Why scientists believe Pope Francis can save the planet

Pope Francis

As world political leaders meet to discuss climate policy, an influential science journal has argued that it is the moral leadership of organised religion that will be key to saving the world from environmental destruction, writes The Telegraph.

It has been one of the most fraught relationships of recent centuries, at least in the popular imagination.

But a group of scientists are pinning their hopes for the salvation of the planet, in the face of climate change and habitat destruction - on religion.

Their case, set out in an essay in the journal Science, is being described a “watershed moment” for scientists and faith leaders alike.

It argues that engaging religious leaders, rather than relying on politicians, could hold the key to mobilising billions of people around the world to change aspects of their lifestyles to help prevent catastrophic climate change.

The article singles out Pope Francis and the Roman Catholic Church, with its 1.2 billion-strong network of followers, as the key but calls for religious leaders of every stripe to be recruited.

It argues that religion can provide a unique combination of “moral leadership” and global organisational structures required to bring about practical changes which could have an immediate effect, such as providing millions of the world’s poorest people with cleaner forms of fuel.

It comes as Pope Francis finalises a widely anticipated papal encyclical on the environment, throwing the full weight of the Church behind efforts to limit climate change.

The article is co-authored by Prof Veerabhadran Ramanathan, a climate scientist at the University of California, San Diego, and Prof Sir Partha Dasgupta, an economist based at St John’s College, Cambridge.

They argue that the “invisible hand” of the market, the term coined by the philosopher and economist Adam Smith to describe how economies can regulate themselves, can never achieve the kind of change needed to protect the planet.

“The rise of market fundamentalism and the drive for growth in profits and gross domestic product (GDP) have encouraged behaviour that is at odds with pursuit of the common good,” they write.

“Finding ways to develop a sustainable relationship with nature requires not only engagement of scientists and political leaders, but also moral leadership that religious institutions are in a position to offer.”

Read full article: Scientists turn to Pope Francis and world’s religions to save the planet (The Telegraph)


Pursuit of the common good (Science magazine)

The Pope tackles sustainability (Science magazine)

The power of religion and prayer to head off climate disaster (The Guardian)

Vatican to UN Summit: Climate Change is man-made and man’s responsibility (Vatican Radio)

“The Right Climate for Development” (Vatican Radio)

Climate change not just science, it’s an issue of human dignity Vatican Secretary of State warns UN summit (The Catholic Weekly)

UN Climate Summit: 4 things to know about the talks (CBS News)

Pope Francis, Catholic Church Key To Climate Change Effort (International Business Times)

Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga: Climate change major obstacle to poverty eradication (Caritas)

Climate, Faith and Hope: Faith traditions together for a common future (Interfaith Summit on Climate Change)

Cardinal Pell: One Christian Perspective on Climate Change (Archdiocese of Sydney, 2011)

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