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.”

Companies worried about climate change impacts--especially water and political instability,but few have taken action.

Four Twenty Seven and the University of Notre Dame’s Global Adaptation Index (ND-GAIN), with support from Business for Social Responsibility published the 2015 Corporate Adaptation Report to generate insights into whether and how enterprises are preparing for the physical impacts of climate change.

1. What Are the Climate Risk Drivers of Greatest Concern?

Water scarcity and political instability driven by climate change are cited as the top two anticipated risks across sectors.

  • 16%: Water scarcity is the climate hazard of greatest concern for corporations
  • 14%: Social and political instability driven by climate change closely follows water.

2. How Will Climate Change Affect Businesses?

  • 70%+: Are “somewhat concerned” that climate change will have a material impact on their value chain, in particular their supply chain, distribution and customers and markets.  
  • 66%: Expressed concern over increased operational and capital costs, reporting they had already experienced cost increases or considered them a likely in the future.
  • 30%: Faced or are experiencing impacts from climate change that negatively impact their bottom line.
  • 20%: Are “very concerned” about the material impact on their value chain.

3. How Do Companies Assess Climate Risk?

  • 43%: Monitored climate risk in some capacity as part of their enterprise risk management.
  • 30%: Haven’t developed a plan to adapt their business to climate change impacts. 
  • 29%: Are looking at a specific driver of concern.

4: How Do Companies Obtain Information on Climate Risk? (In order of importance)

  • Publicly available data, reports and websites.
  • industry associations and/or non-profit led initiatives.
  • Internal sustainability teams.

5. Who Within an Organization Should Be in Charge of Climate Adaptation?

  • 28%: the sustainability team.
  • 24%: risk management team.
  • Respondents were least confident in the level of understanding of climate change held by their investor relations, their supply chain team, and Board of Directors.

6. Have Companies Already Implemented Adaptation Measures? (In order of importance)

  • Energy and water efficiency; 
  • Business continuity plan.
  • Staff training on risk management.
  • Retrofitting or relocation of company assets are are under consideration.
  • Few  respondents reported having already implemented retrofitting.
  • None reported relocation of assets as a current measure.

7. What Are the Main Barriers to Corporate Adaptation?

  • Not an immediate priority
  • Lack of leadership on climate change. 

8. Is Climate Change a Material Risk Now?

  • 33%: Expected impacts in the 5-20 years.
  • 30%: Climate change has already had a material impact.
  • 20%: Did not expect impacts for at least another 20 years.
  • Few expected short-term material impacts from climate change (1-5 years).

9. What Are the Next Steps in Assessing Climate Risks?

  • The most common is engaging with key industry groups to build consensus on sector-wide initiatives.
  • The need for additional research and data was cited as a priority.

10. What Opportunities Might Climate Change Bring for Your Company?

  • 25%: Anticipated opportunities for new product creation and for efficiency improvements.
  • Opportunities typically associated with sustainability programs, such as brand development and cost reduction, ranked far lower.

Download the full report.

Thursday, May 21, 2015 - 11:57

- See more at:

Daniel Cusick, E&E reporter
Published: Thursday, May 14, 2015
Nearly one-third of businesses surveyed by researchers affiliated with the University of Notre Dame reported they have experienced material impacts from climate events, while more than 70 percent said they are at least "somewhat concerned" that climate change will have a material impact on their operations in the future.
Those findings come from the inaugural "State of Corporate Adaptation Survey," a joint project of Notre Dame's Global Adaptation Index (ND-GAIN) and Four Twenty Seven, a private consulting firm focused on climate risk and adaptation. Results were released yesterday at the National Adaptation Forum in St. Louis.
The survey responses, collected in March and April, reveal that water scarcity and political and social instability caused by climate stresses are top concerns for businesses, and that many executives are preparing for increased operational and capital costs associated with climate change adaptation.
A deeper reading into concerns about political and social instability shows that respondents "are aware of the many potential implications of climate change on human systems, which can include civil unrest, public health crises, political upheaval, and displaced populations where weak systems and resource constraints prevail," the report states.
Joyce Coffee, ND-GAIN's managing director, said in a statement that the report "shows climate change is impacting the corporate bottom line, and there is opportunity to increase their preparedness," especially as leaders prepare for the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties on climate change in December in Paris.
Experts say the survey's purpose is to advance understanding of corporate best practices, barriers and enablers, as well as strategies to prepare corporations for climate change. The World Economic Forum's latest Global Risk report ranks failure to adapt to climate change as one of the greatest and most likely risks facing governments and the private sector in an era of warming.
Assessing the 'early movers'
The survey netted more than 230 responses from 37 private companies, most of which were headquartered in the United States, but also from Mexico, Europe and Asia. Eight economic sectors were represented among the respondents, ranging from consumer goods and professional services to utilities, financial institutions, health care and technology firms.
Researchers cautioned, however, that the survey should not be viewed as an economy-wide assessment of corporate perspectives on climate change. Rather, it is a "snapshot of how companies most invested in the space -- early adopters and early movers -- think about and act on climate change risk."
The Global Adaptation Index, launched by the Washington, D.C.-based Global Adaptation Institute, was absorbed by Notre Dame's Environmental Change Initiative in 2013.
The open-access index uses data analysis and technology to promote climate adaptation, including identifying places most vulnerable to extreme weather and changing climate, as well as finding real-world solutions that can prevent such changes from becoming disasters. The group also annually ranks 175 countries against 45 indicators of risk and adaptation readiness based on data going back to 1995.
The index has consistently shown that countries in more developed regions of the world -- including Scandinavia, Europe, North America and Australia -- will fare best under climate change, while poor and developing countries in Africa and South Asia face the greatest degrees of risk and vulnerability.
The United States ranked eighth in the latest ND-GAIN index with a score of 78.9 out of 100, behind the United Kingdom and ahead of Germany. The world's highest-ranking country was Norway (82.7), while Chad bottomed the list of ranked countries with a score of 31.6.
Jessica Hellmann

This is part of an op-ed written by ND-GAIN Research Director, Jessica Hellmann.

Please visit the CNN website for the entire article.


(CNN) - The Vatican hasn't been shy about tackling controversial issues head on since Pope Francis assumed the papacy. Indeed, from gay marriage to inequality, the Vatican has reinvigorated debate, sometimes in surprising ways, on a range of social issues. So it should probably come as no surprise that it is set to weigh in on one of the biggest issues facing society today: global warming.

While officials from across the globe continue negotiations on policies aimed at managing and reducing changes to the world's climate, the Vatican has turned a spotlight on the impact climate change will have on the world's poorest through a workshop this Tuesday that will set the stage for an anticipated encyclical later this year.

This workshop on "moral dimensions of climate change" is a welcome move, because climate change is as much about justice, dignity and equity as it is about computer models, atmospheric chemistry and carbon taxes. After all, its devastating effects -- bigger, more destructive hurricanes; hotter, longer droughts; record-breaking wildfires and devastating floods -- are poised to disproportionately harm the poor…

> > Click here to read Jessica Hellmann's entire op-ed on CNN


The Washington Post


What is the best place to weather climate change? Research by the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index, or ND-GAIN, suggests it is Scandinavia. In a pinch, though, any developed country will do. As these maps by ND-GAIN illustrate, developed countries are far less vulnerable than developing countries to the risks of climate change.

ND-GAIN ranks 175 countries both by vulnerability and readiness to adapt to climate change. The group measures vulnerability by considering the potential impact of climate change on six areas: food, water, health, ecosystem service, human habitat and infrastructure. The readiness rank weights portions of the economy, governance and society that affect the speed and efficiency of adaptation projects.

The areas in red, including most of Africa and South Asia, are very vulnerable to climate change and ill-prepared to deal with its impact. The few countries in blue, including Vietnam, Ghana, Rwanda, Namibia and Botswana, are countries that are vulnerable but are relatively well equipped. Countries in yellow are less vulnerable but also less prepared. The countries in green, which include most of the world’s developed countries, are both less vulnerable and better equipped to deal with the challenge of climate change.

Here is the map broken down by readiness, with green indicating “more ready” and red indicating “less ready”:

And here is the map for vulnerability:

According to the index, Norway, New Zealand, Sweden and Finland are best equipped to deal with the pressures of climate change, while the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, Eritrea, Burundi and Chad are the worst equipped.



Which Countries Are Most Likely to Be Wiped Out By Future Disasters?

The results of a new report show which countries are the most vulnerable to risk—and the most ready to respond when disaster strikes.

Bigger storms and more flooding are some of the most most obvious ingredients in the risk stew brewed up by climate change. But what happens after the storms subside? What about all the secondary and tertiary effects of climate change? What about the challenge of finding the money or doing the infrastructural planning necessary to adapt to a changed environment, or the political stability and leadership to see a country through a time of dire food or water scarcity?

That's the kind of cause-and-effect planning that the Global Adaptation Index or GAIN has been doing since 1995. Every year GAIN, which was based in DC until it moved to become part of Notre Dame two years ago, publishes a report that ranks every country in the world on a scale from 1 to 100. The metrics that determine a country's score are twofold: First, how vulnerable is the country to climate change, defined as "sensitivity to climate, population, infrastructure and resource stress, as well as the country's adaptive capacity to those stresses"? And second, how prepared is the country to deal with those risks, in terms of "social, governance and economic factors"?

The idea is to give leaders the ability to gauge and assess how a particular country will respond to the rising tides, and all the chaos they bring with them. In November, the group met for its annual meeting to release its latest report—and the results are fascinating, if troubling.

1) We're all better prepared today than 20 years ago

GAIN has been doing its rankings since 1995, and a comparison between the earliest and most recent risk maps show us that the world, in large part, is better prepared than it was in the 1990s.

Which Countries Are Most Likely to Be Wiped Out By Future Disasters?

2) Norway is the most prepared of all

Yep, the country with the 7th longest coastline in the world is also the most prepared for climate change. In fact, the report points out, it's been #1 for preparedness for two decades, thanks to high scores for food stability, healthcare, access to clean water, and energy infrastructure.

3) The most at-risk countries are war-torn (and mostly land-locked)

The countries most at risk and least prepared are in Africa, and all of them have been destabilized by war—from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Chad, which occupies the last spot on the list. Most have a dearth of agricultural and medical resources combined with infrastructural and political insecurity.

Which Countries Are Most Likely to Be Wiped Out By Future Disasters?

4) Russia and China are getting better, Jordan is getting worse

In its release notes, GAIN points out the countries that have risen the highest and dropped the lowest. While Russia and China are improving, Jordan fell by 31 points—seemingly because of its low scores when it comes to fresh water access and dam capacity, a big issue for plenty of Middle Eastern countries.

5) If you're looking for a safe haven, go to Scandinavia

Norway won the day, but all of Scandinavia made it into the top ten, alongside other Northern European countries, the US, Germany, and Australia and New Zealand. "Many do face moderate exposure to climate change, but they have good capacities to deal with the potential climate risks, including high access to amenities such as electricity, sanitation and clean drinking water," a release explains.

Which Countries Are Most Likely to Be Wiped Out By Future Disasters?

 The Best and Worst Places in the World to Live As Climate Changes

An index developed at the University of Notre Dame is giving us a glimpse of what countries are the best and worst to live in based on their ability to cope with the impacts of climate change.

The rankings come from the so-called ND-GAIN index, which is based on the vulnerability and readiness of each country to adapt to climate change's impacts.

Vulnerability to climate change is based on six factors: food, water, health, ecosystem service, human habitat and infrastructure. The readiness index is made up of three components: economic readiness, governance readiness and social readiness.

A formula is then used to come up with the overall rating for each country around the world on a scale of 0 to 100. 

All but one of the top five best countries are located in Europe. The United States ranked eighth.

Of the top 10 worst countries, eight are located in Africa.