Monday, June 22, 2015

What Would Pope Francis Do?

The Holy Father doesn’t give carbon credits or air conditioners his imprimatur.  He favors a legally binding climate treaty tailored to the needs of the poor.  And he has guidance on natural gas, boycotts, and paying the social costs of carbon.

Pope Francis's June 18 encyclical on climate and the environment reveals his deep preference for personal acts over institutional endeavors, a horror of consumerism, and a profound mistrust of carbon markets. (Credit: Mazur/ Click to Enlarge.
Fifty-five paragraphs into his wide-ranging encyclical on the global environment and the climate crisis, Pope Francis arched an ecclesiastical eyebrow at how much air conditioning you are using.

"People may well have a growing ecological sensitivity," he wrote, "but it has not succeeded in changing their harmful habits of consumption which, rather than decreasing, appear to be growing all the more.  A simple example is the increasing use and power of air-conditioning.  The markets, which immediately benefit from sales, stimulate ever greater demand.  An outsider looking at our world would be amazed at such behavior, which at times appears self-destructive."

This passing thought is one of many passages to include an explicit or an implied instruction from Francis to his flock.

It reveals a deep preference for personal acts over institutional endeavors, a horror of consumerism and a yearning for moderation, a profound mistrust of markets and the profit motive.

The Pope may come under fire from dug-in ideologues who say that coal is the path to salvation from poverty, or politicians who like to quote Genesis to serve their purposes.

But his message will also engender some serious soul-searching among disciples who simply want to understand what they are supposed to do.

Won't the world's poor, already afflicted by deadly heat waves, need better air conditioning in an increasingly inhumane climate?  Is there anything wrong with an air conditioning that runs on wind and solar power (and responsible refrigerants)?  Is there nothing righteous in government efficiency standards and subsidies, thermostats and net-zero building codes?

Read more at What Would Pope Francis Do?

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