THE LATEST: Obama welcomes pope's call for climate action

AP News
|
Posted: Jun 18, 2015 3:48 PM
THE LATEST: Obama welcomes pope's call for climate action

9:45 p.m. (1945 GMT, 3:45 p.m. EDT)

President Barack Obama says he hopes world leaders will consider Pope Francis' plea for bold action to curb climate change, ahead of the United Nations climate talks in December in Paris.

In the teaching document, the pope chastised international lawmakers for failing to adopt effective, long-term policies that would protect the environment and help those who suffer most from global warming.

"We have a profound responsibility to protect our children, and our children's children, from the damaging impacts of climate change. I believe the United States must be a leader in this effort," Obama said in a statement.

Though the president has taken steps to address the issue using the power of his office, his efforts have met with resistance from Republican lawmakers in Congress.

Francis will be making his first trip to the U.S. in September, starting in Washington, where he will meet with Obama and address a joint session of Congress.

"As we prepare for global climate negotiations in Paris this December, it is my hope that all world leaders — and all God's children — will reflect on Pope Francis's call to come together to care for our common home," Obama said.

____

6:20 p.m. (1620 GMT, 12:20 p.m. EDT)

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who has made the issue of climate change his top priority since taking the reins of the world body 8½ years ago, thanked Pope Francis "for taking such a strong stand on the need for urgent global action."

"His moral voice is part of a growing chorus of people from all faiths and all sectors of society (who) are speaking out for climate action," Ban told reporters. "I urge all the governments to place the global common good above national interests and to adopt an ambitious, universal climate agreement in Paris this year."

Ban said that during his meeting with the pope at the Vatican in April "we discussed the need for all humankind to come together to address climate change, one of the principal challenges facing the human community."

"Pope Francis and I agree that climate change is a moral issue that requires collective urgent actions. It is an issue of social justice, human rights and fundamental ethics. People everywhere share a responsibility to care for and protect our common home, our one and only planet Earth."

Ban said: "We must do far more to help the poorest and most vulnerable members of society who are suffering most from climate impact yet have the least to do with causing the problem. We must also show solidarity with generations that will follow ours and bequeath to them a sustainable world."

____

6:20 p.m. (1620 GMT, 12:20 p.m. EDT)

The leading global warming skeptic in the U.S. Congress says he disagrees with Pope Francis on climate change.

The pope issued a teaching document, or encyclical, that blames global warming on an unfair, fossil fuel-based industrial model that harms the poor most.

Republican Sen. James Inhofe chairs the Senate Environment Committee. Inhofe says he worries the pope's encyclical will be used by "alarmists" to push policies that will lead to a big tax increase.

Inhofe has called global warming a hoax. He says poor people spend the most disposable income on heating their homes and will "carry the heaviest burden" of policies intended to phase out fossil fuels such as coal and oil.

____

5:40 p.m. (1540 GMT, 11:40 a.m. EDT)

As Pope Francis issued his warning on global warming, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released figures showing that last month was the hottest May in 136 years of global records.

And the first five months of 2015 were by far the hottest year so far on record, on pace to beat last year's record.

"It was the warmest May on record, about a degree and a half warmer than the 20th-century average," said Deke Arndt, head of climate monitoring for NOAA. It was unusually hot all over the world, including 7 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than average in Alaska.

May also saw a heat wave that killed at least 2,200 people in India. It is the fifth deadliest heat wave in recent records, according to the International Disaster Database.

____

4:45 p.m. (1445 GMT, 10:45 a.m. EDT)

The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops says Pope Francis' encyclical is a call for global and national action to protect the environment and for a moral analysis of economic policy.

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, says "it's marching orders for advocacy — and I think the bishops ... and others have done that for many years."

Noting the U.S. bishops' lobbying on environmental protection, and the pastoral statements they've issued, one of which the pope quoted in the encyclical, he said "it really brings about a new urgency for us."

Ahead of the encyclical's release, some politically conservative Catholics, including Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush, said the issue was about policy and economics, not faith.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington, says the encyclical wasn't a directive from Francis to people in politics or business that "you must do this."

Wuerl says, "That doesn't appear in the document. He is saying, 'Here is the moral frame of reference. I would like that everyone would work together on this so we individually can get together and say what could we do?'"

___

4:04 p.m. (1404 GMT, 10:04 a.m. EDT)

Not only environmental activists and renewable energy advocates are celebrating Pope Francis' strong message on climate change. Even the coal industry found something they like.

The World Coal Association highlighted the pope's emphasis on helping the poor as a crucial part of the fight against climate change.

WCA chief executive Benjamin Sporton told AP that to address the developing needs of poor countries, "we need to have affordable reliable energy, and coal is a key part of achieving that."

He disagreed with some environmental groups who interpreted the pope as saying fossil fuels need to be phased out, seeing it instead as "a call to address emissions."

The encyclical says high-polluting technologies based on fossil fuels — "especially coal, but also oil and, to a lesser degree, gas" need to be progressively replaced. But it also says that until renewable energy sources are widely accessible, "it is legitimate to choose the lesser of two evils to find short-term solutions."

Sporton says, "The way I'd interpret that is we need to use the best technology that we have available with the lowest emissions. There are many countries that will continue to use coal in the future so we need to help them use the best coal technology that is available."

___

2:27 p.m. (1227 GMT), 8:27 a.m. EDT)

The World Bank says the pope's encyclical is a "stark reminder" of the link between climate change and poverty.

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim says climate change impacts, "including the increased frequency of extreme weather events, are most devastating for the unacceptably high number of people today living in extreme poverty."

He says that over the past 30 years weather-related disasters killed more than 2.5 million people and resulted in almost $4 trillion in damage.

"As the effects of climate change worsen, we know that escaping poverty will become even more difficult," he said. "Climate change also poses a direct risk to the hard-earned development gains over past decades."

___

1:57 p.m. (1157 GMT), 7:57 a.m. EDT)

Climate activists in the Philippines have expressed relief that Pope Francis has joined their fight against global warming.

More than a dozen activists marched 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) from a historic park to a Roman Catholic church in Manila to show their support.

Rodne Galicha, one of the marchers, says: "The pope alone cannot solve the climate crisis. He'll make a difference as a charismatic global figure but there has to be collective action by Catholics and by world leaders. It's a difficult battle."

His group will help gather between 10 million to 20 million signatures across the Philippines, Asia's largest Roman Catholic nation where Francis was welcomed with rock-star intensity in January, to call for drastic actions, including substantial reduction in carbon emissions, ahead of the climate negotiations in France.

The Rev. John Leydon, an Irish priest in Manila, said he was happy that the pope's encyclical could help drive home the urgency of climate change amid skepticism by some doubters.

Leydon told the AP: "Sometimes, you feel like a voice in the wilderness." But with the pope's encyclical, he says he "felt like Christmas had come early."

___

1:34 p.m. (1134 GMT), 7:34 a.m. EDT)

Cardinal Peter Turkson, whose Vatican office penned the first draft of the pope's encyclical, has a word for those Republicans and climate doubters in the U.S. who say the pope should stay away from science.

Turkson acknowledged the pope isn't a scientist (though Francis did work as a chemist in his native Argentina before entering the seminary). But Turkson said that shouldn't bar him from talking about science or consulting with scientists to make pronouncements about important issues.

And he wondered out loud if those same politicians who are criticizing the pope, "without being scientists," would themselves refrain from talking about science.

Last week, U.S. Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum, a devout Catholic who says he loves the pope, urged Francis to "leave science to the scientists" and stop talking about global warming.

Another U.S. Republican Catholic presidential candidate, Jeb Bush, said such a political issue had no place in faith.

___

1:14 p.m. (1114 GMT), 7:14 a.m. EDT)

Andrew Steer, president of the World Resources Institute, a Washington-based environmental think tank, expects the pope's encyclical to have an important impact in the U.S. where "there are many Catholics who currently have not been supporters of climate action."

Steer told the AP that the Bible has plenty of references to protecting the Earth and its resources, "so it's really ludicrous that some are saying he shouldn't deal with this issue. The church has been dealing with this issue for centuries."

He predicted that "the climate deniers who are Catholics in the United States, they are going to lose this battle."

Steer was part of a climate commission that met Pope Francis in the Vatican three weeks ago.

___

12:58 p.m. (1058 GMT, 06:58 a.m. EDT)

The scientist credited with coming up with the goal of keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees F) says Pope Francis' science is on target.

Speaking at the launch of the encyclical, John Schellnhuber said everything in it "is in line with the scientific evidence. This is very gratifying."

In his presentation, Schellnhuber illustrated how the earth has warmed over the course of history. He discounted as a "myth" claims that a growing population in the developing world is responsible for destroying the environment.

Addressing an issue that is particularly dear to the Vatican, since it gets into questions of birth control, he said: "This utterly wrong, actually. It's not poverty that destroys the environment. It's wealth, consumption and waste. And this is reflected in the encyclical."

___

12:38 p.m. (1038 GMT), 6:38 a.m. EDT)

The Church of England has praised the papal encyclical on climate change, describing it as a compelling document that is not just good for Roman Catholics but everyone on the planet.

The church's spokesman on environmental issues, Bishop of Salisbury Nicholas Holtam, described climate change as one of the great moral challenges of our times.

He said Pope Francis has underscored how the consumption of the wealthy nations has repercussions in poorer ones, and that what is "bad for our neighbors is also bad for us."

He says churches and other faith communities "have a unique power to mobilize people for the common good and change attitudes and behaviors." He called on leaders to achieve ambition and binding climate change agreements.

___

12:26 p.m. (1026 GMT), 6:26 a.m. EDT)

Environmental groups are heaping praise on the pope for stressing many of the points they have been making for years, including that the world's poor will suffer the most from climate change.

WWF International President Yolanda Kakabadse says the pope's message "adds a much-needed moral approach" to the debate on climate change, which "affects the lives, livelihoods and rights of everyone, especially the poor, marginalized and most vulnerable communities."

Rhea Suh of the Natural Resources Defense Council says the pope is "imploring people of good will everywhere to honor our moral obligation to protect future generations from the dangers of further climate chaos by embracing our ethical duty to act."

Greenpeace leader Kumi Naidoo emphasized passages in the encyclical calling for policies that reduce carbon emissions, including by replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy. He said that's "a crystal-clear call on responsible investors, CEOs and political leaders to step up the pace of the clean energy revolution."

___

12:12 p.m. (1012 GMT), 6:12 a.m. EDT)

The U.N.'s top climate official, Christiana Figueres, calls the pope's encyclical a "clarion call" that should guide world leaders to a "strong and durable" climate agreement in Paris at the end of the year.

The deal will be the first time all countries, both rich poor, agree to take climate action. But experts say the climate targets pledged so far won't suffice to keep global warming below 2 degrees C (3.6 F), the goal of the U.N. talks.

Figueres has long been arguing that transitioning to a low-carbon economy makes economic sense and has been trying to get corporate leaders aboard.

Welcoming the pope's message, she said that "coupled with the economic imperative, the moral imperative leaves no doubt that we must act on climate change now."

___

12:03 p.m. (1003 GMT, 6:03 a.m. EDT)

Pope Francis' much-anticipated encyclical on the environment has now been launched. With it he's trying to recast the environmental debate in moral terms and indicts big business and climate doubters in the process.

He calls for a bold cultural revolution to correct the "structurally perverse" economic system of the rich exploiting the poor that is turning Earth into an "immense pile of filth."

The encyclical "Laudato Si" (Praise Be) aims to spur courageous action in U.N. climate negotiations and in daily life.

Francis explains the science of global warming and blames the phenomenon on a manifestly unfair, fossil fuel-based industrial model that harms the poor most. He urges Catholics and non-believers alike to undergo an awakening to protect God's creation for future generations, saying the world needs nothing short of new concept of progress.

___

11:52 a.m. (0952 GMT, 5:52 a.m. EDT)

The official launch of Pope Francis' environment encyclical is historic for reasons other than the text itself: It marks the first time that a high-ranking official from the Orthodox Church has presented a document of the pope.

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, says it is "a sign of great ecumenical hope" that Metropolitan of Pergamon John Zizioulas, a leading theologian in the Greek Orthodox Church, was sent by the spiritual leader of Orthodox Christians, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, to represent him.

Bartholomew has been at the forefront of Christian leaders in drawing attention to the need to care for God's creation, and Francis dedicated two paragraphs of the encyclical to Bartholomew's work.

Zizioulas said he was honored to be part of the "historic" presentation but awed by the number of journalists on hand. "May God help me and protect me," he quipped, to laughter.

___

11:36 a.m. (0936 GMT, 5:36 a.m. EDT)

The Vatican spokesman says that in the 25 years that he has worked there, he has never seen as much prolonged, global and intense anticipation for a single document as with the release of Pope Francis' environment encyclical.

The Rev. Federico Lombardi started a news conference to launch "Laudato Si" (Praise Be) that "clearly humanity has wanted to hear the word of the pope, considering it important and timely."

The news conference was packed, and held in a Vatican audience hall rather than the normal press briefing room to accommodate the crowds.

Lombardi said: "On this day we feel the universal church united with the pope."

Over the past month, the Vatican sent bishops around the world preparatory documents to help them explain the issue to their flocks. Two days ago, Francis sent a copy of the encyclical itself to each bishop, along with a hand-written letter introducing it.

___

10:40 a.m. (0840 GMT, 4:40 a.m. EDT)

The Vatican is launching Pope Francis' environment encyclical with a high-level press conference aimed at inspiring action from people of all faiths and no faith at all to combat climate change.

Speakers are expected to include Cardinal Peter Turkson, whose Vatican office penned the first draft of the document.

Joining him will be Metropolitan of Pergamon John Zizioulas, a leading theologian in the Greek Orthodox Church, which has prioritized protecting God's creation.

German scientist John Schellnhuber, an atheist, is credited with coming up with the goal to keep global warming from increasing by 2 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels.

Economist Carolyn Woo is head of Catholic Relief Services, the overseas humanitarian agency of the U.S. church.