuels even for cooking.

In talks at the Vatican, Ramanathan said, those who had attended concluded that the way forward requires fundamentally changing our attitude toward each other and toward nature.

“By leaving three billion behind, [those 3 billion people] will suffer the consequences of our fossil fuel consumption… so it’s a moral issue,” he said.

Ramanathan concluded his talk with a prediction that by 2050, global average temperatures will have climbed by 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F). Climatic conditions will have will become so oppressive – with extreme storms, droughts, floods and more – that people will change attitudes. “We will decarbonize the (global) economy,” he said.

Apollo Programme for Climate Change?

A new high profile report written by a group of eminent scientists is reviewed by Jeremy Williams with a link provided. Yet again it calls for urgent action to diminish anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions showing the huge diminution required by 2030 if a catastrophic future rise in temperatures is to be avoided. 

Good news from Saudi Arabia?


Last week was the Business and Climate Summit in Paris, and among the panels of CEOs and their warm words was a rather surprising announcement from Saudi Arabia. Their oil minister, Ali al-Naimi, admitted that the era of fossil fuels will come to an end.

“In Saudi Arabia, we recognise that one of these days, we’re not going to need fossil fuels” he told his audience. “I don’t know when – 2040, 2050 or thereafter.”

Looking to that time, he said the country had plans to produce solar energy on a large scale, and in time become an exporter of renewable electricity. Even the slump in oil prices would not change the shift towards solar power: “I believe solar will be even more economic than fossil fuels.”

Saudi Arabia is a major oil user as well as an exporter, so this is not going to happen any time soon. 2040 is too late to prevent dangerous climate change. But, it is interesting to see that even the oil minister of the world’s biggest oil exporter recognises that fossil fuels are on borrowed time, and that the economics of renewable energy is improving all the time.

We can’t depend on it just yet, but with a little luck the point at which renewable energy is cheaper than fossil fuels will come a whole lot quicker than Mr al-Naimi expects. Then we won’t need a campaign to keep the oil in the ground. Nobody will want it anyway.

[From Jeremy Williams’ blog]

Ban Ki-Moon Statement

In April 2015 the UN Secretary General joined religious leaders at the Vatican in Rome and made this statement. Pope Francis is placing climate change mitigation on the agenda of the 1 in 6 humans who adhere to the Catholic faith and a new encyclical will be drafted setting out the church’s position that aligns with that of the UN. The encyclical is being drafted  along lines indicated in this quote from a Truthout article:

“The ever-accelerating burning of fossil fuels that powers our economic engine is disrupting the Earth’s delicate ecological balance on an almost unfathomable scale,” warned Cardinal Peter Turkson, the Ghanaian cardinal who is taking a leading role in drafting the climate encyclical. “Corporations and financial investors must learn to put long-term sustainability over short-term profit.”


The Earth Statement

Many attempts are being made to convince governments around the world that urgent action needs to be taken to avoid unpredictable climate change due to human activities on Spaceship Earth. One of these is the Earth Statement issued by the Earth League on Earth Day 2015 (22 April). The eight point statement refers to the danger of the current trajectory of global warming and the growing awareness that fossil fuels will have to kept in the ground to avoid drastic and destabilising increases in global temperatures.

Hidden threats to sustainable future


Hidden Threats Imperil Quest for Sustainable Societies Worldwide, Report Finds

Worldwatch’s State of the World 2015 finds that many global dangers to sustainability (and their solutions) are often overlooked


Washington, D.C.—     The world’s economies and people face hidden dangers to sustainability that demand immediate action. According to State of the World 2015: Confronting Hidden Threats to Sustainability, the latest edition of the annual series from the Worldwatch Institute, these threats, driven directly or indirectly by growing stress on the planet’s resources, have the potential to upend social systems, environmental balance, and even entire economies (

 “These threats are hidden in the sense that they are commonly overlooked or underappreciated,” notes Ed Groark, Acting President of Worldwatch. “But addressing them is critical to building sustainable societies.”

 The report outlines a set of issues whose roots in resource overconsumption are typically not explored in news accounts. The threats identified are diverse, ranging from emerging diseases that originate in animals and growing dependence on imported food to the problems of energy availability and increasingly degraded oceans. The common link among these various challenges—  humanity’s rising claim on the planet’s resources—  suggests the urgent need to commit to sustainable economies in which resources are stewarded and the environment is protected. 

 Over the last few decades, human societies have come to comprehend that they are depleting resources at unsustainable rates, spreading dangerous pollutants, undermining ecosystems, and threatening to unhinge the planet’s climate balance. But a reckoning is complicated by the fact that the complete environmental impacts are not always readily discernible—   they are camouflaged and multiplied by discontinuities, synergisms, feedback loops, and cascading effects. And the manner in which environmental impacts translate into the social and economic spheres further complicates the picture, producing unexpected consequences. Even economic growth, long unquestioned and coveted, needs to be examined with healthy skepticism.

 “These are significant threats, but each and every one of them has solutions, especially if we commit to an ethic of stewardship, robust citizenship, and a systems approach to addressing the challenges that we face,” says Groark.

 For many of these hidden threats, the solutions are common sense. For example, more rapid adoption of renewable energy systems would reduce the pressure to find ever more exotic sources of fossil fuels. And the pressure to import food could be reduced by effectively increasing food supplies through reductions in food waste-about a third of the global harvest is lost each year. But this requires that economics ministers and others set human well-being, rather than growth, as the primary economic objective, shifting the global economic machine away from intensive resource use and the endless pursuit of “more.”

 With the latest edition of State of the World, the researchers at Worldwatch bring to light challenges that we can no longer afford to ignore. For more information on State of the World, the Institute’s annual flagship publication, view the complete book series

California’s drought

This lead article from the New York Times is an example of the ecological deficit that was the topic of my last blog post. Deep aquifer water is being ‘mined’ in California’s Central Valley to maintain high-value large-scale agricultural production despite unusually strong regulations that have recently been introduced to diminish the demand for irrigation. The application of complex irrigation systems and fossil fuel powered pumping technology seems to have run into nature’s current limits. Water is the staff of life (all life, not simply human life) and humans seem to hold the anthropocentric view that it exists as a ‘resource’ to support unending  expansion of human populations and affluence. Not only will there be an inevitable deficit of water but we already have a major deficit of human understanding, imagination and education about the impossibility of infinite growth of human systems on a finite Spaceship Earth.

In this transcript of an interview on Democracy Now, a different slant is placed on the regulation of water in California. It highlights exemptions from the regulations for the most powerful agro-industrialists, the biggest producers who have the greatest lobbying power.

This BBC article and video elaborate further.