New Scientist: The Catholic Church Needs to “Up its game” on their Climate Gospel

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

New Scientist is dissatisfied with the climate gospel being preached by the Catholic Church.

Religion must rise to the challenge of climate change too

No planet B | With biblical floods and famine on the cards, the fight against global warming needs faiths to get serious about green issues

By Graham Lawton

In 2015, Pope Francis issued an encyclical on the environment. For those (like me) unfamiliar with Vatican terminology, that is a bit like a memo from head office informing regional managers about the boss’s latest thinking. It isn’t an instruction, but is guidance that you are well advised to heed.

However, there are reasons to regard the encyclical with scepticism. For one thing, it said nothing about birth control, which the church opposes, and hence the topic of my last column, population growth. The encyclical also seems to have been quickly forgotten. In Rome, I asked a young, devout theology student from the Philippines whether it had made an impact on the church’s teachings or the attitudes of its followers. Not a bit, he said.

There is a more fundamental reason to be suspicious. According to Lori Beaman, professor of religious diversity and social change at the University of Ottawa in Canada, the encyclical remains steeped in the Christian tradition of stewardship, which holds that God entrusted humans to take care of Earth but will heal whatever damage we do. In the past, this has been interpreted as divine consent to rape and pillage the planet as we see fit.

Of course, the Catholic church may be absolutely sincere. If so, it needs to up its game and start preaching the message. And it isn’t the only faith in town. How other religions respond to environmental breakdown matter just as much. There are some positive signs: there was a strong religious presence at Extinction Rebellion’s recent climate protests.

Like many other progressive, secular environmentalists, I am deeply conflicted about getting into bed with religion. But as we descend into a climate and biodiversity crisis, we are going to need all the help we can get.

There is probably no God, but if there is, it would be better if He was on our side.

Read more: https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg24232350-100-religion-must-rise-to-the-challenge-of-climate-change-too/

What strange times we live in – a publication called New Scientist warning religious groups they have to try harder, they have to better align their gospel with green messages.

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74 thoughts on “New Scientist: The Catholic Church Needs to “Up its game” on their Climate Gospel

  1. Like many other progressive, secular environmentalists, I am deeply conflicted about getting into bed with religion.

    … but heck, what is a another fundamental principal thrown under the bus at this stage of the game.

    Integrity , honesty, scientific objectivity … you’ve already sold your sole to the devil, better make peace with God.

    And it isn’t the only faith in town.

    Indeed, if the Pope is not “up to speed” many of his flock may decide to follow the teachings of the Church of Latter Day Saints of the Environment.

  2. There is probably no God, but if there is, it would be better if He was on our side.

    If there is you have just committed blasphemy. YOU should be on HIS side. Thinking you can recruit God has to be the ultimate “progressive” delusion. Hubris?

    • My reaction as well, Greg.

      As it happens I do believe in God and I also believe that the planet he created is robust enough to put up with anything we are likely to try to do to it — because he would have created it that way!

      And even assuming he doesn’t exist Earth has put up with a lot more disruption in its history than a couple of degrees variation in temperature and a CO2 level considerably lower than is good for it and us!

      No! I’ll stick with my scepticism and my firm belief (reinforced by the majority of theologians over the years) that papal infallibility does not extend to weather forecasting!

      • Newminster
        “because he would have created it that way!
        He, God is a he?
        For God to be a he, must not their be a female before? And who was this woman’s partner?
        How did God come into being a being. I have heard that God made humans in his own image, so you see the reasoning.
        You see the similarity to the chicken and egg syndrome. Something came first.
        As a non believer I feel these questions must be asked, and answered. Especially as global politics and instability is dominated
        by people that believe in God. And now a new belief system, CAGW, is changing our society again.
        You now see that as a non believer, and a skeptic, I am a minority in a minority.
        Regards

          • Evolution is certainly not faith based period from an information Perspective we can definitely see how gene frequency changes over time create inheritable traits and those trades get selected for by the environment. Evolution is why HIV will always adapt to its drug treatment eventually. Evolution is why there are antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the environment now.

            There is no need to invoke faith in any of this. It’s just information. Cells are small machines running programs in DNA and those programs can be tracked in the same way that you can track a repository written in C or Java.

            I am an atheist – But that has little to do with it. The information available does not indicate that there needs to be any magical person there to tweak the knobs.

            You could certainly assume that God is doing so but doing so with such subtlety that it is imperceptible. But that would be a choice that you would make to and jacked that additional constraint into the system. It does not require it.

        • “global politics and instability is dominated by people that believe in God”

          You’ve got to be kidding. That sphere appears to be dominated by people who believe in how great they themselves are. References to God by them are made to hide the distance between them and the masses they despise.

          Occasionally they let slip their true feelings, as in Obama’s comment about “small-town voters across the Midwest … in old industrial towns decimated by job losses… ‘They get bitter, they cling to guns or religion …'”
          https://www.theguardian.com/world/2008/apr/14/barackobama.uselections2008

        • Atheists always ask the dumbest, most childish questions, thinking they sound smart. Quite the opposite.

    • Poor Mr. Lawton doesn’t have God or anyone else “on his side”. There are no sides in a useless debate. The only way carbon dioxide can affect the environment is through politics. The various comparisons between climate models and observations show pretty clearly that carbon dioxide in not a “control knob”.

      At this point we don’t even have a good guess as to the number of “control knobs” there are in the environment- solar radiation, cosmic rays, solar magnetic storms, poisonous pollution, ocean cycles in water flow and heat transfer, instabilities in the jet stream, and many others.

    • “No nobler reply ever fell from the lips of a ruler, than that uttered by President Lincoln in response to the clergyman who ventured to say, in his presence, that he hoped ‘the Lord was on our side.’

      “‘I am not at all concerned about that,’ replied Mr. Lincoln, ‘for I know that the Lord is always on the side of the right. But it is my constant anxiety and prayer that I and this nation should be on the Lord’s side.'”

      “Six Months in the White House with Abraham Lincoln” by Francis B. Carpenter (1867)

  3. No mention of the sin of indulgence in the promotion of dubious or false science by either the Catholic Church or the New Scientist. A sin in itself by omission.
    Whether this may be considered Venal or Mortal is a matter of intent.

    • There is also one of the Ten Commandments concerning the sin of bearing false witness against another person. Any self-righteous religious person who proclaims skeptic climate scientists broke one of the other commandments by being ‘industry-paid liars for hire’ has put themselves into a huge moral dilemma. At minimum, the accuser commits the sin of omission by not checking the veracity of the accusation. God help self-described religious AGW scientists like Katharine Hayhoe who might actually know the accusation is not true.

  4. Did the catholic church really bother on it’s carbon footprint when burning scientists such as Cardano or Bruno and many more on the stake ?

    How desperate a putative scientist must be to seek ideological protection by such a documented violently anti-science conglomerate ?

    Will you ever see a string theory physicist ask the pope to bless and support his equations ?

    • Flight Level wrote:

      “Did the catholic church really bother on it’s carbon footprint when burning scientists such as Cardano or Bruno and many more on the stake?”

      Giordano Bruno’s death was a sad episode but at least carbon neutral.

      As an aside, Gerolamo Cardano was not burned at the stake, he correctly predicted the exact date of his own death but it has been claimed that he achieved this by committing suicide.

      Peter

    • You are an absolute imbecile if you think Giordano Bruno was a ‘scientist”. Do some research on the facts, man, before you embarass yourself more. Futhermore, you display intense arrogance and ignorance when you attempt to call the Catholic church “anti science”. I expected more factually based comments here.

  5. I have a different view which may be controversial. The Catholic faith and Pope have lost their belief in God. From doctrine, God created the heavens and the Earth. This means that He is totally in control of everything, can correct or destroy as He sees fit. So the theological question is “would He want man to destroy his creation?”, and if not would prevent us doing so, in a similar way to other biblical interventions. The Church used to believe in a personal God with total power over everything, which is the basis of the faith. The Pope clearly no longer does, so perhaps God wishes to destroy the Catholic church?

  6. “With biblical floods and famine on the cards, the fight against global warming needs faiths to get serious about green issues.”

    Biblical floods and famine were punishment for immoral behavior and denying God. If we are in danger of the above, then the climate change religion will only increase these.

    • “in the cards”,

      Like the rest of green prophecy, the dire consequences are always somewhere off in the future.
      The reason for that is simple. They can’t find any evidence of it happening in the here and now.

      • MarkW, your “They can’t find any evidence of it happening in the here and now.” does not prevent them from screaming about weirding weather, increasing storms, droughts and wildfires , SLR acceleration, existential threat to mankind, etc.

        Until there is an honest public debate about climate issues, the narrative will be driven by social activists bent on creating worldwide socialism. The Democrat “debates” are being planned by left-wing radicals and will be conduced by people known to be wildly alarmist when it comes to climate issues.

  7. While we’re on the topic of all things biblical there’s also this: “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, and day and night will not cease.” — Genesis 8:22.

    You can take that to the bank.

    A faith-based approach would look something like this: God put fossil fuels in the ground for our benefit; the earth’s climate system is resilient — a good, far-seeing God made it that way. As for man controlling the climate, “The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them” (Psalm 2:2) comes to mind.

  8. Religion must rise to the challenge of climate change too

    I’m sure the author is qualified to tell what “religion must rise to”. I was noting that author was not very committed, but let me inform: religion is about the God or the gods, eternal life, what is morally right and wrong, about rituals to reach those. Just read and tell me what the Bible or Veda let alone Quran or what ever talks about climate change mitigation policies, and you’ll notice that’s a completely secular question.

    The Pope himself lives in luxury, so he shouldn’t much pose with the champions of CAGW mitigation policies.

    • I think the Pope himself lives quite frugally: the thing I would worry about in the AGW cause is the amount of candles being burned in Catholic Churches over the world. When our cathedral did the Cafod ‘Live Simply’*challenge we did discuss asking the bishop to cut down on candles but no-one had the nerve.
      *there are other environmental issues, though the briefing was a bit dominated by AGW.

      • I don’t buy it. He lives in a walled enclave/city that contains art work worth billions. He flies around in private jets and looks to be very overweight, so must be well fed. This is not frugality.

        He looks down at the unemployed, taking a shower, and it comes to him to draft an encyclical?

        • More bizarre ignorance about Catholics. Why are all the ignorant commenters showing up today? Yes, he lives in a walled city, but does not own any of it. He has the use of it during his lifetime, but he lives in a hotel room. The Apostolic palace, where previous popes lived, was in such bad repair that John Paul II had to put pails out in his apartment every time it rained, to catch the water that leaked in. He was urged to get it repaired, but he refused to do so, because he was unwilling to incur the cost. He actually lived and slept in a small room, with a single sized bed. The whole apartment, when people are actually admitted into it, is routinely called “modest”. Its basically like any other apartment. However, ignoramouses blabber on about the art works of the Vatican, which cannot be sold, and which are considered to belong to all humanity. The Pope essentially lives on the top of an office building, not very comfortable. No, he does not fly around on private jets. He flies around on public jets, provided by Alitalia, accompanied by hundreds of reporters. That is not a private jet of luxury. And finally, you think that everyone who is overweight is rich, huh? God what an ignoramous.

  9. I have bad news for Graham; if there is a god, She would abhor the Greenie religion which is steeped in lies, in hatred, and in the evil idea that the ends justify the means. And if Greenies have misgivings about getting in bed with religion, imagine how the truly religious feel.

  10. G. Lawton is carrying out and illustrating one of the essential, central messages of the Bible:
    Adam and Eve ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. At that point, they were endowed with hubris, believing that their view of best behavior and beliefs is equal to, or superior to, God’s views.

    Here is a very brief theology lesson. A “sin” is not paying your taxes, or saying a curse word. A sin is knowing how God expects you to think and behave, and you deciding you know better, and doing differently. Those of us who have had children, tried to bring them up the right way, and have been pained to see them make misjudgments in their life actions, against our tutelage, know that this is very disappointing, and hurts in a unique, special way. Put God in the parent role, and each of us in the child role, and that is sin: heading off in the wrong direction, having been shown the proper direction.

    But this is what we humans do with our free will. Here’s the rub: without free will, there is no such thing as love. I cannot decide to have a loving relationship with God if I don’t have free will. Free will to live my own life, to decide whether or not the maxim to “be fruitful and multiply” is the best for us or not, etc.

    Lawton is just doing what each of us does: forges on ahead in life ignoring the road map, the instruction manual, of God’s loving guidance. Lawton, and the rest of us are destined not just to make different decisions, but to make decisions 180 degrees different from God.

    Our Bible includes an extensive set of instructions history lessons where God demonstrates, “I’ve got this.” And we ignore this, and decide to do things our way.

    This is where Lawton is at. Lecturing God, and God’s faithful.

    When the target is the Catholic Church, it is not that surprising. In my view, the Catholic Church builds in more bureaucracy and hierarchy than God ordered up, and so is fundamentally at risk of going off-track.

    I saw Johnny Cash perform. And, saw half his family perform. It seemed like the whole Carter-Cash family got to perform a number, or at least shake a tambourine. Not worth the price of admission. Annoying. Then, toward the end of the show, they stepped off stage, and it was just Johnny Cash and his guitar. Cash was stunning, and magnetic. This is how “church” is supposed to be: just God and the Bible. Not all of the bureaucratic rule-reviewing, bank-account-watching hierarchy.

    Where I go to church, we do not have massive missives reviewing what the Bible says. We just open the Bible, and get to know it. We don’t bestow and endow leaders into life positions. We hire and fire them. They wear regular clothes, not the showy shawls of the Shaman. They speak in our language, not a relic language. Where I go to church, we have services in more than one language in order to match the population around us. And, sign language.

    When you build such an institution, a bureaucracy and hierarchy, with such a rule-making process, you attract the Progs. The Progs are the know-it-all teacher’s pet kids who believe they are smarter than the teacher, and will get their way in life by figuring out The Game, and gaming its rules to be the Apex Rule Follower, which can get you to be the Apex Rule Maker. Why?
    Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have done unto you.
    Second Golden Rule: He who has the gold makes the rules.
    Third Golden Rule: He who makes the rules gets the gold. < – This is the Prog way of life. Lawden sees a rule-making hierarchy with power, and he is naturally attracted to it.

    In short, I am not worried about the supposed impending Environmental Collapse. The claims of this, from the Progs, are merely copy cat claims cribbing off of Revelation. The only difference is their Leading Issue, global flooding, is the one thing God has specifically said will NOT kill us off one day. Famine, pestilence, fire, sun burn, etc., are all still on the table, and alluded to in Revelation. But Death by Flooding is off the table. This is reassuring to me that the Progs are misguided on a cosmic, supernatural level.

    The claims of catastrophe, I am noticing lately, are nearly completely bluster. There are no specifics. Vague cries of "catastrophe," a laundry list of things that will kill us, and a laundry list of how. Wide, but shallow. Each can be dismissed pretty well, but the Progs keep throwing the next at you, and o instill fear and panic, hoping you will convert and adopt them as your Lord and Saviour, and behave accordingly. Copycats. This literally is a story as old as mankind. As old as Adam and Eve.

  11. Paraphrase: Biblical floods and famine you will always have with you; but you will not always have me.

    When we’ve reached the point where Popes peach to the halfwit suspended adolescents of the world, promising to fulfill the Endless Wish List of the Month, religion truly has stopped serving any purpose.

  12. There are several issues/problems with what the Pope did and how the media took it.

    1) The Pope is the head of the Catholic Church which is made up of at least 14 different denominations worldwide. He is not a scientist. Scripture tells us that he will be and remain infallible which pertains to only issues of morals and faith, settling the question or binding the whole Church. And that infallibility only is when he is speaking ex-cathedra (from the seat of St. Peter). Ex-cathedra statements are very rare, I can’t remember the last one.

    2) Somehow people get the misguided thought that he is infallible when it comes to almost anything he says, or at least when he utters something about some subject they agree with him on.

    3) All Popes have sinned so they are not protected by the Holy Spirit from being wrong or doing the wrong thing. But people today seem to think they somehow are. Don’t know where that comes from other than a misunderstanding of the Catholic faith.

    4) In no time throughout history has there been access to worldwide media almost instantaneously as it is today and this Pope does not seem to understand that, by the time he utters something it is half way around the globe before he has a chance to take his foot out of his mouth. There were a lot of things done by Popes throughout history that were far worse but Instagram and Twitter weren’t there to record it all.

    5) An encyclical is not doctrine or dogma. I read parts of that encyclical and those parts I agreed with simply reinforced the Catholic teaching I had as a kid (well before this Pope was in seminary). And that teaching was that you treat the earth with respect, it is a gift from God and we do not indiscriminately pollute or trash His creation. It is for us to use, not abuse.

    6) So being a devout Catholic and often praying for the Pope, I will continue to do so with the hopes that he shuts his pie hole when it comes to matters he is ill-informed on such as science and pretty much anything outside of theology. Or someday he learns that lesson.

    That’s my 2 cents anyway.

    • Sam, as an atheist I agree with everything you said. Notwithstanding the current Muslim terrorists and past excesses by people of all faiths, I believe religion is and has been a net benefit to the world.

      I’m not, however, going to argue this point with the blogging nitpickers of the various persuasions.

      • Dave;
        Thank you for the considered comment.

        Good luck on your journey wherever it may lead you, and like you, I don’t argue the point with people who have chosen a different path. 😉

  13. Pope Francis should have re-read his Bible before jumping into/onto the “global warming climate change” fracas involving ….. the death of millions of people due to glacial melting resulting in worldwide flooding

    Genesis 9:8-16 ESV (n reference to the rainbow)

    Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” And God said, “This is the sign (rainbow) of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations:
    https://www.openbible.info/topics/rainbow

    Pope Francis should either apologize for his disbelief in his God’s covenant or declare the bible’s content/context as being false agitprop.

  14. Obviously the Pope is a lefty. The thing about Leftys are that political/economic ideology is the overriding factor. All other considerations must be subjugated or brought into harmony with their political ideology. It is, of course, a violation to the first of the ten commandments given by Moses if one claims to be of the Judaeo-Christian tradition, though. This talk of stewardship is just a rationalization.

  15. The idea that access to birth control is all that is needed to get people to stop having so many kids is easy, attractive, and completely wrong.

    What causes people to stop having so many kids is economic security. Absent that, lots of kids is a form of social security. You take care of them when they are young, they take care of you when you are old.

  16. The new Green (Gaia) religion obviously sees itself as some sort of Religious Umbrella Organisation whose role is to whip other religions into line and into shape in their crusade against rational thinking. Well, they are going to have their work cut out for them when they come to tackling the Muslims.

    • Getting Gaia as the One World Religion:

      Step One:
      Use the Muslim hate of the Western World, with its strong Judeo-Christian basis, to bring down the Western World.
      Step Two:
      Get the Muslims to convert to Gaia.

      –Good luck with that.

  17. The Catholic Church truly has no historical claim to authority wrt science. Wrong time after time.

  18. I just had an epiphany!
    Hallelujah!
    I see it now.
    I see it.
    I see the light…of what is going on here.
    For a while now I have been appalled and baffled, but it just dawned on me it makes perfect sense: The prophets of doom and gloom have carved out a huge niche in an entirely new generation, and it appears to be the most successful doomsday appeal to the masses in hundreds of years.
    Doomsday and the promise of eternal damnation was for a very long time the churches ace in the hole, the ultimate Trump card: Your soul is gonna burn in a lake of hellfire forever, not just a mere lifetime!
    Now this is all revived and with a vengeance!
    It has taken hold amongst the young, old, stupid, smart, and even the so-called intelligentsia (although I have a gnawing certainty that they are only kidding themselves, surely not me) has gone all in and whole-hog for this ridiculous steaming pile of stinking, fetid, and in-every-way-a-wrongness pile of…well, you know the rest.

    Hallelujah!

  19. Hey! Pope phone home and see how well the warming is doing in Argentina …
    From https://www.iceagenow.info/extreme-cold-and-heavy-snow-in-homeland-of-the-pope/

    Tuesday, 18 June 2019 – Argentina (the homeland of the Pope) – Roads impassable

    “Rescate en la nieve: dos abuelos de 75 y 105 años quedaron aislados por el frío, su nieto pidió ayuda y los encontraron,” reads the headline.

    ( “Rescue in the snow: two grandparents of 75 and 105 years were isolated by the cold, their grandson asked for help and found them” )

    A 75-year-old man and a 105-year-old woman were rescued in the province of Neuquén after being held incommunicado at home due to inclement weather that made the roads impassable, according to the National Gendarmerie.

    On Sunday, troops received a request for help from a man whose grandparents were isolated in the house, unable to leave due to heavy snow and extreme cold.

    Faced with this situation, a patrol of the Nucleus Unit Section and health personnel arrived at the place near La Salada, and difficult to access.

    There, they found them unheated and incommunicado. The uniformed people provided medical assistance.

    Both were in good health and were transferred to a Gendarmerie unit, where they met their relatives.

    https://www.lavoz.com.ar/sucesos/rescate-en-nieve-dos-abuelos-de-75-y-105-anos-quedaron-aislados-por-frio-su-nieto-pidio-ayud

    https://cdn.lavoz.com.ar/sites/default/files/styles/width_1072/public/nota_periodistica/Rescate-Neuquen-1_1560866599.jpg

    https://cdn.lavoz.com.ar/sites/default/files/styles/width_1072/public/nota_periodistica/Rescate-Neuquen-2_1560866599.jpg

    https://cdn.lavoz.com.ar/sites/default/files/styles/width_1072/public/nota_periodistica/Rescate-Neuquen-4_1560866599.jpg

  20. The pictures of the supreme religious leaders of Iran touring the centrifuge plant and missile batteries comes to mind.

  21. This Pope has a socialist past. Climate change movement is all about global socialism. Bit of a link there, huh? Fortunately this Pope is not my conduit to God in spite of my Catholic upbringing. The climate change that this Earth is experiencing is God’s work and has been for 4+ billion years.

  22. I pray for the days when advocacy groups don’t run science into the ditch along with the Vatican and political leadership.

    It was a long wait during the Dark Ages and during the Soviet years.

  23. The encyclical also seems to have been quickly forgotten.

    The encyclicals are not intended for the faithfuls but Media.

  24. There is probably no God, but if there is, it would be better if He was on our side.

    “He” doesn’t sound very “woke”

  25. The church needs to realize that the climate change we have been experiencing is caused by the sun and oceans over which mankind has no control. Global climate is entirely God’s province. Population wise mankind has already multiplied and subdued the Earth and we are now trying to kill it. Many animal species are having trouble with extreme habitat loss. Human population control is what is needed to make mankind good stewards of the Earth. Population control is something the Church can get behind and help with.

    • “Human population control is what is needed to make mankind good stewards of the Earth. ”

      Ah yes, the ‘final solution’ that underlies ‘progressive’ thinking….

      Any bets on how long before a massive cull of humanity (world war) is initiated to bring about that result?

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