AECOM Wins 2015 ND-GAIN Corporate Adaptation Prize for UN Disaster Resilient Scorecard

Published on Business WireMarket Watch & PreventionWeb

LOS ANGELES, Sep 23, 2015 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- AECOM has won the 2015 ND-GAIN Corporate Adaptation Prize, a coveted award granted by the University of Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index for its Disaster Resilience Scorecard. Developed in concert with IBM for the United Nations (UN), the Disaster Resilience Scorecard helps communities understand, communicate and implement actions to reduce disaster risk and accelerate recovery. The scorecard supports UN efforts to prepare for, respond to and quickly recover from natural disasters by bringing together expertise and resources from the public and private sectors.
ND-GAIN award submissions represented projects in over a dozen countries on topics such as reforestation, water, food, energy and health, which were evaluated for measurable adaptation progress, scalability, market impact and partnerships. Winners are being honored at an event in connection with Climate Week NYC and the UN Sustainability Summit.
“AECOM and IBM are pleased the Disaster Resilience Scorecard received this prestigious award,” said Dale Sands, senior vice president and environment business director, metro and climate adaption services, who is accepting the award for AECOM. “This scorecard is an impactful, user-friendly tool that supports cities and stakeholders with disaster risk reduction and preparedness. With spiraling capital losses resulting from an increasing number of natural disasters, and growing urban populations and infrastructure around the world, it’s critical that we adapt now to the changing climate to help the sustainability and viability of our communities.”
“As a result of climate change, cities and private organizations are increasingly aware of frailties of growing urbanization and global supply chains due to extreme events such as floods, heat waves and hurricanes,” said Peter Williams, CTO of Big Green Innovations at IBM and one of the authors of the Scorecard. “The Disaster Resilience Scorecard strives to decrease climate-related and natural disaster vulnerabilities for cities around the globe. Cities can now systematically assess their strengths and weaknesses — making their local communities smarter and safer."

Posted in the South Bend Tribune: Climate change projects win Notre Dame prizes

SOUTH BEND — Two projects that address climate change in developing countries have won the 2015 Corporate Adaptation Prize, which is awarded by the University of Notre Dame's Global Adaptation Index.

The university announced this year's winners on Thursday.

One of the winning projects is a program in Mozambique that produces starch for craft beer from cassava, and the other is designed to help cities worldwide develop resiliency to disaster. Here are details about the winners:

• AECOM, a global provider of support services in energy and other fields, and technology company IBM, for developing a Disaster Resilience Scorecard designed to help communities understand, communicate and put into effect actions to reduce disaster risk and accelerate recovery from disasters. The scorecard supports the United Nation’s efforts to manage and reduce disasters by bringing together expertise and resources from the public and private sectors.

• DADTCO, a cassava-processing company, for developing a mobile facility for processing fresh cassava close to smallholder farmers instead of transporting the plants to a central factory. Cassava is a tropical plant grown for its starchy roots. The technology provides the opportunity for cassava, a major food crop in Africa, to replace expensive imported cereals and boost the national economy.

The winners will be honored at a Sept. 23 event in connection with Climate Week NYC and the United Nations Sustainability Summit.

ND-GAIN, based at Notre Dame, is a global annual index that ranks more than 175 countries based on their vulnerability to climate change and their readiness to adapt to droughts, superstorms and natural disasters that climate change may cause.

Award submissions represented projects in more than a dozen countries and topics ranged from reforestation, water and food to energy and health.

Originally published by Notre Dame College of Science: 

Corey Robinson pursues his passion during summer internship with ND-GAIN

Corey Robinson

What do football and climate change research have in common? For Notre Dame wide receiver Corey Robinson, the two involve following your passions.

Robinson is a rising senior in the program of liberal studies (PLS) and sustainability minor. He chose this course of study because he really enjoys philosophy and speculative thinking. “Sustainability was a perfect way to combine my love for ethics and philosophy with practical environmental policies,” he said.

Robinson learned about the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index (ND-GAIN) while exploring topics for his sustainability capstone project. ND-GAIN is the world’s leading index showing which countries are best prepared to deal with the droughts, super-storms, and other natural disasters that climate change can cause. Once he learned more about ND-GAIN’s work, he decided to pursue a summer research internship to explore the index's research more in depth.

Robinson’s project focused on creating a case study on the relationship between climate change, agriculture and deforestation in Brazil. “Brazil is a leading world producer of agriculture products and the country’s total yield is heavily impacted by several factors, including rising temperatures, deforestation, and agricultural technological capacity,” he explained. “Brazil must learn to adapt to agricultural climate change issues or it may forfeit its place in the world’s agricultural economy.”


"Corey sought out an internship at ND-GAIN based on his interest in the poor in emerging economies,” said Joyce Coffee, managing director of ND-GAIN and Robinson’s research advisor.  “He brought fresh thinking to our mission and projects, identifying the places most vulnerable to extreme weather and changing climate, and identifying real-world solutions that can prevent these changes from becoming disasters."

Robinson will also incorporate his work with ND-GAIN into his senior thesis for PLS which will apply John Stuart Mill’s utilitarianism to environmental policy-making and will use deforestation in Brazil as a specific case study.  

When asked about his experience, Robinson said, “I thought the whole experience was extremely valuable because I was able to see a new industry and learn a wide range of skills. I honed my writing skills, researched minuscule data points across a wide variety of sources, and built effective models. I also learned that I really enjoy the environmental NGO field.”

Robinson’s coursework and research experience have also influenced his career plans after he graduates from Notre Dame. "I hope to pursue a master's degree in public policy or go to law school," he said. "My dream is to become an environmental policy maker or an environmental lawyer."


Faith and science can find common ground

Pope Francis has found a meeting place for those with extreme religious and environmentalist stances

Essay by David Lodge, Director, Notre Dame Environmental Change Initative 
In recent weeks, we have learned that Pope Francis enticed Cuban President Raúl Castro to consider a return to Catholicism, and has ended a dispute involving US nuns that will allow them to return to serving the poor free from the suspicion of heresy.
Perhaps most surprisingly, at least to this Protestant ecologist embedded for 30 years in a Roman Catholic university, the Pope has suggested that humans should not breed “like rabbits”, despite his church’s continued prohibition of birth control.
Pope Francis is clearly a man on a mission to shake things up. Could the world’s leading Catholic help to bridge the divide between science and the Protestant views that dominate the religious ‘anti-science’ movement? I think that he could.
In his recent encyclical on humans and the environment, Pope Francis described environmental degradation with great scientific accuracy, and he linked it to economic exploitation and the plight of the poor. This is a challenge to many conservative Protestants who believe that humans, because they are made in God’s image, have a divine right to exploit the natural world.
The Pope’s argument is a powerful one, and addresses those with power, especially in the United States. The views of notorious climate-sceptic Senator James Inhofe (Republican, Oklahoma) on the threat of global warming, for example, are underpinned by his strong Protestant conviction that God created natural resources for humans, and that we are arrogant in thinking that we can affect God’s plan for the Earth. By contrast, many environmentalists argue that humankind should protect nature for its intrinsic value, with little apparent regard for the importance of its use for human welfare.
By framing protection of the environment as protecting human welfare, the Pope has linked the interests of groups that are often at odds. He offers some middle ground on which both sides of this polarized debate can meet and work towards a mutually desirable future.
Such a compromise between the extremes of the religious and environmentalist positions could also help to defuse other sources of tension between faith and science. To many people, the two cannot be reconciled — so much so that when I tell people I am a biologist, believe in evolution and work on environmental issues, I am often told that I cannot be a Christian. Sadly, this is the message in many conservative Protestant churches: choose between science and faith.
The same polarization is urged by many prominent popularizers of science and the ‘New Atheists’ — with Richard Dawkins as their figurehead. Is it so surprising, then, that in the United States especially, atheism is over-represented among scientists, and that science–faith polarization is increasingly reflected in political and cultural discourse?
“Is it so surprising that, in the United States especially, atheism is over-represented among scientists?”
For example, nothing in the official teaching of Catholicism opposes evolution. Creationism is a recent Protestant invention, based on extreme, literal interpretations of the first three chapters of the Bible’s book of Genesis. Catholicism relies more on an interpretation of the scriptures that is rooted in a tradition of reason informing faith. Yet when I ask my biology undergraduates whether they feel a conflict between their faith and evolution, about half of every class — 85% of whom are Catholic — say yes.
The students respond in this way because evolution, alongside issues such as climate change, stem cells, abortion and gay marriage, has been conscripted into the culture wars, with science increasingly suffering collateral damage. And as the culture wars have forced people to choose sides, respect for science is now divided along political lines too, with huge influence on policy.
US environmental-protection policies, which began as bipartisan efforts to protect human and environmental health, have become destructively partisan. It was the Republican president Richard Nixon who in 1972 signed the Clean Water Act that brought Lake Erie back from the dead, restoring one of the most economically valuable freshwater fisheries in the world. Nowadays, efforts to improve water and air quality are too often supported by Democrats and opposed by Republicans — on the grounds that environmental protection harms human welfare, and that because the world is temporary, long-term protection is unnecessary. They dismiss scientists, who increasingly quantify the great extent to which environmental protection benefits humans, as just another special-interest group.
As a Protestant scientist, I am distressed to see my faith twisted into support for such short-sighted extremism. Martin Luther, the great Protestant reformer, once said: “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.” Like Pope Francis, he understood the importance of loving and tending the gift of creation.
If Pope Francis can persuade the communist Raúl Castro to reconsider Catholicism, I can hope that the Pope’s respect for the scientific consensus on climate change will foster a more constructive dialogue between the communities of science, faith and policymakers. His recognition that the economy and the environment are inextricably linked, especially for the desperately poor, builds on a foundation that is older and deeper than the recent US culture wars.
Nature 523, 503 (30 July 2015) 
Jessica Hellmann, associate professor and associate department chair of Biological Sciences at the University of Notre Dame, has been named the new director of the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment. 
As director, Hellmann will work to solve grand environmental challenges, while advancing interdisciplinary research, teaching and engaging with external partners and stakeholders. Her appointment, effective August 31, includes joining the University as a Russell M. and Elizabeth M. Bennett Professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior. 
A Notre Dame faculty member since 2003, Hellmann is a national expert on climate change adaptation, examining the ecological affects of the changing climate and other human-caused environmental changes. Her research evaluates which species and ecosystems are most sensitive to climate impacts and how to adapt to these changes. 
Hellmann leads Notre Dame’s climate change adaptation program, and is the research director of the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index, the world’s leading annual Index ranking countries based on vulnerability and readiness to adapt to climate change.  Both are part of Notre Dame’s Environmental Change Initiative, which focuses on the interrelated problems of invasive species, land use and climate change, and their synergistic impacts on water resources.
"It has been an extraordinary privilege being part of the Environmental Change Initiative,” Hellmann said. “The ECI is a place where researchers can cross disciplinary boundaries to do work that has an impact. My students and researchers have benefited tremendously from the connections to the outside world that ECI provides."
Hellmann directs GLOBES, an interdisciplinary graduate environmental training program and founded Notre Dame’s undergraduate minor in sustainability. She is also an alumna of Stanford’s Aldo Leopold Leadership Program and a recipient of a career enhancement fellowship from the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. 
Hellmann is a frequent contributor to leading scientific journals such as Proceedings of the National Academies of Science, Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, BioScience and PLoS One.
“Jessica has been an influential voice surrounding climate adaptation and the environment while at Notre Dame,” said Interim ECI Director Jennifer Tank. “We count ourselves lucky to have experienced her dedication and passion for scientific leadership here at the ECI through her work on ND-GAIN, and as faculty lead of the climate change adaptation program. While we recognize her departure as a loss for Notre Dame, we also celebrate this outstanding opportunity for her to direct the Institute on the Environment, carrying on the ECI tradition of 'Science Serving Society' to the University of Minnesota.” 
The Most Rev. Kevin C. Rhoades, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, read Pope Francis' stern paper on the environment while he sat outside at Pokagon State Park in Indiana's far northeast corner — on retreat this week with the diocese's priests — noting, “What a great place to read it, in nature.”
The pope's encyclical, calling on rich nations to clean up human actions that have turned Earth into a “pile of filth,” spurred the bishop to think of new preaching, decisions and, perhaps, advocacy in the diocese.
At Little Flower Catholic Church in South Bend, the Rev. Tom Shoemaker said he's already received a flurry of questions from parishioners “in a way I haven't seen for other encyclicals.”
They are asking whether the parish should host a speaker on the issue or a discussion group or extra prayers, Shoemaker said Thursday as he studied the encyclical. The priest feels the pope's words do fit the responsibility of the church, as with other moral issues, saying, “All that God has created we need to take care of."
Across the globe, the pope's encyclical could stir debate over climate change at levels it has never reached.
“He's doing something (that) science can't,” said Jessica Hellman, associate professor of biological at the University of Notre Dame, whose work mirrors the pope's message.
She's research director for Notre Dame's Global Adaptation Index (, a key program that helps to predict which countries are best prepared to deal with natural disasters that result from climate change.
Hellman points out that science can show the implications of what's happening with global warming. And ND-GAIN's can even show how poor countries are the most vulnerable to these effects — and particularly African countries. But the pope, she said, takes it further and states “what should be and how we should behave.” The pope and religion speak to “what we value.”
Now that it's stirring “a whole new group of people” to talk on the issues, such as pastors and bishops, she is certain the pope's words will have an impact.
Bishop Rhoades said he “totally” agrees with the pope's words, which aren't new, having been preached by popes John Paul II and Benedict.
But, as an encyclical, this gives the message a higher level of “teaching authority,” the bishop said in a phone interview Thursday. He said there are parts of the document that are “nonnegotiable,” such as the pope's theme that creation is God's gift and that it's our duty to protect it, along with the idea that every person on the planet has the right to clean water and other essentials to a healthy life.
But the pope lets the world decide “how you do that,” Rhoades said.
Carolyn Woo, who'd served as dean of Notre Dame's Mendoza School of Business until 2012, was among five thinkers who spoke Thursday at a press conference in the Vatican to release the encyclical. She reiterated the pope's call for sustainable development. Woo is now president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services, a humanitarian relief agency that works with the world's neediest people.
“The pope warns us about the dangers of short-term thinking and a selfish mindset … that the focus on the short term is self-defeating,” Woo said of the pope's message to business. “If we stop investing in people in order to gain short term financial gain, it is bad business for society and, if the pope allows me to add one line, I would say it is actually bad business for business also.”
On sustainable development, she said: “Unlimited growth at the cellular level causes cancer. Unlimited growth in economy and society will cause us to run into planetary boundaries.”
Woo spoke at the Vatican alongside a cardinal from Ghana, a climate expert, an Eastern Orthodox leader and a member of Christian community in Italy that serves the poor.
Notre Dame's president, the Rev. John I. Jenkins, mentions ND-GAIN in his perspective piece in Thursday's Chicago Tribune, where he implores: “Yet if the pope's encyclical becomes simply another salvo in the give-and-take of our political debates, we will have missed its point. … The pope is not out to declare a side but to challenge the consciences of all of us. We should all feel the sting.”
In retreat this week, Bishop Rhoades said he asked the diocese's priests to pull together small groups to reflect on the encyclical since “it needs study and reflection.”
Advocacy may be needed globally, but Rhoades said, “We may need to apply that locally — I have to think more about that.”
From recycling to saving energy to the whole “culture of waste” that comes with a consumer-driven society, he said the church needs to preach more. And if the diocese builds a new church or school, he said: “We need to make sure we are not damaging the environment. I'm not sure we've made that a high priority.”
He said politicians need to be held accountable, and he's disappointed in critics who say the pope shouldn't get involved in issues of policy.
Rhoades argues this is an issue of morality. He notes how the pope's encyclical also reaches out to the issues abortion, calling for the protection of nature — in Rhoades' words — at the “highest act of creation.”
“It calls together the totality of creation,” the bishop said.
Some local houses of faith — not just Catholic — have already joined a statewide effort to cut their energy usage. Three South Bend congregations have signed onto a challenge from the nonprofit Hoosier Interfaith Power & Light in what it calls “a faith response to climate change.” The group offers grants to buy solar panels if the congregation cuts energy usage by 25 percent in its building and gets a third of its members to cut their energy usage at home by one seventh, which is documented via a survey.
Madeline Hirschland, director of the group's Seventh Day Initiative, said the local churches are among 20 statewide: Kern Road Mennonite Church, First United Methodist Church and the Islamic Society of Michiana. And at least one or two other local churches are applying, said Hirschland, who feels the pope's words can only help to bolster its efforts.
The idea is to save the church some money but also to “take responsibility to preserve creation,” said Victor Myers, a Kern Road member who's overseeing his project to cover his church's southern roof with 96 solar panels, which could happen late this summer.
He's also part of a small, interfaith group that meets every other month to share ideas for energy conservation. Their next meeting, at 7 p.m. July 13 at First United Methodist Church, 333 N. Main St., South Bend, will feature a speaker from Indiana Michigan Power.
“We can't have sustainability if we don't address poverty,” said Bonnie Bazata, director of the St. Joseph County Bridges Out of Poverty Initiative, which works with low-income people at the local level.
Echoing the pope in spirit, she said that poverty drains local resources and human potential, and that impedes the success of green initiatives.
“We'll make greater strides in environmental degradation if we address poverty as well,” she said.

Pope Francis: The Vatican insisted that the 192-page document was not the final draft and swiftly punished the journalist

Pope calls for end to fossil fuels - as it happened

Dr. Jessica Hellmann live blogged on The Telegraph


Here is a round up of the most important points from the Pope's encyclical, published this morning:

  • Climate change is “mainly” caused by human action
  • Destroying the natural world for our own benefit is a “sin” against God and future generations
  • The Pope calls for not only Catholics but everyone on Earth to go through “ecological conversion”
  • Rich and powerful vested interests have sought to "conceal the symptoms" of climate change
  • Rich countries owe an “ecological debt” debt to the poor and have a responsibility to shoulder the burden
  • Life-and-death struggle for water and the extinction of species are also key threats to the future of humanity
  • Politicians must now agree an “urgent” plan for “drastic” reductions in carbon emissions
  • People must also be prepared to make simple changes to their lifestyles such as turning off lights and taking the bus to only cooking enough food to eat
  • The Pope calls for fossil fuels to be "progressively replaced without delay"


We are going to close our live coverage of the release of Pope Francis's encyclical. You can read the full story here:

Pope Francis: planet facing ‘unprecedented destruction’

Many thanks for joining us.


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."


On the thorny issue of contraception the encyclical leaves both sides of the argument somewhat frustrated.

The Pope brushed aside the foreseeable calls to consider by insisting that the problem was not population growth in poor countries but massive over consumption by the rich.

It was a line echoed by Prof John Schellnhuber who added: “It's not poverty that destroys the environment - it's wealth, consumption and waste.”

But the traditionalist Catholic group Voice of the Family issued a statement voicing dismay that there was no explicit reaffirmation of the Church’s stance on birth control.

John Smeaton, co-founder of the group Voice of the Family and Chief Executive of Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child, insisted: “The international environmental movement often seeks to convince children that the world is overpopulated and that this must be resolved by controlling reproduction through contraception and access to abortion.

“There is now grave danger that our children will be exposed to this agenda under the guise of education on environmental concerns.”

But the National Secular Society was among the first to blame “Catholic dogma” on birth control as one of the root causes of the problem.


Getting down to nitty-gritty, the Pope’s conclusions will delight some but dismay others, writes John Bingham:

He calls for the effective phasing out of fossil fuels including oil but says the world must work out how to pay for it and that the onus must be on the rich countries “which are more powerful and pollute the most”. He warns against international agreements which impose too heavy a burden on developing countries.

He also dismisses the trade in carbon credits as a “new form of speculation” likely to do nothing to reduce emissions in the end.

Likewise he rubbishes the notion of “internationalising” the Amazon basin but does give strong backing to the idea of giving indigenous people a special status in their own countries.

He also proposes radical plans to impose a form of powerful new international control over the oceans, which he calls the “global commons” to stop pollution and exploitation of resources.

On the controversial issue of GM crops he shrugs off claims that they could be harmful to health and recognises they could do good but warns they could wipe out ecosystems and hand control of agriculture over to “oligopolies”.


Arguing that environmental damage is intimately linked to global inequality, the Pope says that doomsday predictions can no longer be dismissed and that: "The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth."

QuoteThe effects of the present imbalance can only be reduced by our decisive action, here and now. We need to reflect on our accountability before those who will have to endure the dire consequences.


Professor Lord Nicholas Stern, economist and author of an influential report on climate change, says the publication of the encyclical is of "enormous significance".

QuoteMoral leadership on climate change from the Pope is particularly important because of the failure of many heads of state and government around the world to show political leadership. I hope other religious and community leaders will also speak out about how to tackle the two defining challenges of our generation, namely overcoming poverty and managing the risks of climate change. This would encourage greater political leadership in the run-up to the summit in Paris at the end of this year where countries should reach a new international agreement on tackling climate change.


Jessica Hellmann, Director of the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index, writes:

E-mailThe challenge the Pope raises today must be taken up immediately by the young and the old, but as a professor I think about the challenges and opportunities confronting young people. They will be responsible for identifying and implementing solutions to environmental problems. They also must hold their elders accountable for fixing problems before they get worse, for reinventing what it means to lead a good life. They will need to understand how science and value interact and how to move between knowledge and wisdom.


The Telegraph's Religious Affairs Editor John Bingham has this analysis on Pope Francis and the parable of the plankton:

Pope Francis is nothing if not ambitious.

In the opening passages of his long anticipated encyclical on the environment he makes clear that he is content not merely with influencing the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics or the 2.4 billion or so who might more broadly be classed as Christian.

“Faced as we are with global environmental deterioration, I wish to ad­dress every person living on this planet,” he announces matter-of-fact tones.

The text of Laudato Si does all the things it was supposed to do: it warns of doom from man-made climate change, it lambasts politicians for failing to act more decisively and takes aim at the global financial system and the plight of the poor.


He invests in his message with something which the UN’s climate change panel or celebrity eco-toffs of the western world will never be able to turn to – the power of a religious imperative. He tells people to view something as simple as reusing rather than discarding something as “an act of love” to mankind.

If the legacy of this encyclical is persuade even a fraction of those 1.2 billion – let alone “every person living on this planet” to reduce waste, its social impact could be greater than we know.


Jessica Hellmann, Director of the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index, hasthis response to a reader's concern (12.15pm) about idealising nature:

E-mailDr Woo's sentiment that nature is valuable has two key parts. First, life on earth for humans would not be possible without the many living things that feed us, clean our water, house us, and provide other goods and services. When the fabric of life is diminished, these services are diminished too, and that's bad for our economy and our well-being. Second, we have responsibility to steward living things for their own sake. That is not to say that we cannot control species like pests and disease, but when we destroy habitats and change the climate, we put hundreds of thousands or even millions of valuable creatures at risk.


The Church of England has also hailed the encyclical as a vital text for Christians and anyone living on Earth.

The Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Rev Nicholas Holtam, said climate change is “one of the great moral challenges of our times”. He said:

Quote[This] has been much anticipated and lives up to our hopes that it would be a very substantial and compelling document not just for Roman Catholics but for the whole Church and all people who live together in our common home.

The moral gravity of the challenge of climate change is also recognised by all the world faiths present in the UK.

The transition to a low carbon economy is urgent. Churches and other faith communities have a unique power to mobilise people for the common good and change attitudes and behaviours.”


A reader emails in:

E-mailDr Woo's comment on the value and place of everything in Creation might be sentimentalising some parts of Nature that threaten the rest, for example the deadly virus.

Perhaps we should not idealise too much?


Answering a question, Schellnhuber says that the internationally recognised limit of two degrees centigrade above the average world temperatures before the industrial revolution is "the absolute maximum of global warming that we might be able to digest", and even then many people would suffer, for example from sea level rise inundating small island states. It would be better to aim for a 1.5 degree rise. Warming could be limited to that but it would require enormous political will.


The Telegraph's Geoffrey Lean writes:

Leading Republican climate change sceptics have shown no sign so far that they are prepared to be convinced by the Pope, who will address them in person when he speaks to both houses of Congress in September.

Only one of the 14 or so presidential candidates of the Grand Old Party, Lindsey Graham, accepts the science of climate change. Although Florida is one of the parts of the country most at risk from sea levels rising, two leading Republican candidates with strong links to the state, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, have already come out against the Pope's message.

Republican (and Catholic) Presidential candidate Rick Santorum said Pope Francis should “leave science to the scientists” - perhaps forgetting that those specialising in the climate almost overwhelmingly sound the same alarm.

Similarly, fellow Republican James Inhofe, the leading sceptic in Congress said, “the Pope ought to stay with his job and we'll stick with ours” - but then went on somewhat to undermine his case by telling followers than in opposing measures to control global warming they were “doing the Lord's work” adding “He will eventually bless you for it. Amen”.


Cardinal Turkson has issued a strong rebuff to critics who claim the Pope shouldn't get involved in science. Asked by a Bloomberg reporter what he had to say to those who have strongly urged Pope Francis to stay away from the issue, he said the Pontiff had every right to talk about science as it was a "public domain".

"We talk about the subject not because we're experts but because we are concerned and because it impacts our lives," Cardinal Turkson said.

He adds:

QuoteFor some time now, there has been an attempt to emphasise the split between religion and public life. The better recommendation would be to encourage a dialogue between faith and reason.


Carolyn Woo: "The Pope is a forward-thinking business leader." Investing in sustainability is good for the economy.


Jessica Hellmann, Associate Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of Notre Dame and Director of the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index, studies the effects of climate change and how to help people and ecosystems adapt to climate change.

She writes:

QuoteA critical part of the responsibility the Holy See asks of humanity is adaptation - helping the most vulnerable confront the effects of climate change.

Climate change affects people and other living things all around the world, but lower income countries have lesser capacity than the wealthy countries to handle the disturbances of climate change. They have less protection from climate disasters and less ability to protect the systems that deliver life-giving services. The Global Adaptation Index, for example, shows that countries in Africa are, as a group, among the most vulnerable countries on Earth.


Dr Carolyn Woo, the President of the Catholic Relief Services, who is now speaking, represents another important strand in the development of the encyclical, writes Geoffrey Lean:

The church - as a highly centralised, but also a grassroots, organisation - has been heavily influenced by information filtering up from throughout the world about how poor people are already suffering from the effects of climate change, as harvests are hit and droughts, floods and storms increase.

Dr Woo has just called it "heartbreaking evidence of devastation and destruction". The Pope himself has little background of environmental concern, but is especially concerned about the fate of the world's poorest people. Indeed the decision to issue the encyclical was taken after he visited the Philippines following the devastating 1973 Typhoon Haiyan.


The encyclical has now been released, in which the Pope warns that the world is facing a peril “unprecedented in the history of humanity” and lashes out at “obstructionist attitudes” of climate change sceptics.

You can also read a summary of the 10 things we've learnt from the encyclical.

You can also read the full 180-page document here.


Environmental activists carried a banner as they marched towards a church to coincide with Pope Francis’ encyclical on climate change in Manila, Philippines. 
ROME — As the world begins to digest Pope Francis’ complex 183-page treatise on the environment, framing efforts to fight global warming and climate change as a moral imperative, one thing seems clear – whatever people may think of Laudato Si’, nobody seems able to refrain from commenting on it.
“It’s a call to action,” Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami said. “I hope that it will also have the effect of transcending the ideological food fight that seems to be going on in Washington and other places.”
Speaking to Crux on the phone from Mexico City, where he is meeting with bishops there to discuss how they might collaborate more closely, Wenski highlighted the pope’s demand that people displaced by climate disasters be given refugee status.
“Look at a country like Haiti right now, where poverty has been made worse not only because of bad politics and bad economics, but also because of environmental degradation, creating deserts, displacing farmers, forcing them into cities,” Wenski said.
“Mega-agriculture has undermined small farmers,” he said.
Wenski also voiced a special concern for his own state of Florida, saying it’s particularly vulnerable to climate change. He cited more severe hurricanes, the salinization of drinking water sources, and flooding as among the more visible consequences.
It’s because of this, he said, that he’s asked the priests of his diocese to preach about the encyclical.
Austen Ivereigh, author of Francis’ biography “The Great Reformer,” believes Laudato Si’ has the potential to realign politics and reshape the church.
“It’s the most significant social Catholic teaching since Rerum Novarum sparked it off in 1891,” he said, adding that Francis’ encyclical charts an authentic “third way” between “individualist capitalism” and “the anti-human utopianism of the green movement.”
“Francis has made it not just safe to be Catholic and green,” Ivereigh said, “he’s made it obligatory.”
Kishore Jayabalan, a former Vatican official on social issues who today directs the Acton Institute‘s Rome office, told Crux he’s glad Pope Francis has called for debate among the different approaches to sustainable development.
“It’s very important that Francis realizes that human beings are the solution, not the problem, contrary to what so many population control advocates have claimed on behalf of the earth,” he said.
Yet Jayabalan, a self-described “climate-change skeptic” also found the pontiff’s criticism of the market economy and “compulsive consumerism” excessive.
“If people don’t like the austerity economics of today’s Europe,” he said, “wait until some of the policies advocated in the encyclical are implemented.”
On the other hand, Joyce E. Coffee, managing director of the University of Notre Dame’s Global Adaptation Index, praised Francis for highlighting the disproportionate effect climate change will have on the global south.
“He invites us to see this problem from the perspective of the world’s poor,” Coffee told Crux. “When you act on climate change, you are acting to help humanity. Climate action is action that helps the poor have better lives and livelihoods.”
Christiana Z. Peppard, assistant professor of theology, science, and ethics at Fordham University, applauded Francis’ emphasis on protecting indigenous populations, saying it’s “remarkable and noteworthy.”
“The most unrelenting part of Francis’ encyclical is his indictment of misguided faith in progress – technological and economic – without ecological and human values to guide those paradigms,” she told Crux.
Helen Alvare, professor of Law at George Mason university, spoke to Crux on behalf of Humanum, a nonprofit cultural and digital effort dedicated to exploring human ecology.
She said that Laudato Si’ “beautifully and convincingly marries concern for natural and human environments like the family and work.”
The CEO and president of Catholic Relief Services and the former dean of the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business, Carolyn Woo, challenged people not inclined to listen to the pope to wake up.
“I would ask all those who are in a defense mode, and who don’t believe climate change is affecting the world, to leave their current positions and go to where the suffering is,” she said.
Woo, who was asked by the Vatican to help debut the encyclical this morning in Rome, said she hopes people find the time to read Laudato Si’ because “it’s both poetic and spiritual, and also practical.”
Argentinian Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences, shrugged off the criticism the document is receiving from some sectors of society, “particularly those funded by the oil industry.”
He said that even though Catholic skeptics on climate change are within their rights not to believe in it, that doesn’t mean can ignore the fact that Laudato Si’ is now part of the Church’s official teaching.
“One can’t choose to only accept the documents we like,” he said.
Sánchez Sorondo encouraged those who are well informed to speak up, but said that he’s tired of listening to people “who deny climate change giving no solid arguments whatsoever.”
Ban Ki-moon, secretary general of the United Nations, praised 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,” he said. “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.”
The executive director of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, Sister Joan Marie Steadman, praised the document for its call to change lifestyles in order to protect the environment.
“When we choose lives of simplicity, hope, and love we honor God’s presence in our world; we grow closer to God and we build the community for generations to come,” she said in a statement.
Speaking at a press conference in Washington Thursday, Cardinal Donald Wuerl said the encyclical will take awhile to digest.
“This is the high point for the letter, it’s meant for generations yet to come,” he said. “The encyclical is a way of reading the signs of the times. It’s an invitation to everyone to join him in this conversation: how do we ensure that the good earth remains the good earth for generations to come?”
He rejected claims that the pope is getting too political by wading into the climate change debate.
“There are no directives being given” to politicians, economists, or scientists, he said. “It’s an invitation,” he said.
Chad Pecknold and Jessica Hellmann react to the Pope Francis's comments on climate change

Papal order shines light on climate change's impact on poor

The papal encyclical set to be released Thursday will highlight the threats posed by climate change on the world's poorest, most impoverished citizens — a population scientists have long warned will be disproportionately affected by global warming.

Whether marginalized groups in developed countries or the more general population in the developing world, "the basic issue is that the poor don't have resources to be resilient to changes," said climatologist Gavin Schmidt of NASA.
There simply isn't enough money available to improve how such groups deal with everyday weather, let alone the drastic changes global warming can bring, he added.
"People, governments and corporations in lower-income countries are increasingly impacted by droughts, superstorms, civil conflicts and other disasters caused by climate change," according to Joyce Coffee of the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index, which ranks the climate adaptation performance for the world's countries.
Some of the top climate threats include sea-level rise, more powerful hurricanes, shrinking water resources, decrease in agricultural productivity and increased extremes of wet and dry, both from devastating floods to harsher droughts, according to climatologist Michael Mann of Penn State.
A look at four of the top impacts of climate change worldwide and what regions will be most affected by each:
"The number one concern for the poor with respect to climate change has to be drought, both now and in the future," said meteorologist Jeff Masters of the Weather Underground.
Recent devastating droughts in the Mediterranean region — specifically in Syria from 2006 to 11 — and another one in Somalia in 2010-11 have both been linked to man-made climate change, according to Masters.
Areas most at risk: Africa, Pakistan, Brazil, China, and the Central America/Caribbean region, according to Masters.
Many poor populations live in river flood plains or along low-lying areas near the coast, making flooding a huge concern worldwide, both from heavy rain and storm surge.
Climate change is likely to make heavy precipitation events even more common, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. One flooding incident linked to climate change is the catastrophic monsoon in 2013, which killed thousands in India, Masters said.
"Climate change ultimately reveals and amplifies already existing income, social and other gaps," said Marshall Shepherd of the University of Georgia. "If you look at Hurricane Katrina, many folks of all demographics and incomes were affected, but the poorest and marginalized were most vulnerable and least able to adapt afterwards."
Areas most at risk: Bangladesh, China, Vietnam, Indonesia, India, Thailand, the Philippines, Myanmar and Malaysia, according to Masters.
Rising temperatures will also impact the food and water supply. "Temperatures will be moving outside the band of what has been experienced in recent centuries and it's not clear what impact that will have on food production, ecosystems and populations," Schmidt said.
Crop yields in the tropics, home to hundreds of millions of subsistence farmers, are likely to see negative impacts due to climate change, according to meteorologist Robert Henson in his book The Thinking Person's Guide to Climate Change.
There will be a "sharp decrease in agricultural productivity in warm (tropical) regions," Mann said.
Areas most at risk: The tropics, particularly the nations of Djibouti, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Eritrea, according to Notre Dame's Global Adaptation Index.
One of the clearest signals of man-made climate change is more frequent and intense heat around the world. Last year was the warmest ever recorded, according to NOAA and NASA, and 2015 is on pace to break that record.