The Church and climate change

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Monday, December 10, 2012

WE KNOW that super typhoons such as Typhoon Pablo can be blamed on climate change, right? I thought that was a pretty straightforward rejoinder to climate change deniers.

I was wrong. Christine Herrera of Manila Standard Today quoted Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo's quip, "I don't know if that's a coincidence or if God has a message for us that, if we discuss this (RH bill), much suffering will be brought down upon us."

As far as this corner is concerned, Typhoon Pablo, habagat, Sendong and Ondoy can be blamed on climate change, not on RH or the contraceptive or population issues. These natural calamities of flash floods and mudslides go straight to the heart of climate change, of extreme weather events.
Was that his discernment? I find that surprising. Bishop Pabillo co-chaired with Christian S. Monsod in 2011 the National Summit on Poverty, Inequality and Social Reform that tackled, among other things, the link between climate change and poverty. Co-conveners include the Climate Change Congress of the Philippines, CBCP-NASSA and the National Anti-Poverty Commission, the DA, DAR, DENR, DILG, DWSD and DepEd.


Before that, the Church was going strong on climate change. The CBCP called for the Second National Rural Conference (2007) and The Government-CSO National Interface on Climate Change in the aftermath of typhoon Ondoy. These conferences highlighted the vicious cycle of dependence and hopelessness of the poor, complicated by the effects of climate change and the worldwide problems of food security and the international financial turmoil.

I double-checked the CBCP website for any denial and correction. Unless Google missed out, there was no denial. So I'll take it that he was quoted correctly.

Bishops are, even by Catholic doctrine, fallible, of course. Like the rest of us, they also make mistakes. But I would have expected Bishop Pabillo the last person to connect Pablo with the RH bill and not to climate change.

Climate change has wreaked more havoc in the country than a bill that has yet to be passed. After all, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, one of the oldest scientific institutes in the world, issued a sobering report on the impacts for humankind as a result of the global retreat of mountain glaciers as a result of human activity leading to climate change.

In their declaration, the working group calls "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."

The declaration echoed Pope Benedict XVI's 2010 World Day of Peace Message saying, "...if we want justice and peace, we must protect the habitat that sustains us."

Veerabhadran Ramanathan of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego - a member of the Pontifical Academy since 2004 and a co-chair of the working group - noted that, "I have never participated in any report in 30 years where the word 'God' is mentioned. I think the Vatican brings that moral authority."

Give the Church's attention to the RH bill what is to it, and to climate change what pertains to it.

As Pope Benedict said before the Vatican Diplomatic Corps in 2010, "If we wish to build true peace, how can we separate, or even set at odds, the protection of the environment and the protection of human life, including the life of the unborn? It is in man's respect for himself that his sense of responsibility for creation is shown."

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Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on December 10, 2012.


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