GLOBAL WARMING - GLOBAL WARNING
This week, the text of Pope Francis' letter on the environment was released. It is entitled, rather poetically, "Laudato Sii," or "Be Praised." I am reminded of the Jewish teaching that we are God's partners in protecting the world God has bequeathed to us.
"In this encyclical," he writes, "I intend especially to engage in a dialogue with everyone about our common home." With these soothing words the Pope goes on to declare, "Numerous scientific studies indicate that most of the global warming of the past decades is due to the concentration of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxide and others), emitted especially because of human activities."
While it is not unusual for a pope to issue such encyclicals on the environment-Pope Paul VI did so over 50 years ago, as has every pope thereafter-many in the environmental community have eagerly awaited this Pope's words. Why?
Because the Pope has addressed a topic that has become quite controversial over the decades, especially in the US. In an effort to forestall EPA limitation on burning coal and oil, various interests have mounted an attack on the science behind global warming.
Initially, the idea that global warming science was somehow wrong was cynically fostered by Chevron Oil, just as the US tobacco industry once vigorously contested the fact that cigarettes cause cancer. Chevron actually conceded several years ago that global warming is a result of human activity, specifically the burning of carbon fuels.
Unfortunately, a certain class of US political activists refuses to concede the point. According to news reports, they were infuriated when Pope Francis made it known earlier that he would issue a new environmental encyclical.
I find it particularly fascinating that certain interests cling fanatically to an outdated and discredited ideological pseudo-scientific doctrine, almost "religiously," and that they are now challenged by the most important faith leader in the world to accept the truth of scientific inquiry.
What does this irony say about those fanatics who, despite the evidence, defend their positions so vehemently?
Rigidity in thought, as in almost every other aspect of human life, ends up harming the world we live in. What is more, the Pope's words teach us that science and faith do not need to be in conflict.
What a privilege it is to live in a world where the Pope has become a thought leader, who challenges those who reject scientific evidence! May all people-whether people of faith, or science, or both-join together in protecting our earth from the terrors of global warming.
Rabbi Steven L Silver, DD