It isn't often that I get a chance to comment on something Pope Francis said. Granted, we share the same name (my full name is Frances) and religion, but usually I figure his job and my job don't have a lot of overlap.
Pope Francis recently asked for swift action to save the planet from environmental ruin. He urges world leaders to hear "the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor," placing the Catholic Church in the cross hairs of political controversy over climate change.
Francis, who took his name from St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of ecology, said protecting the planet was a moral and ethical "imperative" for both believers and non-believers. He called climate change "One of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day."
The pope called for "decisive action, here and now," to stop environmental degradation and global warming, supporting scientists who say climate change is mostly man-made. In several passages in his nearly 200-page paper, Francis confronted climate change doubters and those who say it is not man-made. The pope says poor nations will suffer the most.
He said greenhouse gases were "released mainly as a result of human activity." The pope called for policies to "drastically" reduce polluting gases, saying technology based on fossil fuels "needs to be progressively replaced without delay" and sources of renewable energy developed. I couldn't agree more.
In a passage certain to upset political conservatives in the U.S., he said "a legal framework which can set clear boundaries and ensure the protection of ecosystems has become indispensable".
He wrote, "Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain. We may well be leaving to coming generations debris, desolation and filth."
Some countries, including the United States and the European Union, have already published their commitments. President Obama has pledged to reduce America's greenhouse gas emissions by 26% below 2005 levels by 2025. Other big emitters, including China and Brazil, are expected to do so soon.
If you are 55 years old or older and have lived in the same county in Wisconsin most of your life, you must have noticed the growing seasons are two to three weeks longer than they were when you were 25 years ago. While a longer growing season is a good thing in Wisconsin, it is climate change. You have also probably noticed more frequent heavy rains and flooding. That's climate change, too.
The Republican presidential candidates, on the whole, have avoided discussing climate change, at least when they're not dismissing it completely as an issue. Meanwhile, in Congress, by straight party-line votes, both the House and Senate appropriations committees have passed bills that would make it impossible for President Obama to limit carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants.
Even though President Obama is certain to veto such measures, the fact that a majority in Congress does not support him cannot help his credibility as a world leader on the climate issue. But of course that doesn't matter to politicians from coal producing states like Kentucky and West Virginia.
The pope worries about how we can shepherd the planet safely into the future. Too bad Congress can't join him in thinking of the bigger picture.