Editorial — The nature of climate change

It should be obvious to all of us by now that Mother Nature is fighting back.

After years of watching carbon emissions foul the air, years of logging in rainforests, of covering grasslands with concrete and removing mountain tops to reach the coal inside, it seems Mother Nature has had enough of mankind’s tomfoolery.

According to a July 2014 study by the Geneva-based World Meteorological Organization and reported by the Guardian newspaper in London, the world “is nearly five times as dangerous and disaster prone as it was in the 1970s.”

Why? “Because of the increasing risks brought by climate change,” the report concludes.

That same report noted that in the first decade of the 21st century, 3,496 natural disasters — from floods, storms, droughts and heat waves — were chronicled by the world’s meteorologists and environmental scientists. “That was nearly five times as many disasters as the 743 catastrophes reported during the 1970s,” the report said, adding that “all of those weather events are influenced by climate change.”

“The bottom line,” said the report, is that “natural disasters are occurring nearly five times as often as they were in the ’70s, but some disasters, such as floods and storms, pose a bigger threat than others.” And heat waves, the report said, “are an emerging killer.”

Heat waves didn’t even register as a threat in the 1970s, the scientists said, but by 2010 they were one of the leading causes of deaths among natural disasters, along with storms such as tornadoes and hurricanes. In Russia alone in 2010, more than 55,000 people died during a heat wave, according to the Geneva organization, the Associated Press, CNN and other sources. Storms, drought, flooding and the resulting famines in some parts of the world have emerged as big killers, too.

And the changes in the climate don’t appear to be going away anytime soon.

Just last week, South Dakota reported a six-inch snowfall, the earliest in the state’s history. The summer of 2013 saw 750 die of heat-wave related causes in Chicago alone.

Yet politicians and some media pundits still want to debate the causes; some even continue to deny that anything untoward is happening to our atmosphere, our oceans, our land and our groundwater.

Some are being fools when it comes to the future of our planet. But the Catholic Church has been a leading voice pointing out our lack of stewardship of the earth, of this jewel of a planet that God gave to us to love and protect for future generations.

In fact, just this past May Pope Francis said that polluting or destroying the environment is akin to telling God that we don’t like the place he created for us, a place that God proclaimed “to be good after every stage of creation,” the pope said.

Speaking to a general audience May 21, and reported by the Catholic News Service (CNS), Pope Francis said the destruction of our planetary home “is to say to God, ‘I don’t like it.’ ”

On the other hand, he said, safeguarding the earth is a gift to God.

“This must be our attitude toward creation: safeguarding it. If not, if we destroy creation, creation will destroy us. Don’t forget that.”

Mother Nature apparently isn’t about to let us forget.

The pope isn’t the only Catholic to see what’s happening to the environment. Earlier this summer, the chairmen of two U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ committees offered their support for national standards to reduce carbon pollution from power plants “in an effort to limit climate change,” CNS reported.

Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace, and Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, had their letter supporting the standards read at an Environmental Protection Agency hearing in Washington on July 30.

“We support a national standard to reduce carbon pollution and recognize the important flexibility given to states in determining how best to meet these goals,” the letter said. “Too frequently we observe the damaging impacts from climate-related events in the U.S. and across the globe, particularly on poor and vulnerable communities,” the bishops wrote. “We know that the communities served by Catholic Relief Services are already experiencing tragic consequences of climate change.”

The bishops noted that limited access to water, reduced crop yields, more widespread disease, more frequent and intense droughts and storms … “are all making the lives of the world’s poorest people more precarious.”

In other words, they’ve noticed what scientists around the world have been reporting — we’re slowly but surely killing our home. There are some scientists who believe it is already too late to stop the degradation of the earth.

Perhaps an editorial in the National Catholic Reporter last spring said it best.

“If there is a certain wisdom in the pro-life assertion that other rights become meaningless if the right to life is not upheld,” the editorial said, “then it is reasonable to assert that the right to life has little meaning if the earth is destroyed to the point where life becomes unsustainable.”

Glenn Rutherford
Record Editor

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