September 11, 2017; BBC
In less than three weeks, four major hurricanes have occurred in the Atlantic Ocean. Nevertheless, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Scott Pruitt, says this is not the time to talk about climate change and its effect on the storms. Pope Francis has a contradictory opinion: Climate change’s effects can now be seen “with your own eyes.”
Pruitt, who does not agree with scientists that have pointed to carbon dioxide as the major cause of climate change, told CNN that the EPA is focused on recovery, not the cause of the multitude of storms. However, the mayor of Miami, Tomás Regalado, agrees with Pope Francis. “This is the time to talk about climate change. This is the time that the president and the EPA and whoever makes decisions needs to talk about climate change,” the mayor said. Miami was partially underwater due to Hurricane Irma.
The nonprofit Union of Concerned Scientists issued a report in 2001 that looked at how climate change would affect the regions and states of the country. In the Texas section of “Confronting Climate Change in the Gulf Coast Region,” the report listed salt water intrusion into ground water and the increase in storm strength.
Hurricane intensity (maximum wind speeds, rainfall totals) could increase slightly with global warming, although changes in future hurricane frequency are uncertain. Even if storm frequencies and intensities remain constant, however, the damages from coastal flooding and erosion will increase as sea level rises.
Now, 16 years later, the area has continued to degrade. “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. Moreover, while the formation of hurricanes is complex, the Clausius-Clapeyron equation, an established law of physics, says that a hotter atmosphere holds more moisture. The atmosphere holds 7 percent more water for every degree Celsius the temperature rises.
“If we don’t go back, we will go down,” Pope Francis warned reporters on Monday on a flight back to Italy after a visit to Colombia. “That is true. 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.”
The pope made an allusion to one of the books of the Old Testament. “Man is a fool,” he said, “a stubborn man who will not see.” Reporters at Vox suggested this was a reference to Proverbs 12, a section of the Bible that calls those who do not adjust behavior as they gather knowledge “stupid.” Pope Francis is sure we are experiencing climate change and is concerned that it will affect the world’s poorest, most vulnerable people. He demonstrates little patience for the American president on this matter; President Trump withdrew from the Paris Agreement and continues to display doubt in anthropogenic climate change.
On September 1st, Francis released a joint statement with Eastern Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew condemning apathy toward environmental issues, criticizing “[our current] morally decaying scenario where our attitude and behavior toward creation obscures our calling as God’s co-operators.”
Our propensity to interrupt the world’s delicate and balanced ecosystems, our insatiable desire to manipulate and control the planet’s limited resources, and our greed for limitless profit in markets—all these have alienated us from the original purpose of creation. We no longer respect nature as a shared gift; instead, we regard it as a private possession. We no longer associate with nature in order to sustain it; instead, we lord over it to support our own constructs.
The statement continues the pope’s efforts towards respect for the planet. In 2015, he issued an encyclical on the environment, Laudato Sì.
“Those who deny [climate change] should go to the scientists and ask them,” the Pope said on the plane from South America. “They are very clear, very precise.”—Marian Conway