Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) are responsible for global warming, the long-term worldwide average warming experienced since the industrial revolution. GHGs arise from human use of fossil fuels for energy. Major emitters of GHGs include both industrialized countries and, in recent decades, developing countries as well. Higher global temperatures cause the extremes of hot and cold, and wet and dry, weather of recent years. This blog examines global warming and its effects.
See the Tabbed Pages for links to video tutorials, and a linked list of post titles grouped by topic.
This blog is expressly directed to readers who do not have strong training or backgrounds in science, with the intent of helping them grasp the underpinnings of this important issue. I'm going to present an ongoing series of posts that will develop various aspects of the science of global warming, its causes and possible methods for minimizing its advance and overcoming at least partially its detrimental effects.
Each post will begin with a capsule summary. It will then proceed with captioned sections to amplify and justify the statements and conclusions of the summary. I'll present images and tables where helpful to develop a point, since "a picture is worth a thousand words".
visited the United States in September 2015.He addressed the issue of global warming as a
worldwide concern on several occasions.He stressed that we have to begin now, acting in concert, to stabilize
the planet and improve our common home, the earth in its entirety.The need is great not only to protect the
environment for our children, but also as a matter of justice for today’s
peoples who are impoverished and cannot take action on their own to protect against
the damages from warming.
Both the Old and
New Testaments provide the basis for taking action; the moral foundation motivating
Pope Francis is drawn from the Golden Rule.Leaders of other religions also are calling for action at this time.
message, if taken to heart, can help inspire the world’s leaders to reach
agreement on climate action at the United Nations conference at the end of this
visited the U. S. in September 2015.He
repeated the need for the world to combat global warming in many of his appearances.Earlier, in June 2015, he issued his
encyclical “Laudato Si’, On Care for Our Common Home” ,
in which he laid out theological and ethical underpinnings for combating global
warming.A major theme is the biblical urging
that humanity should flourish by enjoying the bounties of the natural world, while
admonishing that we not exploit those resources for profit and wealth, to the
exclusion of others.
23, 2015, the
Pope visited President Obama at the White House.Addressing
the President in his speech, he stated, “accepting the urgency, it seems clear
to me … that climate change is a problem [that] can no longer be left to a
future generation….We are living at a critical moment of history.We still have time to make the change needed to bring about…sustainable
and integral development.”He went on to
say that we need to address the problem not only to improve the common home we
leave to our children, but also to enhance the lives of the many peoples living
today. He further stated “humanity has the ability to work together in building
our common home”.
addressed the U. S. Congress,
and other administration officials, on Sept. 24, 2015 (see image below).
Pope Francis addressing Congress as members give him a standing ovation. Source: New York Daily News
In his speech he expanded on the themes from the previous day.
repeatedly to passages drawn from his encyclical, the Pope stated
call for a courageous and responsible effort to ‘redirect our steps’, and to
avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by
human activity. I am convinced that we can make a difference and I have no
doubt that the United States – and this Congress – have an important
role to play. Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies, aimed at
implementing a ‘culture of care’ and ‘an integrated approach to combating
poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting
nature….We [can] limit and direct technology…to devise intelligent ways of…
developing and limiting our power’….”
The Pope recognized
the important role that business can play in this undertaking, since it “is a
noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving the world. It can be
a fruitful source of prosperity…, especially if it sees the creation of jobs as
an essential part of its service to the common good.”
Pope Francis additionally addressed the United Nations General Assembly convening for its deliberations on
Sustainability Development Goals, on Sept. 25, 2015.He addressed many themes of concern to him,
including climate change and environmental justice, stating “[a]ny harm done to
the environment, therefore, is harm done to humanity….A selfish and boundless
thirst for power and material prosperity leads both to the misuse of available
natural resources and to the exclusion of the weak and the disadvantaged”.
Can Pope Francis
speak to a scientific issue?Some might consider it unusual, or perhaps
even unwarranted, for a sitting pope to urge action on an issue so firmly
rooted in science as global warming is.
answer is that he can.Scientifically,
his early experience, now backed up by the resources of the Vatican, fully qualify him to state his
position.Early in his life he studied chemistry at a level corresponding to U. S. high school and early university training
.Perhaps this early exposure partly
informs his current concern about global warming.
But most important
is the central role played by clerical and lay scientists who are members of,
or associated with, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical
Academy of Social Sciences in preparing the encyclical “Laudato Si’” and
earlier Vatican publications on this subject.The input from both of these institutions
forms the foundation of the encyclical. It blends strong abhorrence over
unending exploitation of the earth’s fossil fuel resources (when speaking of
global warming), for the short-term gain of the businesses involved, with the
profound distinctions between developed societies and the impoverished peoples
of the world.
justify his position on global warming from an ethical point of view.The Pope feels that our exploitation of
resources degrades our “common home”; instead we should care for it for the
benefit of future generations.At the
same time concentrating the benefits of economic activity among developed
countries leaves the rest of the world without adequate defenses against the
harms from global warming, and without adequate resources to develop proactive
adaptations on their own to protect against future harms.
takes on global warming with grace and fortitude.Watching video replays of the Pope’s three appearances mentioned here,
one is struck by the combination of humility yet strong conviction with which
he confronts global warming.He speaks
in universal, ecumenical terms of the need for all humanity to engage in
fruitful dialog to limit further warming.His position is firmly grounded in the theology of the Old and New
Testaments, and on the ethics that flow from these texts.He starts from the Old Testament blessing on
humanity to prosper from our caring development of earth’s natural
bounties.He has repeatedly cautioned that
this easily lapses into the unsanctioned exploitation of those resources for
short term gain, profit and power.He
further bases his strong emphasis on social justice on the Golden Rule, found in
both the Old and New Testaments, to do unto others as we would have them do
unto us.Failure to attend to the needs
of the less fortunate clearly violates this Rule.
also support action on global warming.A large group of American Jewish rabbis is
distributing “A Rabbinic Letter on the Climate Crisis”
proclaiming similar principles, and calls to action, as the Pope.Likewise, an “Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change” has been issued
.It is a detailed exposition of both
the science underlying the global warming crisis and an exposition of the
foundations in the Qur’an for preserving the natural world from exploitation,
while promoting the welfare of humanity.
There are many
reasons to take action to address global warming and its damages.These include scientific, economic, political
and ethical bases for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to trends
already under way.
Pope Francis has
brought the moral force of his position as leader of the Roman Catholic Church
and, more widely, as a recognized force for justice in the world, to urge all humanity
to combat warming.He is joined in this
call to action by leaders of other religions, including Judaism and Islam.
All the nations of
the world must coalesce around this common objective.We must cast aside past parochial interests that
have prevailed to prevent action.The
next climate negotiations, the United Nations Conference of the Parties (i.e.,
all the members of the U. N.), will be held in two months in Paris.We
need to work at all levels to achieve the needed agreement at this Conference
to advance worldwide programs to limit emissions and promote thermal
stabilization of our common home.