Earlier in June, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, took the spiritual leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics to task, saying he should “leave science to the scientists and focus on what [he is] really good on, which is theology and morality. When we get involved with political and controversial scientific theories, then I think the church is probably not as forceful and credible.”
A Radical Message
The timing of the encyclical is not an accident. The pope is clearly hoping that it is read and reflected on before the United Nations climate change conference, which will be held in Paris in the late fall, and which he plans to attend. Francis will also address the UN General Assembly in New York City during its annual conclave of world leaders in September, during which governments are expected to commit to specific actions to moderate climate change.
The document will also urge residents of wealthy nations to re-examine their “throwaway” lifestyles, including massive food waste and runaway consumerism. And it says that it’s time for first-world nations to decrease growth and shift needed resources to the developing world. The encyclical labels the excessive burning of oil and gas “evil” and calls for a rapid shift to renewable energy. It also criticizes the use of carbon credits as a way to cut emissions, which Francis says leads to financial speculation instead of direct action to stop polluting.
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