Climate Deniers Attack 'Rock Star' Pope as 'Nature-Worshipping Pagan' Amid U.S. Visit
The Pope's visit to the U.S. has been heralded for months, and now the day has finally arrived. The Pope is expected to arrive in Washington, DC later this afternoon. It will be the Pope's first visit to the U.S. and the first time a Pope has ever addressed Congress, which he will do on Thursday.
What do #thePope and snow have in common? They're two white things that'll shut down DC. #OverheardatAU #DCprobs— Bridget Bradley (@Bridget Bradley)1442868269.0
Many in the U.S. have eagerly awaited the visit from the "rock star," who enjoys wide support among Catholics, other religious groups and even non-religious people. In light of the Pope's message on climate change and his groundbreaking call to action in his encyclical, the University of Notre Dame has announced they will completely get off coal within five years, while investing in renewable energy including solar and geothermal.
“In recognition of both Pope Francis’ encyclical and his visit this week to the United States, Notre Dame is recommitting to make the world a greener place, beginning in our own backyard,” Father Jenkins said in a statement.
And other Catholic institutions are facing mounting pressure to follow in Notre Dame's footsteps. Reuters conducted a review today into Catholic churches with oil and gas leases. The review found "235 oil and gas leasing deals signed by Catholic Church authorities in Texas and Oklahoma with energy and land firms since 2010." And in one archdiocese—Oklahoma City—church officials have signed three new oil and gas leases since Pope Francis released his encyclical on the environment.
2/2 “and hoping to touch their hearts and make them change the behavior that we have had in the past” on @WNEW now: http://t.co/wBRsAQEkAn— EDF (@EDF)1442928885.0
This is going on despite the fact that Oklahoma's public utilities commission shut down two disposal wells last week amid earthquake increases from two a year to two a day due to increased fracking. The Reuters report said "it was not clear whether production on the church leases was through fracking ... or more conventional methods." But, regardless of the type of extraction, many find the situation problematic. "There may be some kind of inconsistency here between what the Pope has said and what the Church is doing in U.S. oil and gas country," Mickey Thompson, a consultant and former director of the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association, told Reuters.
Last week, 11 Republican members of Congress called for climate action ahead of Pope Francis’ visit, introducing a resolution that put the climate challenge in the broader context of conservation, stewardship, innovation and conservatism. Today, Senate Democrats will introduce a climate change bill "intended to signal their full-throated support of President Obama’s aggressive climate change agenda to 2016 voters and to the rest of the world, reports The New York Times. The bill, which The Times says has "no chance of passage in the Republican-controlled Congress" would "establish as United States policy a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by two percent each year through 2025—a cut even larger than the target set by the Obama administration."
But not everyone is on board with the Pope's message, though—climate deniers in particular. As reported previously on EcoWatch, some conservatives including Donald Trump and Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) are not pleased that the Pope is so vocal about climate change. Gosar told The Hill Pope Francis’ calls to combat the effects of climate change remind him of a “leftist politician” and he will be boycotting the Pope's speech to Congress.
Republicans want Pope Francis to shut-up about climate change, guns and capitalism http://t.co/Ws8ljaZivQ— The Independent (@The Independent)1442850561.0
George Will at The Washington Post wrote a column last week—Pope Francis’s Fact-Free Flamboyance—which focuses on defending fossil fuels. The Pope has repeatedly called on the rich and powerful to care for the planet and though Francis has not specifically called out fossil fuel executives, many media outlets have drawn the comparison to fossil fuel CEOs, including Exxon CEO Rex Tillerman, who is "notoriously obstinate in his opposition to Pope Francis’ call for a shift from intensive fossil fuel use to alternatives like solar and wind."
George Will sneers at the Pope: His condescending takedown of Pope Francis’ “fact-free flamboyance” misses the point http://t.co/E8v2GNhHSI— Salon.com (@Salon.com)1442891405.0
The Heartland Institute, which holds the world's largest annual climate denial conference, held a conference last week in Philadelphia ahead of the Pope's visit to the City of Brotherly Love. Participants at the event accused Pope Francis of being inspired by "pagan remnants" of "nature worship" and claimed that "we're seeing the revelation of an animistic form in the church."
Also in attendance was Philadelphia radio host and Daily News columnist Dom Giordano, who called Pope Francis “potentially a dangerous figure, given his celebrity and his holiness." He added, “The Pope does seem to be enamored with solutions that are not pro-American in the slightest." Climate Depot even put together a "climate skeptics guide to Pope Francis' U.S. visit" in which they instruct the faithful that Catholics do not have "to believe in man-made global warming in order to be good Catholics."
The Climate Skeptic’s Guide To Pope Francis’ U.S. Visit http://t.co/oS0eFO1BCx Get 'em while they're hot!— William M. Briggs (@William M. Briggs)1442926122.0
All of these attacks from conservatives led Matt Lewis at The Daily Caller to jump to the Pope's defense yesterday, calling the attacks "silly and counterproductive." He calls Francis a "pop culture star" and says conservatives should "welcome the opportunity his visit presents." And the latest report from the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (AKA "the club of the world's richest countries") only bolsters the Pope's stance on fossil fuels. The report published yesterday says "the world needs to abandon the harmful and outdated policies which support fossil fuels."
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By Dr. Kate Raynes-Goldie
Of all the plastic we've ever produced, only 9% has been recycled. So what happened to all that plastic you've put in the recycling bin over the years?
Triangle of Mistruths<p>The myth created around plastic recycling has been one of simplicity. We look for the familiar triangle arrows, then pop the waste in the recycling bin so it can be reused.</p><p>But the true purpose of those triangles has been misunderstood by the general public ever since their invention in the 1980s.</p><p>These triangles were actually created by the plastics industry and, according to a report provided to them in July 1993, <a href="https://www.npr.org/transcripts/912150085" target="_blank">were creating "unrealistic expectations"</a> about what could be recycled. But they decided to keep using the codes.</p><p>Which is why many people still believe that these triangular symbols (also known as a <a href="https://sustainablepackaging.org/101-resin-identification-codes/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">resin identifier code</a> or RIC) means something is recyclable.</p><p>But according to the American Society for Testing and Materials International (ASTM) – which controls the RIC system – the numbered triangles "<a href="https://www.astm.org/Standards/D7611.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">are not recycle codes</a>." In fact, they weren't created for the general public at all. They were made for the post-consumer plastic industry.</p><p>In other words, the symbols make it easier to sort the different types of plastics, some of which cannot be recycled – <a href="https://www.ecobin.com.au/understand-recycling-codes/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">depending on the recycling facility</a>.</p><p>"Unfortunately, just placing your plastic into the recycling bin doesn't mean it will get recycled," says Lara Camilla Pinho. She is an architect and lecturer at the UWA School of Design who is researching novel uses of plastic waste.</p><p>"The recycling system is complicated and often dictated by market demand. Not all plastic is recyclable. We cannot recycle plastic bags or straws for example."</p>
Behind the Scenes<p>So, what makes recycling plastics so difficult?</p><p>"Essentially, there are two types of plastics – thermoplastics and thermosets. While thermoplastics can be re-melted and re-molded, thermosets contain cross-linked polymers that cannot be separated meaning they cannot be recycled," says Lara.</p><p>"Even thermoplastics have a limit to the amount of times we can recycle them, as each time they are recycled they downgrade in quality."</p><p>Even when plastics are recyclable, it is <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/oct/13/war-on-plastic-waste-faces-setback-as-cost-of-recycled-material-soars" target="_blank">often more costly</a> than simply making new plastics.</p>
Sugar, Seaweed and Mushrooms<p>If the conventional recycling system isn't working, what else can we do with all the plastic we've created?</p><p>Lara is looking for ways to add value to recycled plastics such as using it in the design and development of architectural products. She hopes to use these architectural products to help underserved communities that are disproportionately affected by plastic waste.</p><p>In addition to recycling, we also need to find ways to reduce our use of virgin petroleum-based plastics.</p><p>Bioplastic is one such product that has been getting a lot of hype over the last few years. And although they're better than petroleum-based plastics, bioplastics also come with their own <a href="https://phys.org/news/2017-12-truth-bioplastics.html" target="_blank">set of challenges</a>.</p><p>"There are already a lot of bio-based alternatives to plastic, such as bagasse – a byproduct of sugar cane processing," says Lara.</p><p><a href="https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/the-mycelium-revolution-is-upon-us/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mycelium</a>, a type of fungi we most often associate with mushrooms, are also providing an interesting plastic alternative.</p><p>"In the field of architecture, mycelium is starting to be used as an alternative to plastic insulation, but also as compostable packaging and bricks," says Lara.</p><p>"The bricks take around five days to make and are strong, durable, water resistant and compostable at the end of their use."</p><p><a href="https://www.arup.com/news-and-events/hyfi-reinvents-the-brick" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Hy-Fi Tower</a>, created by <a href="http://www.thelivingnewyork.com/living_about.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The Living</a>, is an example of a building made from these bricks.</p><p>And finally, there's seaweed.</p><p>"[Seaweed is] cheap and can reproduce itself quickly without fertilizers. In architecture, there is use for seaweed as an alternative to plastic insulation but also as cladding," says Lara.</p>
More Money, More Problems<p>While all these alternatives are great, the main cause of our plastic dilemma is not scientific or technological, but economic.</p><p>As long as it remains <a href="https://engineering.mit.edu/engage/ask-an-engineer/why-is-it-cheaper-to-make-new-plastic-bottles-than-to-recycle-old-ones/" target="_blank">cheaper to create new plastics</a> from fossil fuels rather than from bioplastics or from recycling, we're going to be stuck with plastic garbage islands floating in our oceans.</p><p>The true cost to our health and our environment has yet to be included in the equation. But once it is, maybe that is when the real shift will happen.</p>
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As concern mounts over the impacts of climate change, many experts are calling for greater use of electricity as a substitute for fossil fuels. Powered by advancements in battery technology, the number of plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles on U.S. roads is increasing. And utilities are generating a growing share of their power from renewable fuels, supported by large-scale battery storage systems.