Why is it important for Catholics to remain active in climate advocacy?
Catholics involved in issues of climate change know that some of our brothers and sisters are worried about the engagement of eco-issues — climate change in particular.
And so the following four points are offered to help explain why so many of us are active in climate advocacy.
First, we know that gases like carbon dioxide are supposed to be in the atmosphere. They help keep the planet warm enough for life by trapping just the right amount of the sun’s heat. Add more of them, and you retain more heat — just as if you were adding more blankets on your bed, or more clothing on a biting winter’s day.
We know that carbon dioxide levels fluctuate naturally over time. And as they do, the world’s temperatures have also fluctuated — up and down as levels of carbon dioxide go up and down.
We know that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are at the highest they’ve been in some 800,000 years — and that this spike has taken place only in the past century.
We also know that this rise in carbon dioxide is a result of the burning of fuels like gas, oil and coal.
And finally, we know that with carbon dioxide levels up this high, the resulting increases in thermal energy in our oceans and air will become noticeable.
Which brings us to the second point.
Global sea levels are on the rise. Here in our corner of the United States, sea levels are up by about a foot in the last century.
Rainfall intensities are increasing, too — not the number of storms, but how much water vapor they can pull from a warmer atmosphere.
Around the world, farmers and the fishing industry are seeing changes in growing seasons and fishery habitats — all thanks to periods of overall warmer weather and a measurable increase in sea temperatures.
Areas in the Pacific are seeing trends in stronger typhoons as other areas are experiencing trends in severe droughts.
All this, and more, is what the laws of nature tell us can happen when you increase the atmospheric levels of heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide.
Third, businesses are concerned.
About six years ago, I heard a talk by an engineer from a global insurance company. Turns out they were doing their own checking on climate change. The engineer put on a captivating data display about why his company was planning for higher insurance claims from a changing, warmer climate.
More recently, dozens of big companies have been urging President Trump to remain in an international climate agreement forged almost two years ago. The companies — like Schneider Electric, Nike, General Mills, Hewlett Packard, and Hilton — are already planning for a profitable business plan in a world fueled by renewable energy. Breaking the agreement, they say, would only hurt American competitiveness.
Lastly, for Catholics, climate change advocacy isn’t about politics.
Many of my Catholic brothers and sisters fear that the Church is being duped by leftist advocates of abortion, artificial contraception and other modern realities spawned in a culture of death.
But as explained by Saint John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, the Church enters eco issues armed with Christ’s Gospel and his life-giving grace. We enter the world of climate advocacy to baptize it, and so make it an authentic battle for life.
The fight for a cleaner world is not a political battle. It is a spiritual one. And we cannot be afraid to fight on that front.
In other words, with our Catholic DNA of faith and reason, held together with charity and truth, we are bound by love of Christ to nurture a more virtuous world that embraces sacrifice, temperance, and justice so that we can provide to the generations to come a planet as rich, healthy and stable as the one God gave to us to care for.
William Patenaude, M.A., KHS, is an engineer with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management and is a member of the Diocesan Pastoral Council. He is a parishioner of Saint Joseph Parish, West Warwick, and writes at CatholicEcology.net.