WEATHER EYE ON OUR TIME-Climate Change & Pope Francis


What a wonderful July we have
had! The hottest since 1976, or was it 1886?
However, there is a worm in the apple! And
it’s called ‘Global Warming’. This was
recognised as a grave moral issue by Pope
Francis in his wonderful encyclical
‘Laudato Si’. He will surely address the
issue when he visits here later this month.
Global Warming is seriously
affecting our planet. The melting of
mountain glaciers is a very visible
manifestation. Irrefutable evidence has already come from firsthand
witnesses, as it were: in 1991, hikers in the Austrian Alps
discovered an intact male human body protruding from a glacier.
Apparently trapped in a storm more than 5,000 years ago and
quickly covered with snow and ice, his body was remarkably well
preserved. In 1999, another body was found in a melting glacier in
the Yukon Territory of Canada. Our ancestors are emerging from
the ice with an urgent message for us: the earth is getting warmer.
What causes this ‘warming’? Human activity is largely
responsible. Choices we make today will decide the future of our
climate. The energy we use for heating and transport comes from
fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal. The carbon dioxide given off
in this process traps the sun’s heat in the earth’s atmosphere – acting
like a greenhouse. Hence, global warming.
Whatever about the causes, the consequences are
enormous. For example, the 10 million inhabitants in Lima depend
on glacial run-offs for their water. The Ganges, Mekong and
Yangtze all depend on the Himalayan
glaciers. One third of humanity depend on
these rivers for their food production. The
impact on others species will be equally
bleak. Scientists say that global warming
will cause the extinction of at least one
quarter of the species. Scientists have long
recognised the problems. Yet it has taken
the Christian Churches a while to catch up.
Climate was not their concern, attending instead to poverty, and
backing campaigns on debt relief! But, under the leadership of Pope
Francis, this has changed. Heretofore, there was little understanding
of the intimate connection between climate change and poverty. But
the connection is clear today: it is the people of Bangladesh, the
farmers of Ethiopia and the fishermen of the Pacific Islands who are
the victims. Yet it is the industrial world that produces over 95% of
the carbon dioxide. Our prodigious consumption is destroying the
livelihood and, ultimately, lives of the most vulnerable.
The story of Eden tells us that we were given dominion
over the earth. But that dominion bestowed upon us responsibility.
Instead we took it to mean the right to wastefully exploit the earth’s
riches. Now we face a crisis. This crisis requires real a true change
of heart which will help us see the world in a different way. One of
the strongest strands of Christian thinking is the importance of the
common good – that we should aspire to shared or public values
which ultimately contribute to the good of all members of the
community. This surely provides us with the ethical basis for
dealing with climate change, for the protection of habitats and
ecosystems on which we all depend. Climate change is not just a
problem for scientists or even an economic issue. It is a moral one.

Fr. Dick Lyng OSA