`Neo-pagans' and global warming

I was admiring the coverage of Hurricane Sandy this morning as I leafed through The Tablet, the newspaper of the Diocese of Brooklyn, until I was stopped by a paragraph in Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio's weekly column. The bishop wrote that "global warming is not something we can believe in" and that those who view it as a cause of the storm are "neo-pagans" because "they seem to have no belief in God."Dealing with the question of why God would allow a tragedy such as the deadly hurricane, he writes:

Truly, if we are looking for causality, any meteorologist would be able to tell us that the high tide, full moon and a perfect storm came together to cause the widespread destruction that Sandy left on our door steps on the Northeast coast. Today, some who may be called neo-pagans, look for other answers, since they seem to have no belief in God. They blame global warming, or, in effect, ourselves for not taking care of the environment. Some blame the reduction of the ozone layer which some say leads to these more violent storms. I will leave that solution of these proposals to scientists who can verify global warming, because it is not something we can believe in, rather it is something that needs to be proven.

Neo-pagans?

There is a substantial movement in many religions to respond to global warming, and the Catholic Church has played an important role in it. Vatican City aimed to become the first carbon-neutral state. And the Vatican has issued many statements calling attention to the danger of global warming. As Archbishop Celestino Migliore told the United Nations in 2007, "The scientific evidence for global warming and for humanitys role in the increase of greenhouse gasses becomes ever more unimpeachable." In Caritas in Veritate, Pope Benedict XVI wrote that "the protection of the environment, of resources and of the climate obliges all international leaders to act jointly and to show a readiness to work in good faith, respecting the law and promoting solidarity with the weakest regions of the planet."No one can say with certainty that global warming is responsible for a specific storm, as Business Week notes in its cover story, "It's Global Warming, Stupid." But to ignore it now is irresponsible. Last year, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences called together a working group of glaciologists, climate scientists, hydrologists, physicists, chemists and others to report on global warming. They found a 90 percent likelihood that greenhouse gases are responsible for global warming and warned that one consequence is that "stronger storm surges" threaten coastal lands. They add: "The time to act is now." The report concludes:

We call on all people and nations to recognize the serious and potentially irreversible impacts of global warming caused by the anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants, and by changes in forests, wetlands, grasslands, and other land uses. We appeal to all nations to develop and implement, without delay, effective and fair policies to reduce the causes and impacts of climate change on communities and ecostystems, including mountain glaciers and their watershed, aware that we all live in the same home. By acting now, in the spirit of common but differentiated responsibility, we accept our duty to one another and to the stewardship of a planet blessed with the gift of life.We are committed to ensuring that all inhabitants of this planet receive their daily bread, fresh air to breathe and clean water to drink, as we are aware that, if we want justice and peace, we must protect the habitat that sustains us.

For those who want to read further on what the church teaches concerning climate change, I recommend the Web site of the Catholic Climate Covenant.    

Paul Moses, a contributing writer at Commonweal, is the author of The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi's Mission of Peace (Doubleday, 2009) and An Unlikely Union: The Love-Hate Story of New York's Irish and Italians (NYU Press, 2015). Follow him on Twitter @PaulBMoses. 

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