The fact that greater promises came from the G7 countries (without specifics) and pointed religious pleas from the Pope are at the forefront of our news show we are running out of time. These pronouncements indicate the growing fear of the world’s leaders that not enough is being done to respond to climate change. It marks an effort by those concerned about the rising temperatures of the world to drown out the climate deniers who have so far successfully blocked meaningful progress to limit the use of fossil fuels.
In rapid-fire succession on June 8, 2015 the G7 nations (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom and United States) agreed and announced a target of reducing greenhouse emissions to 70% of 2010 levels by 2050 to help the world achieve its climate goals. In a very short number of days, on June 18, 2015, the Pope released his climate change “Encyclical”, a wide-ranging document that called for immediate progress on Climate Change.
It is easy to be critical of both efforts, those of the G7 and the Pope. The G7 objective can be criticized as not as ambitious as it sounds. Both the United States and the United Kingdom have already announced cuts that would be bigger. The United States committed to an 83% cut of greenhouse gas emissions based on 2005 levels by 2050 and the U.K. has said it will reduce emissions by 80% of 1990 levels by mid century.
This criticism ignores that the G7 objective commits Japan and Canada to major cuts. Both countries have been identified as laggards and have here-to-fore not lined up to fight climate change. This agreement at least gets both countries committed to progress in controlling global warming.
Detractors further cited the International Energy Agency (IEA) that recently stated the present agreement only provides the planet another 8 months of runway compared to projected increases in the absence of these reductions. The IEA observed that the present commitments will only keep the world’s temperature under the 2° C objective until approximately 2040 when it will continue rising. Unless further progress is made, the world’s temperature is estimated to rise to a minimum of 2.6° C.
The Pope’s climate change Encyclical can be criticized by detractors as taking the Catholic Church into an issue that is primarily political and not religious. It can also be said to be an opportunistic move to attack capitalism’s profit motive, a rich country refusal to help the world’s poor and various plans for cap and trade systems.
These criticisms aside, the Pope’s Encyclical does reiterate the scientific conclusions that the temperatures of the world are rising, climate change is the cause and mankind’s commitment to burning fossil fuels is the major contributing cause of climate change. It is useful to remember that the Pope’s college training is in chemistry. The hope is that the Pope’s position, if not silencing the opposition, will cause the deniers to keep their doubts to themselves. The hope is that it will move deniers out of the way of meaningful progress to slow climate change.
A recent article appearing in the Guardian on June 18, 2015 states, “Even among Catholics in the US, views on global warming are sharply divided along political lines. A recent survey by Pew Research showed that Catholic Republicans view the nearly universally accepted scientific facts with deep skepticism.”
The article continued, “Overall, the survey found that 71% of US Catholics believe the earth is warming, and about half (47%) believe humans are the cause and it is a serious problem. But while eight in 10 Catholic Democrats say that there is solid evidence that global warming is real, only about half of Catholic Republicans agree. Far fewer – just a quarter of Catholic Republicans – believe that global warming is caused by humans.”
It is hoped the Pope’s Encyclical will help convince the bulk of the world’s Catholics to support the steps necessary to make progress on climate change. There is common belief the Pope’s pronouncements will constructively lead to what needs to be done.
This does not obscure that the world is not making enough meaningful change to keep us at or under the scientific goal of keeping our average world temperature rise to less than 2° Celsius. Many scientists believe that if nothing changes we are on a course to go up to or over 4° Celsius by the end of the century. When speaking about the G7 goals Jennifer Morgan, director of the global climate programme of the World Resources Institute said that hitting the 2° Celsius target would depend on how quickly reductions could be implemented.
She said, “It totally depends on the pace of decarburization. You either need to be there by 2050 for CO2 and a bit later for all greenhouse gases if you want a high chance of staying below the 2C. If you’re up for a 66% chance then you go longer out into the century.”
We are still waiting for actual action to show a worldwide, united approach to climate change. After all it has been 18 years since the last formal world “agreement” to limit climate change. Some progress has been made as a result of Obama’s actions but much more needs to be done by the politicians who claim they are running things. So far, in my mind the European Union has been the clear leader in making progress to limit climate change. However, everyone needs to do more.
Use the following links to gain further information of the Pope’s Encyclical or the G7 commitments or see the source documents used to prepare this article.