One Month Later: The Top 3 Reactions to Pope Francis’ Encyclical on Climate Change
There was quite a buzz, even in the secular world, when Pope Francis’s Encyclical on Climate Change was released mid-June. This type of publication from the Catholic Church was groundbreaking for two main reasons: 1) It’s the most dramatic statement made by the Catholic Church to date regarding climate change and, 2) It openly recognized that climate change is caused by humans.
So, how has the public reacted to the Pope’s call for sweeping reform to combat global warming? The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Guardian, and many others published reactions and opinions on the topic. We scanned the airways for the top 3 most popular responses:
1. Overwhelming support for the Pope’s call-to-action
Many were thrilled to hear this type of activism coming from the most prominent figure in the Catholic religion and in the most prominent form of declarations. President Obama stated he “deeply admire(s) the Pope's decision to make the case - clearly, powerfully, and with the full moral authority of his position - for action on global climate change.” The Dalai Lama showed his support by calling the encyclical “wonderful” while inspiring other religious leaders to “speak out about current affairs which affect the future of mankind”. Social media conversations mirrored this admiration of the powerful message. Pope Francis even spawned a new motto for recent support rallies: “Many Faiths -- One Planet”.
2. Skepticism of the Pope’s scientific knowledge
On the other hand, some people wondered, "When did the Pope become a scientist?" The encyclical dives into the details behind global warming and how carbon emissions are melting ice caps and causing rising seas. Many posts and tweets criticized the Pope’s understanding of the chemistry behind greenhouse gas emissions, rising temperatures, and the negative effects on the planet. However, scientists agree that Pope Francis was correct in the majority of his scientific explanation. One even noted that Pope Francis actually downplayed the effects of carbon emissions on the planet. Interestingly enough, Pope Francis has a degree in chemistry, along with theology and philosophy.
3. Do we listen to the Government or the Church?
Finally, a popular reaction was confusion. A few people were unclear about which bucket climate change falls into when it comes to decision making. Many feel this is a political issue that policymakers and representatives should weigh in on, not religious leaders. The Pope’s view is that addressing climate change is a moral obligation and the encyclical is indeed addressed to “every person” on earth. Therefore, he believes it supersedes the government or the boardroom, and requires a totally “new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet.” Unsurprisingly, many government officials disagreed with this viewpoint, but others felt a global and moral message is very necessary.
It’s been a month and the conversation will only continue. Although controversial, there is no denying the significance of this publication and the ripple effect it’s created throughout the world. We look forward to seeing what type of changes this powerful statement will bring!