Pope fo­cuses on cli­mate

In his leaked draft en­cycli­cal, Fran­cis calls for ac­tion to fight global warm­ing.

Los Angeles Times - - THE WORLD - By Wil­liam Yard­ley and Tom King­ton wil­liam.yard­ley@latimes.com Times staff writer Yard­ley re­ported from Seat­tle and spe­cial cor­re­spon­dent King­ton from Rome.

A leaked draft of a highly an­tic­i­pated let­ter on the en­vi­ron­ment by Pope Fran­cis casts cli­mate change as a threat largely caused by hu­mans and urges ac­tion to re­duce the emis­sions that cause global warm­ing.

The Ro­man Catholic leader’s mes­sage, which is to be de­liv­ered Thurs­day in a let­ter called an en­cycli­cal, is ex­pected to rip­ple across re­li­gious, po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic de­bates.

Sup­port­ers hope it will gal­va­nize in­ter­na­tional opin­ion be­fore a ma­jor United Na­tions con­fer­ence on cli­mate change in Paris late this year. Po­lit­i­cal observers said it could roil the Amer­i­can pres­i­den­tial race by in­ject­ing re­li­gion into the al­ready con­tentious pol­i­tics of global warm­ing. Oth­ers say it could in­crease ques­tions about the moral­ity and sus­tain­abil­ity of a world econ­omy driven by cap­i­tal­ism and con­sump­tion.

The 192-page draft, called “Laudato Si, on the care of the com­mon home,” was posted online Mon­day in Ital­ian by the mag­a­zine L’Espresso, send­ing news out­lets scram­bling to trans­late it. One pas­sage says global warm­ing has been “mostly” caused by “the great con­cen­tra­tion of green­house gases (car­bon diox­ide, meth­ane, ni­tro­gen ox­ide and oth­ers)” that are “gen­er­ated by hu­man ac­tion” or “due to hu­man ac­tiv­ity.”

The draft says there is an “ur­gent” and “com­pelling” need for na­tions to re­duce car­bon emis­sions by re­plac­ing fos­sil fu­els with new sources of re­new­able energy.

Viewed by some as a bold act by the pope to sway opin­ion on a con­tro­ver­sial is­sue, the en­cycli­cal in many ways re­flects a move­ment that has been grow­ing for decades, some­times on the mar­gins, with some Catholic and Chris­tian aca­demics and in- di­vid­ual church lead­ers and con­gre­ga­tions in­creas­ingly mak­ing “cre­ation care” a the­o­log­i­cal pur­suit and a cen­tral min­istry. In some cases, the ap­proach has helped churches re­con­nect with peo­ple who felt Catholi­cism and other de­nom­i­na­tions had be­come too con­cerned with di­vi­sive cul­tural is­sues such as abor­tion and same-sex mar­riage. Many of those groups be­lieve they have a for­mi­da­ble new ally.

“He is tak­ing all the mes­sages that we have been speak­ing about for 30 years and tak­ing them to an in­ter­na­tional stage,” said Jessie Dye, a Catholic who is the pro­gram and out­reach di- rec­tor of Earth Min­istry, an ec­u­meni­cal non­profit in Seat­tle that has run a “green­ing con­gre­ga­tions” pro­gram for two decades. “The most im­por­tant thing to re­mem­ber is that this is church teach­ing — this is not new.”

The Vat­i­can con­firmed Mon­day that the text was a draft of the en­cycli­cal but said it was “not the fi­nal text.” It will trans­late the fi­nal ver­sion into English and other lan­guages and asked other news out­lets to re­frain from pub­lish­ing the draft “to re­spect pro­fes­sional stan­dards.” Few did, though some Catholic ex­perts on the pope de­clined to talk Mon­day about the draft, say­ing they wanted to re­spect the Vat­i­can’s plans.

Many ex­perts have said in re­cent weeks that the en­cycli­cal is ex­pected to es­tab­lish cli­mate change as a top pa­pal pri­or­ity at a time when sci­en­tists say it is still pos­si­ble to pre­vent the worst of the dam­age it can do. Austen Ivereigh, au­thor of “The Great Re­former: Fran­cis and the Mak­ing of a Rad­i­cal Pope,” said it would be the first en­cycli­cal “is­sued with the in­ten­tion of in­flu­enc­ing a po­lit­i­cal process.”

Pre­vi­ous popes have spo­ken in fa­vor of en­vi­ron­men­tal con­ser­va­tion, but Fran- cis, who had trained as a chemist, has put greater em­pha­sis on the is­sue, not least by nam­ing him­self af­ter St. Fran­cis, con­sid­ered the pa­tron saint of the en­vi­ron­ment. He has called pol­lut­ing a sin and, ac­cord­ing to one car­di­nal, said in a homily in Fe­bru­ary that “it is wrong and a dis­trac­tion to con­trast ‘green’ and ‘Chris­tian.’ ”

Fran­cis’ in­ter­est in the en­vi­ron­ment dates to his days as Jorge Ber­goglio, the arch­bishop of Buenos Aires.

“In 2006 and 2007, there was a bor­der prob­lem be­tween Ar­gentina and Uruguay over pulp mills and ques­tions over their en­vi­ron­men­tal fall­out,” Pablo Os­valdo Canziani, a sci­en­tist at Ar­gentina’s Na­tional Sci­en­tific and Tech­ni­cal Re­search Coun­cil, said in an in­ter­view. “Ber­goglio tracked me down … on Holy Fri­day to dis­cuss it. That is how closely he was fol­low­ing it.”

In a speech in Oc­to­ber to the World Meet­ing of Pop­u­lar Move­ments, a group of grass-roots ac­tivists and work­ers, Fran­cis said, “Cli­mate change, the loss of bio­di­ver­sity, de­for­esta­tion are al­ready show­ing their dev­as­tat­ing ef­fects in the great cat­a­clysms we wit­ness, and you are the ones who suf­fer most, the hum­ble, those who live near coasts in pre­car­i­ous dwellings or who are so vul­ner­a­ble eco­nom­i­cally that, in face of a nat­u­ral dis­as­ter, lose ev­ery­thing.”

‘He is tak­ing all the mes­sages that we have been speak­ing about for 30 years … to an in­ter­na­tional stage.’

— Jessie Dye, pro­gram and out­reach di­rec­tor of Earth Min­istry

Clau­dio Peri Euro­pean Pressphoto Agency

POPE FRAN­CIS ar­rives for his au­di­ence with con­ven­tion par­tic­i­pants at St. Peter’s Square. In his leaked draft let­ter, the pope sees an “ur­gent” and “com­pelling” need for na­tions to re­duce car­bon emis­sions.

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