Pope Francis's Encyclical Could Have Bigger Impact Than the Paris Climate Talks, Says NASA Scientist
As the world eagerly awaits Pope Francis′s encyclical on climate change this Thursday, some scientists have come out and said that the papal letter could draw a larger impact than the world leaders hammering out emissions negotiations at the UN climate summit in Paris this December.
— Sierra Club (@sierraclub) June 15, 2015
"I'm not a religious person at all," NASA climatologist Gavin Schmidt told USA TODAY, adding that faith-based efforts to shift thinking on climate action are very promising. "The Pope's encyclical is probably going to have a bigger impact than the Paris negotiations."
Even though climate change is considered a secular topic, according to the Associated Press, Pope Francis's message will focus on the moral imperative to fight global warming, since the poor are the most affected by it. And the Pope's message is meant for a global audience, not just Catholics. "This encyclical is aimed at everyone: Let us pray that everyone can receive its message and grow in responsibility toward the common home that God has given us," the Pontiff said Sunday in before a crowd of thousands in St. Peter's Square.
Jeff Kiehl with the National Center for Atmospheric Research told USA TODAY that the Pope's reach could be huge. "The encyclical is going to go out to over 1 billion Catholics—that's a way of getting a message across to a segment of society that the scientific community could never do," he said. "I mean it's just unbelievable."
Business leaders, non-profit organizations, nongovernmental organizations, national governments and citizens all over the world will congregate at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 21st Conference of the Parties in Paris (COP21) later this year, where these international leaders will (hopefully) sign a strong emissions reductions agreement.
Despite near-universal scientific consensus on the causes of climate change, there have been some very outspoken deniers. Last week, the world of climate denial converged at the Heartland Institute’s 10th annual Climate Conference, including snowball-throwing chairman of the Senate Environment Committee, James Inhofe, who received an award from the institute and delivered a keynote address specifically attacking the Paris summit and the Pope as well.
“Everyone is going to ride the Pope now. Isn’t that wonderful,” said Inhofe sarcastically. “The Pope ought to stay with his job, and we’ll stay with ours.”
“I am not going to talk about the Pope,” he said, immediately after doing so. “Let him run his shop, and we’ll run ours.”
The sentiment echoed fellow GOP-denier Rick Santorum, a Catholic, who suggested that the Pope should police bedrooms, not climate issues.
“I understand and I sympathize and I support completely the Pope’s call for us to do more to create opportunities for people to be able to rise in society, and to care for the poor,” Santorum told a radio show host. But … “The church has gotten it wrong a few times on science, and I think that we probably are better off leaving science to the scientists,” he said.
Many scientists, on the other hand, are praising Pope Francis for being an effective messenger on how we all should be taking care of our home planet, especially when some politicians are blocking efforts to take positive action.
"As a scientist, I can say that it is possible for us to prevent truly catastrophic, potentially irreversible climate change. But I cannot say as a scientist whether or not we will find the will to do what's necessary," Michael Mann, a climate scientist at Penn State University, told USA TODAY. He added that only a strong public opinion can force policy changes, which is why the encyclical is so important.
"There are a lot of people out there who thus far have been either skeptical or indifferent," Mann said. "I think this [encyclical] will make a difference for them."
Just last week at the 39th United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, Pope Francis spoke out against multinational corporations for choosing profit over people, and stressed the importance of food security, good nutrition and reducing food waste.
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By 2030, almost a third of all the energy consumed in the European Union must come from renewable sources, according to binding targets agreed in 2018. Sweden is helping lead the way.
Sweden is a world leader in renewable energy consumption. Swedish Institute/World Bank
Naturally Warm<p>54% of Sweden's power comes from renewables, and is helped by its geography. With plenty of moving water and 63% forest cover, it's no surprise the <a href="https://sweden.se/nature/energy-use-in-sweden/#" target="_blank">two largest renewable power sources</a> are hydropower and biomass. And that biomass is helping support a local energy boom.</p><p>Heating is a key use of energy in a cold country like Sweden. In recent decades, as fuel oil taxes have increased, the country's power companies have turned to renewables, like biomass, to fuel local 'district heating' plants.</p><p>In Sweden these trace their <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank">origins back to 1948</a>, when a power station's excess heat was first used to heat nearby buildings: steam is <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/district-heating-system" target="_blank">forced along a network of pipes</a> to wherever it's needed. Today, there are around 500 district heating systems across the country, from major cities to small villages, providing heat to homes and businesses.</p><p>District heating used to be fueled mainly from the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140" target="_blank">by-products of power plants</a>, waste-to-energy plants and industrial processes. These days, however, Sweden is bringing more renewable sources into the mix. And as a result of competition, this localized form of power is now the country's<a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> home-heating market leader.</a></p>
Sweden is using smart grids to turn buildings into energy producers. Huang et al/Elsevier
Energy ‘Prosumers’<p>But Sweden doesn't stop at village-level heating solutions. Its new breed of energy-generation takes hyper-local to the next level.</p><p>One example is in the city of Ludivika where 1970s flats <a href="https://www.buildup.eu/sites/default/files/content/transforming-a-residential-building-cluster-into-electricity-prosumers-in-sweden.pdf" target="_blank">have recently been retrofitted with the latest smart energy technology</a>.</p><p>48 family apartments spread across 3 buildings have been given photovoltaic solar panels, thermal energy storage and heat pump systems. A micro energy grid connects it all, and helps charge electric cars overnight.</p><p>The result is a cluster of 'prosumer' buildings, producing rather than consuming enough power for 77% of residents' needs. With <a href="http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1232060/FULLTEXT01.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high levels of smart meter usage</a>, it's a model that looks set to spread across Sweden.</p>
<div id="d7bf9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8757b138d5570bec9d6aad18074a429a"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1273556364263071744" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Read more about Western Harbour and book a visit: https://t.co/ujSmVs9rNK 🏡🌳🌊 https://t.co/C5PuPziqIM</div> — Smart City Sweden (@Smart City Sweden)<a href="https://twitter.com/SmartCitySweden/statuses/1273556364263071744">1592474473.0</a></blockquote></div>
Scaling Up<p>A recent development by E.ON in Hyllie, a district on the outskirts of Malmö, southern Sweden, <a href="https://www.eonenergy.com/blog/2019/February/sweden-smart-city" target="_blank">has scaled up the smart grid principle</a>. Energy generation comes from local wind, solar, biomass and waste sources.</p><p>Smart grids then balance the power, react to the weather, deploying extra power when it's colder or putting excess into battery storage when it's warm. The system is not only more efficient, but bills have fallen.</p><p>Smart energy developments like those in Hyllie, Ludivika, and renewable-driven district heating, offer a radical alternative to the centralized energy systems many countries rely on today.</p><p>The EU's leaders have a challenge: how to generate 32% of energy from renewables by 2030. Sweden offers a vision of how technology and local solutions can turn a goal into a reality.</p>
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