Global warming and Catholicism do not mix. If you do not agree with this, you could be right. In either case, however, there is nothing we can do about it.
I actually had a pair of successful business relationships slowly deteriorate because of this topic.
Let me be clear on a few points to get started. First, I love nature and the environment. In addition, I am completely against pollution (air, water, noise, light, etc.) of every kind. I also believe in environmental responsibility.
Certainly, we (humans) can cause great destruction and harm to the Earth. There are examples, such as Chernobyl’s 1986 nuclear plant accident in the Ukraine and the nuclear bombs dropped on Japan during World War II. There are many more examples as it relates to cumulative day-to-day pollution of the environment, especially water and air.
In addition, humans have certainly caused the extinction of numerous species, sometimes directly as a result of our actions (over-hunting) and sometimes from unintended consequences.
As devastating as these events and the many others were to portions of the Earth and to humans, as well as plants and animals, the “natural” disasters that have occurred throughout time have had a larger impact. There have been numerous earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, and that cannot be attributed to human intervention as causes.
The most recent was the Mount Pinatubo eruption in the Philippines. This volcano on June 15, 1991 discharged millions of tons of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere, resulting in a decrease in the worldwide temperature over the next few years.
However, to return to the primary thesis that Catholicism leaves very little room for the belief that humans can have a significant impact on global warming. Even if I stipulate that the humans can impact the rise and fall of global temperatures, which I do not, we cannot do enough to destroy the Earth. (Destroying the Earth is much different that eliminating human existence or other life from the planet.)
Let’s start at the beginning — the very beginning. Having been given “dominion over inanimate and other living beings” as detailed in Genesis 1:28-31, that dominion also provided to us a responsibility. As explained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (§2415), humans are limited in our power of dominion “by concern for the quality of life of his neighbor, including generations to come; it requires a religious respect for the integrity of creation.”
The bottom-line is that we are required to exhibit stewardship.
Therefore, the technology that has been discovered that allows for recycling and limiting waste is a good thing. Rotating crops, anti-littering campaigns, conserving the use of water and natural resources, and the more efficient use of energy sources are all examples of stewardship.
However, doing these things to “reduce global warming” and/or “climate change” is, at best, naïve; at worst, it is placing our human ability and power above our God.
In 2011, Pope Benedict XVI wrote on the issue of environmental responsibility. Conservation and careful stewardship of nature is a very Catholic concept. The command to “rule” and “subdue” the earth is a command of stewardship.
A proper Catholic understanding of environmental conservation is humanity focused. Humans are obviously viewed as a necessary part of the Earth; we are/were designed by God for the Earth’s benefit. It is wrong to believe that the Earth is primary and humans are secondary and must tip-toe around and not use the resources of the planet.
By the way, the command to subdue the earth is immediately followed with the command to fill (populate) it. Many global warming activists also profess that one of the problems of the world is over-population. Their solution to ecological recklessness is population control, also an anti-Catholic belief.
From a realistic point of view, can humans do enough damage to the Earth to exterminate life on this planet as we know it? The answer is probably yes. The cruelty and ever-present face of evil makes it possible. However, Catholics also believe that good will always conquer evil. Therefore, as long as Catholics have their faith, and live it, if the end of our human existence does come we should be joyful for the eternal promise to join our Father in Heaven.
Will the end of human existence occur via the process of substantial changes in the Earth’s temperature (up or down) that are caused by mankind’s daily activities? Highly unlikely, for a couple of reasons.
First, according to researchers on both sides of the global warming issue, the temperature swings that have occurred — even those regarded as drastic — have been gradual over a number of years. Despite the reported increase in temperatures over many of the years since 1950, our lifespan has increased. Humans, as well as many living plants and creatures, naturally adapt to their environments.
In addition, most of the temperature fluctuations are now being attributed to cloud cover and wind directions and jet-streams. While scientists certainly know how clouds are formed and what they are comprised of, there is yet to be a way to predict cloud formations and cloud cover. It is still difficult to predict a couple of days or a week in advance for a specific location.
Finally, as stated earlier, do we really think that we can control the existence of the Earth? Do we believe that we are in control of the Earth’s destiny? Are we in affect saying that we have the power to determine and change the Earth more than our God does?
The belief in man-made global warming and/or human-influenced climate change is contrary to our Catholic Faith. If we truly practice what we preach, including environmental stewardship, and we proceed to our death as believers, evangelists, and by living life as Christ has directed us, we should not be fearful, anxious, or stressed about something that is completely out of our control. In reality, we should be looking forward to the day we are called Home.