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Papal encyclical to save Planet

Pope Francis

The following detailed analysis is the transcript of an address I was recently invited to give to a Catholic women’s college at a top Australian university. I believe it would be useful reading for many people with backgrounds ranging from the Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Islam and Judaism), Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Hinduism and shamanism to secular humanism.

Pope Francis’ landmark, faith- and science-informed Encyclical “ Laudato si” (“Praise be”) runs to over 190 pages and has 246 sections but the humane essence for a climate change-threatened world can be summarized by his extraordinary use of some key terms.

Jesus Christ-informed, science-informed and indeed scientifically- and specifically chemically-trained Pope Francis in his landmark 2015 Encyclical Letter “Laudato si” shows great moral and technical leadership in stark contrast to the frozen, spin-driven, pro-One Percenter leadership of the First World in:

(1) recognizing the worsening existential threat of a man-made climate change “catastrophe” for the Biosphere, Humanity, the poor and future generations;

(2) recognizing that millions of “premature deaths” (avoidable deaths) already occur each year due to pollution and poverty;

(3) demanding urgent action to start slashing fossil fuel burning and replacing it with renewable energy “in the next few years”;

(4) asserting that the environmental and social costs of pollution must be “fully borne” by those incurring them (i.e. a full Carbon Price);

(5) asserting that a market-based Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) approach may simply become a “ploy” to permit continuing pollution; and

(6) advocating individual and collective action through “boycotts” of those responsible for the worsening climate emergency.

Pope Francis’ assertions are in full agreement with the opinions of relevant scientific experts that I have summarized in a number of key websites that you can readily access by Google Searching the titles in parentheses. Thus:

(1) Re Pope Francis’ climate change “catastrophe”, it is now very unlikely that the world will avoid a catastrophic 2 degrees Centigrade temperature rise. The world may have only 3 years left at current rates of pollution before it exceeds a Terminal Carbon Budget that must not be exceeded if we are to have a 75% chance of avoiding a catastrophic 2C temperature rise. Australia used up its fair share of this Terminal Carbon Budget in 2011. Indeed paleoclimatologists, climate scientists, glaciologists and ice sheet scientists inform us that over 90% of extra heat in recent decades has gone into the ocean, the equilibrium consequence of 400 parts per million CO2 in the atmosphere is a sea level rise of 20 metres, all Arctic summer sea ice may be gone within a decade, and the present worsening situation means a several metre sea level rise in the coming century with the real threat of non-linear changes, tipping points and relatively sudden catastrophic changes. Increased temperature has already contributed to increased sea level, storm intensity, flooding and droughts i.e. climate catastrophe has already arrived for Island Nations, mega-delta nations like Bangladesh and desert countries like those of the Sahel (Google “Are we doomed?” and “Too late to avoid global warming catastrophe”).

(2) Re Pope Francis’ “premature deaths” from poverty and climate change, the 3 key existential threats facing Humanity are nuclear weapons, climate change and poverty. Nuclear weapons can destroy all of Humanity. Already each year about 0.5 million people die from climate change, and 7 million die from air pollution. In Australia about 100 people die annually from heat stress and about 10,000 die from carbon burning pollutants, the breakdown being 5,000 (coal burning) , 2,000 (vehicle exhaust) and 3,000 (other burning). Poverty kills and each year about 17 million people (half of them children) die avoidably (prematurely) from deprivation or deprivation–exacerbated disease and 1.5 billion people have died thus since 1950. 10 billion people may perish thus this century if climate change is not requisitely addressed (Google “Climate Genocide”, “Nuclear weapons ban, end poverty & reverse climate change” and my book “Global avoidable mortality since 1950’).

(3) Re Pope Francis’ proposed massive decarbonisation “in the next few years”; the world has already effectively run out of time to avoid a plus 2 degrees Centigrade catastrophe. The World needs to (a) change societal philosophy to one of scientific risk management, biological sustainability and Christ-like social humanism with complete cessation of species extinctions, and zero tolerance for lying; (b) urgently reduce atmospheric CO2 to a safe, pre-Industrial Revolution level of about 300 ppm CO2 as recommended by leading climate and biological scientists; and (c) effect a rapid switch to the best non-carbon and genuinely renewable energy (solar, wind, geothermal, wave, tide and hydro options that are currently roughly the same market price as coal burning-based power and much cheaper if the true cost of coal burning is “fully borne”) and to energy efficiency, public transport, needs-based production, re-afforestation and return of carbon as biochar to soils coupled with correspondingly rapid cessation of fossil fuel burning, deforestation, methanogenic livestock production and population growth (the latter being disputed by Pope Francis). Unfortunately greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and atmospheric CO2 are remorselessly increasing, and World Bank analysts have recently re-assessed the World’s annual GHG pollution as 50% bigger than hitherto thought, with livestock contributing over 50% of the bigger figure (Google “2011 climate change course”, “300.org”, “300.org – return atmosphere CO2 to 300 ppm CO2”, “Cut carbon emissions 80% by 2020”, “100% renewable energy by 2020”, “Biofuel Genocide” and “Gas is not clean energy”).

(4) Re Pope Francis’ “fully borne” Carbon Price, Dr. Chris Hope from 90-Nobel-Laureate University of Cambridge estimates a damage-related Carbon Price of $150-$250 per tonne CO2-equivalent whereas in coal- and gas-rich Australia the Labor Opposition proposes a derisory, ETS-based Carbon Price of $7 per tonne CO2-equivalent and the “No Carbon Tax” Coalition Government insists on $0 per tonne CO2-equivalent, with both supporting unlimited coal, gas and iron ore exports that will see world-leading per capita GHG polluter Australia exceed the whole World’s Terminal Carbon Budget by a factor of 3. Applying a Carbon Price of US $200 per tonne CO2-equivalent, the World has an historical Carbon Debt of $540 trillion that is increasing at $20 trillion each year, and Australia has a Carbon Debt of $11 trillion that is increasing at $600 billion per year (increasing at about $60,000 each year per head for under-30 year old Australians) (Google “Carbon Debt Carbon Credit”).

(5) Re Pope Francis’ dismissal of Carbon Trading as a neoliberal “ploy”, the Cap and Trade, Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) approach (supported by the Australian Labor Opposition and many in the Coalition Government) has been empirically unsuccessful, is accordingly counterproductive, currently applies to only 12% of World GHG pollution, and is fraudulent in that it involves rich countries selling licences to pollute the one common atmosphere and ocean of all peoples (Google “Science & economics experts: Carbon Tax needed NOT Carbon Trading”, “Stop Climate Crime” and “Climate Justice & Intergenerational Equity”).

(6) Re Pope Francis’ assent to “boycotts”, people who care for Humanity, the Biosphere and future generations must (a) inform everyone they can, and (b) apply Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against all those disproportionately involved in GHG pollution and the effective climate change denialism of climate change inaction. There is now massive global divestment in fossil fuels (to avoid both Climate Genocide and investment yielding unusable “stranded assets”) (Google “Divest from fossil fuels”).

To conclude, Pope Francis’ “Laudato si” is a landmark, faith-, science- and humanity-informed call to urgent global action on climate change for Humanity and the Biosphere. It is now very likely that it is too late to avoid a catastrophic plus 2 degrees Centigrade temperature rise, but we are all obliged to do everything we can to make the future “less bad” than it otherwise will be for the Biosphere, our children and future generations.


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