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Pope Francis: Environmental Sinners Will Face God's Judgment

Climate

“The planet has enough food for all, but it seems that there is a lack of willingness to share it with everyone,” Pope Francis said at a mass yesterday as part of the opening of the general assembly of the Catholic charitable organization Caritas Internationalis.

The pope has been a strong advocate on behalf of the world's poor and vulnerable, especially in the facing of a changing climate. Photo credit: Abyssum

Caritas, a confederation of 165 Catholic charity and aid groups from around the world, holds a general assembly once every four years. This year's meeting, the first under Francis' helm, is taking place this week. The Pope used the forum as a time to yet again take a strong environmental stance.

In his time as Pope, Francis has been a strong advocate on behalf of the world's poor and vulnerable, especially in the facing of a changing climate. His remarks yesterday were no different.

"We must do what we can so that everyone has something to eat," Francis said. "But we must also remind the powerful of the Earth that God will call them to judgment one day, and it will be seen if they truly tried to provide food for him in every person, and if they worked so that the environment would not be destroyed, but could produce this food."

More news came from the Vatican yesterday when Pope Francis’ closest adviser chastised climate deniers in the U.S., blaming capitalism for their views. Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga criticized groups in the U.S. that have already come out against Francis’ highly anticipated encyclical on climate change.

“The ideology surrounding environmental issues is too tied to a capitalism that doesn’t want to stop ruining the environment because they don’t want to give up their profits,” Rodríguez said, according to The Boston Globe's Crux blog.

Rodríguez’s comments came at the beginning of the annual Caritas meeting. He said Catholics and non-Catholics alike eagerly await Francis’ environmental encyclical. The Pope, for his part, is undeterred by these groups, including the Heartland Institute, which sent delegates to his recent summit on climate change to tell him that "humans are not causing a climate crisis on God’s green Earth."

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The last time San Francisco did not record a drop of rain in February was in 1864 as the Civil War raged.

"This hasn't happened in 150 years or more," said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA's Institute of the Environment and Sustainability to The Guardian. "There have even been a couple [of] wildfires – which is definitely not something you typically hear about in the middle of winter."

While the Pacific Northwest has flooded from heavy rains, the southern part of the West Coast has seen one storm after another pass by. Last week, the U.S. Drought Monitor said more Californians are in drought conditions than at any time during 2019, as The Weather Channel reported.

On Thursday, the U.S. Drought Monitor said nearly 60 percent of the state was abnormally dry, up from 46 percent just last week, according to The Mercury News in San Jose.

The dry winter has included areas that have seen devastating fires recently, including Sonoma, Napa, Lake and Mendocino counties. If the dry conditions continue, those areas will once again have dangerously high fire conditions, according to The Mercury News.

"Given what we've seen so far this year and the forecast for the next few weeks, I do think it's pretty likely we'll end up in some degree of drought by this summer," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported.

Another alarming sign of an impending drought is the decreased snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. The National Weather Service posted to Twitter a side-by-side comparison of snowpack from February 2019 and from this year, illustrating the puny snowpack this year. The snow accumulated in the Sierra Nevadas provides water to roughly 30 percent of the state, according to NBC Los Angeles.

Right now, the snowpack is at 53 percent of its normal volume after two warm and dry months to start the year. It is a remarkable decline, considering that the snowpack started 2020 at 90 percent of its historical average, as The Guardian reported.

"Those numbers are going to continue to go down," said Swain. "I would guess that the 1 March number is going to be less than 50 percent."

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center forecast that the drier-than-average conditions may last through April.

NOAA said Northern California will continue deeper into drought through the end of April, citing that the "persistent high pressure over the North Pacific Ocean is expected to continue, diverting storm systems to the north and south and away from California and parts of the Southwest," as The Weather Channel reported.

As the climate crisis escalates and the world continues to heat up, California should expect to see water drawn out of its ecosystem, making the state warmer and drier. Increased heat will lead to further loss of snow, both as less falls and as more of it melts quickly, according to The Guardian.

"We aren't going to necessarily see less rain, it's just that that rain goes less far. That's a future where the flood risk extends, with bigger wetter storms in a warming world," said Swain, as The Guardian reported.

The Guardian noted that while California's reservoirs are currently near capacity, the more immediate impact of the warm, dry winter will be how it raises the fire danger as trees and grasslands dry out.

"The plants and the forests don't benefit from the water storage reservoirs," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported. "If conditions remain very dry heading into summer, the landscape and vegetation is definitely going to feel it this year. From a wildfire perspective, the dry years do tend to be the bad fire years, especially in Northern California."