Vermont Public Radio comment for Thursday April 30th, 2015


INTRO: When he visits this country in September, Pope Francis will be carrying a message that will put him on a collision course with America’s climate change deniers. Commentator and veteran ABC News diplomatic correspondent Barrie Dunsmore suggests this just might be a game changer.



TEXT: Two days ago, the Vatican hosted a summit meeting of the Pope’s top environmental advisers, the head of the United Nations, religious leaders of different faiths, Nobel laureates and respected climate change scientists. This was the latest step in Pope Francis’ campaign to take up the battle against climate change.

 In June, the Pope plans to issue an encyclical dealing with environmental degradation and its impact on the poor. An encyclical is one of the highest forms of papal communications to the church. The Vatican has signaled that this one will frame the debate in moral and religious terms. And it will call for a sweeping new agreement to cut global warming carbon emissions, at the next U.N. environmental conference in Paris in December.

Pope Francis will personally enter the fray in September when he speaks to the United Nations General Assembly- and – when he addresses a joint meeting of the United States Congress.

House Speaker John Boehner caused the White House great angst, when he invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to Congress, in opposition to the Iran nuclear talks. So it’s ironic that the Speaker’s invitation to have the Pope speak to Congress, may bring him more grief than the Netanyahu invitation.

Most Republican members of Congress claim not to believe that global warming is largely man- made. And at last count, of the dozen or so Republicans running, or thinking about running for the 2016 presidential nomination, none is so far willing to admit that climate change has been scientifically proven.


So it's no surprise that Pope Francis is already under attack from those who evidently fear his intervention on this subject. The Heartland Institute, is partly funded by the billionaire Koch brothers, who consider any mandatory action to deal with climate change, bad for business. Heartland’s president Joseph Bast said in a statement, “Though Pope Francis’ heart is surely in the right place, he would do his flock and the world a disservice by putting his moral authority behind the United Nations unscientific agenda on the climate.”

The conservative writer Maureen Mullarkey was much less gentle. According to the Times she wrote, “Francis sullies his office by using demagogic formulations to bully the populace into reflexive climate action.”

Thirty percent of the members of Congress, including John Boehner, are Roman Catholics, the largest single religious group. When it comes to climate change issues, it remains to be seen what impact the Pope’s passionate pleas will have, not just on their votes but on their consciences.

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