A True Man of the People


The pontiff said the recent storms meant the effects of climate change could be seen "with your own eyes". There have been four major Atlantic hurricanes in less than three weeks. Hurricanes are complex, naturally occurring beasts - extremely difficult to predict, with or without the backdrop of rising global temperatures. The scientific reality of attributing a role to climate change in worsening the impact of hurricanes is also hard to tease out, simply because these are fairly rare events and there is not a huge amount of historical data. But there are some things that we can say with a good deal of certainty.

There's a well-established physical law, the Clausius-Clapeyron equation, that says that a hotter atmosphere holds more moisture. For every extra degree Celsius in warming, the atmosphere can hold 7% more water. This tends to make rainfall events even more extreme when they occur. Another element that we can mention with some confidence is the temperature of the seas. "The waters of the Gulf of Mexico are about 1.5 degrees warmer above what they were from 1980-2010," Sir Brian Hoskins from the Grantham Institute for Climate Change told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.


"That is very significant because it means the potential for a stronger storm is there, and with the contribution of global warming to the warmer waters in the Gulf, it's almost inevitable that there was a contribution to that."

Addressing climate change has fallen down the agenda since Donald Trump took power in January and it's unclear where Mr Trump stands on climate change today. Pope Francis, who is returning from a five day trip to Colombia, has no such doubts. He fears the impact of climate change will be hardest on the world's poorest residents, and has been openly critical of those who do not play their part in reducing its effects - including Mr Trump. His most recent comments could also be seen as a thinly veiled dig at the president. "If we don't go back we will go down," he warned reporters on Monday. "That is true. You can see the effects of climate change with your own eyes and scientists tell us clearly the way forward. "All of us have a responsibility. All of us. Some small, some big. A moral responsibility, to accept opinions, or make decisions. I think it is not something to joke about."

Francis is also not afraid to call out the powerful and hold them to account. While he does not directly address specific countries and their role in pollution or destruction of resources, his generalities are pointed. Developed countries ought to help “by significantly limiting their consumption of non-renewable energy and by assisting poorer countries to support policies and programmes of sustainable development.” He even hints that the United States has more moral responsibility because of its global wealth and power. “We must continue to be aware that, regarding climate change, there are differentiated responsibilities,” he says. “As the United States bishops have said, greater attention must be given to ‘the needs of the poor, the weak and the vulnerable, in a debate often dominated by more powerful interests.’”

He then quoted a phrase from the Old Testament: "Man is stupid, a stubborn, blind man..."

"Those who deny climate change should go to the scientists and ask them," the Pope said. "They are very clear, very precise."

Kemo D. 7

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