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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 (nd-gain.org), 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

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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"

13.40pm

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.

13.35pm

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."

13.28pm

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.

13.18pm

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”.

12.52pm

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.

12.40pm

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.

12.38pm

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.

12.25pm

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.

12.22pm

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.

12.20pm

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.”

12.15pm

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?

12.05pm

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.

11.52am

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”.

11.46am

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.

11.37am

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

11.35am

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.

11.29am

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.

11.25am

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:
 
DROUGHT
 
"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.
 
FLOODS
 
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.
 
FOOD SUPPLY
 
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.
 
EXTREME HEAT
 
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.

Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment is intended to deepen our common reflection and spur action on climate change. His goal will be to appeal to consciences. 

The pope's challenge on global warming

Op-ed by Rev. John I. Jenkins

As we gear up for the 2016 election, candidates are crafting messages to appeal to the electorate. Pollsters will survey voters to see whether these candidates and messages hit the mark. If they fail, the candidates will refine the message to win the hearts and minds — or at least the votes — of the citizens.

On Thursday Pope Francis will deliver a much anticipated message on one of the most debated issues of our day: the environment. I expect his letter will be directed not only to Catholics but to all people of goodwill. It is characteristic of this pope to speak as the Catholic leader but to seek to build bridges to all people who promote friendship and cooperation serving the good of all.

The pope's objective will not be to win an election — he will never stand for any kind of election again in his life. He will be trying to deepen our common reflection and spur action on one of the greatest challenges facing humanity today. His goal will be to appeal to consciences.
 
University of Notre Dame scientists annually rank 180 of the world's nations on their vulnerability to climate change. Those who reside in the poorest countries are 10 times more likely to be hurt by a climate disaster than those in wealthy nations. Jessica Hellmann, research director of the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index, reports that the world's poorest countries lag more than a century behind the richest nations in preparing for climate change. Not surprisingly, northern European countries and the United States are among the top 10 best prepared. African nations, Haiti and Afghanistan are relegated to the bottom in the latest survey.
 
The title of the pope's encyclical, Laudato Sii, will be from "The Canticle of the Sun," attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, the saint from whom he took his pontifical name. The allusion is apt, for St. Francis is known both for his love of the environment and his love of the poor. The pope and the medieval saint suggest there is a profound connection between our reverence for the environment and for our care for our brothers and sisters in greatest need.
 
What Pope Francis says Thursday will be translated into calls for environmental action, not only from Catholic pulpits but from nations, world bodies and interest groups. It will no doubt be sharply criticized and questioned by many who are skeptical about scientific claims or about implications for action. Indeed, I do not recall a statement that has been more widely criticized even before it has been made.
 
The pope will welcome the discussion. At the sometimes contentious Synod on the Family last October, he told the participants they had a duty to speak their mind openly and honestly, yet also to listen humbly and with an open heart. This pope encourages open discussion and disagreement, for free exchange can enhance our thinking.
 
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. If our analysis is only about which side is supported or undermined by the pope's letter, or which policy is endorsed or dismissed, then we will not have really engaged. The pope is out not to declare a side but to challenge the consciences of all of us. We should all feel the sting.
 
Last December in an address to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Pope Francis said, "The effective struggle against global warming will only be possible with a responsible collective answer, that goes beyond particular interests and behavior and is developed free of political and economic pressures." He said there was "a clear, definitive and ineluctable ethical imperative to act"
 
The pope's encyclical will be successful if it helps all of us — whatever our religious convictions — to progress toward a "responsible collective answer" to one of the great challenges of our age. That may require that we refrain from the knee-jerk response of our political camp. It may require that we pause, reflect and — at least in the case of some of us — pray. For the immediate question may not be whether or not we agree with the letter. It may be what kind of people we have to become to hear what the pope is trying to tell us.
 
The Rev. John I. Jenkins is president of the University of Notre Dame.

Why the Pope Is Concerned About Climate Change, and You Should be Too

Huffington Post Blog by Dr. Jessica Hellmann

Climate change has been in the headlines for years. I tell my undergraduate students that the U.S. has been discussing climate change for their entire lives. It was 1992 when countries around the world came together in Rio de Janeiro and committed to preventing dangerous climate change. At that time, the U.S. ratified an international agreement that Americans, together with other rich countries, would take the lead in greenhouse gas emission reduction, but so far, we've done little to follow through on that commitment. The climate change issue lingers. Uncertainty about what to do and when to do it seems to plague our politics and our dinnertime conversations. Many of us have simply put our head in the sand. It would just be a lot easier if we could pretend that it isn't true.

That might be about to change. This week we expect a major statement, an encyclical, from Pope Francis about environmental protection and its significance to the Church, and we expect climate change to feature prominently in it.

I am not a theologian and can't comment on the religious dimensions of what Pope Francis is likely to say, but I have been studying climate change for decades. As a scientist I know that it is time to heed the Pope's words and embrace his call to action.

There are many reasons why the Pope is concerned about climate change, and why you should care about it too. The science is not as controversial as you may have heard. Well­-funded campaigns have been effective in confusing the public about climate change and science itself is poorly equipped to explain its findings to the public. Nothing in science is ever completely certain, but what we know about climate and human­-caused climate change is about as certain as science gets. Atmospheric chemists understand well that carbon dioxide and the other greenhouse gases increase global average temperature, and climate observations, coupled with climatological models, tell us that the that the beginning effects of climate change are already happening around the world.

That's not to say that there isn't plenty of debate in climate science -- ­­there is, and the debate is important because we are still learning about the local consequences of climate change, about where the greatest risks to climate change lie, and about crucial developments in the climate system that may intensify or soften the impact of greenhouse gases.

We have much to discover yet, but the science debate is simply not as uncertain as many newspapers, and many politicians, would have you believe. Many species and ecosystems will decline from climate change. Patterns of plants and animals around the globe are determined mainly by two forces: the effect of history, and the effect of climate. Species adapt to particular climates, whether they be hot and dry desert plants or salt and cold-tolerant marine fish. This means that when the climate changes, nearly everything on Earth is affected. Plants and animals will track the change in climate if they can, and if they cannot, they will decline and may even become extinct. We worry about some life forms that well reflect and take advantage of change: pests and disease, for example. We also worry that other species that filter our water, and provide us life-giving service as well as with our cultural heritage may decline. If only 10 percent of species now alive cannot adjust to climate change and go extinct (a conservative estimate of possible extinction, by the way) we would lose as many of 1,000,000 of our fellow earthlings. Climate change is not just about saving nature; it also is about saving people.

While humans inhabit almost the entire globe, we still live at the mercy of the climate. It brings the water­­ -- not too little not to much­­ -- that makes agriculture possible. It also brings natural disasters that threaten lives and livelihoods. The Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index, for example, reminds us that the greatest vulnerability to climate change is in the least developed parts of the world, places where public health, agricultural practices, access to clean water, and other basic capacities related to climate are limited. The Index shows that it would take more than 100 years for poorer countries to be as ready for climate change as developed countries are already. We cannot wait 100 years; the effects of climate change are appearing now, and will be even more conspicuous in the coming decades. We need rapid investment to resist the effects of climate change in hundreds of countries around the world. And while ahead of the developing world, hurricane Sandy and the California drought show that wealthy countries like the U.S. have much adaptation to do too.

Climate models suggest that we are dangerously close to a global tipping point, a level of greenhouse concentration in the atmosphere that will produce catastrophic amounts of climate change, but our fate is not sealed. We can do something about it.

Many of the technologies that we could effectively use to solve the climate crisis are already available. They just need the right political stimuli, the right economic incentives, to be put into place. Consumers need access to climate­-smart energy alternatives. Economies that can provide such alternatives and develop clean, sustainable energy production are more likely to the lead the world in economic growth. The same goes for adapting to climate change: better incentives and understanding of climate change risk can drive investment that can both save lives and promote sustainable economic development. We are running out of time, but hope is not yet lost.

These are things that Pope Francis knows, and you should know them, too. With knowledge comes responsibility for action, a responsibility that the Pope will certainly insist that Catholics, and all human beings, must take up. We should listen carefully to what he has to say.

Pope Francis is expected to warn that climate change is largely the result of human activities

Pope Francis to intervene in climate change debate

Pope Francis will go head-to-head with climate change sceptics this week when he issues a keenly awaited encyclical on the environment, in which he is expected to blame global warming on human activities.

The Vatican will present the encyclical, the most authoritative teaching document a pontiff can issue, on Thursday. It will be entitled “Laudato Si (Be Praised), On the Care of our Common Home.”
 
The Pope’s views may be in line with the bulk of scientific opinion, but his stance is guaranteed to anger sceptics who insist that there is no clear link between rising temperatures and man-made emissions.
 
They have accused him of meddling in a field in which he has no expertise and of being fed misinformation by bodies such as the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
 
Last week Rick Santorum, the Republican presidential candidate, a Catholic who has expressed admiration for Pope Francis, said the Pope should “leave science to the scientists".
 
What is an encyclical?
It is a letter enshrining Catholic teaching on one or more issues that is written by the Pope - a statement of fundamental principles.
 
“It can be addressed to the bishops and priests of a particular region or of the entire world, to specific groups in the Church or to the entire Catholic faithful. It can also be addressed to all people of good will,” said Father Thomas Rosica, a member of the Vatican’s communication team.
 
The first encyclical was written by Pope Benedict XIV in 1740, since when there have been more than 300 others.
 
What is the encyclical likely to say?
Pope Francis is expected to warn that climate change is largely the result of human activities and that it poses a particularly grave threat to the world’s poor.
 
He will argue that humanity has a moral imperative to tackle climate change, reducing carbon emissions and mitigating its effects.
 
The pontiff is likely to make the point that the poor suffer most from the effects of climate change, even though they have contributed least to its causes.
 
The encyclical will be “a call for the world to wake up to the effects of climate change - the Vatican's next big moral mission.
 
"Climate change is 10 times more likely to impact those in the least-developed countries than those in wealthy countries,” said Jessica Hellmann, a professor of biological sciences at Notre Dame University, a Catholic university in the US.
 
Is this the first time the Vatican has expressed concern about climate change?
No. His two immediate predecessors, Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, both linked climate change with human-induced activities such as the burning of fossil fuels.
 
But this is the first time that an entire encyclical has devoted to the subject. And Pope Francis’s popularity – he has impressed people around the world with his humility and humour since being elected in 2013 – will ensure that his views will carry great moral weight and reach a wide audience.
 
Pope Francis has frequently expressed concerns for the plight of the planet and has criticised unbridled consumerism and capitalism – leading some American conservatives to brand him a Marxist.
 
In one homily, the Argentinean Pope said: “Man is not in charge today; money is in charge. Money rules.”

 

Pope ready to tackle climate change deniers

The Pope will take on global warming sceptics this week by blaming climate change and extreme weather on man.
 
He will release an encyclical, or official guide, which says that humanity is “slapping nature in the face”. He hopes that the paper will sway a UN conference in Paris in December that could commit nations to cut emissions.
 
Other than an infallible statement, an encyclical is the highest level of document that a pope can issue.
 
The Pope has already described pollution as a sin and although Vatican officials have insisted that he is not wading into politics, the encyclical is already under attack from critics, some of whom will question his science.
 
Laudato Si, the title of the encyclical, is taken from a prayer by St Francis which includes the line “our sister Mother Earth who feeds us”.
 
In April the Heartland Institute, a conservative think-tank in the US, held a conference yards from the Vatican to challenge the Pope’s views on climate change. “We believe Pope Francis is making a mistake if he puts his moral authority behind UN modelling which is flawed and incorrect,” said Jim Lakely, a spokesman for Heartland.
 
Jessica Hellmann, a biological sciences professor at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, said: “This is the Vatican’s next big moral mission.”

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