Vatican-Created Group and Nobel Laureates Issue Two Climate, Sustainability Warnings

Two recently available and highly readable reports can add to the summer-time ‘must reading’ for those carrying climate change issues to beach-side resorts or cool mountain retreats.

A number of climate scientists, several of them quite well known in the IPCC and international climate communities and comprising a working group assembled by the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences, in May filed a report that some see as a potential harbinger of a greener Papacy.

Vatican Group: Live with Anthropocene Era We’ve Created

The group appealed 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 ecosystems, including mountain glaciers and their watersheds, aware that we all live in the same home.”

“The believers among us ask God to grant us this wish,” they wrote, in seeking to “protect the habitat that sustains us.”

“Humanity has created the Anthropocene era and must live with it,” said the Vatican working group. “All nations must ensure that their actions are strong enough and prompt enough to address the increasing impacts and growing risk of climate change and to avoid catastrophic irreversible consequences.”

The group’s report is entitled Fate of Mountain Glaciers in the Anthropocene. It is not clear what action or endorsement, if any, the report might officially get from the Vatican or from Pope Benedict XVI.

Nobel Laureates Urge ‘Fundamental Transition’

A second, and no rosier, report was published in mid-May in Stockholm by a number of Nobel laureates meeting on global sustainability. In The Stockholm Memorandum: Tipping the Scales toward Sustainability, the scientists urge “fundamental transformation and innovation in all spheres and at all scales in order to stop and reverse global environmental change and move toward fair and lasting prosperity for present and future generations.”

That report recommends a “dual-track approach” of “emergency solutions” to stop and reverse negative environmental trends and inequalities and “long term structural solutions that gradually change values, institutions, and policy frameworks.” It says unequal distribution of economic development benefits is “at the root” of global poverty and needs “immediate attention,” and that environment and economic development “must go hand in hand.” It urges keeping atmospheric warming to no more than 3.6 degrees F (2 degrees C), with global CO2 emission peaking by no later than 2015 and with a “sufficiently high price” on carbon.

The Nobel laureates’ prescriptions also call for “a new contract between science and society,” with an earth systems and global sustainability effort comparable in scope to the space, defense, and health programs and with scaled-up educational initiatives designed to lead to increased scientific understanding “especially among the young.”

“We are the first generation facing the evidence of global change,” the group wrote in its report. “It therefore falls upon us to change our relationship with the planet, in order to tip the scales toward a sustainable world for future generations.”

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