Had industry-funded climate science actually been shared

It has been well established that oil companies spread misinformation for decades about climate change. But many may wonder if the misinformation was an innocent oversight or if the companies intentionally spread information they knew not to be true. 

In a study published this month in Science, the authors concluded the latter. That is, the authors found that oil company scientists knew and shared with management that human-caused climate change was real and their projections at the time (during the 1970-80s) regarding global warming accurately predicted today’s climate crisis, even though management publicly denied it all: 

On the basis of company records, we quantitatively evaluated all available global warming projections documented by—and in many cases modeled by—[company] scientists between 1977 and 2003. We find that most of their projections accurately forecast warming that is consistent with subsequent observations. Their projections were also consistent with, and at least as skillful as, those of independent academic and government models. [They] also correctly rejected the prospect of a coming ice age, accurately predicted when human-caused global warming would first be detected, and reasonably estimated the “carbon budget” for holding warming below 2°C. On each of these points, however, the company’s public statements about climate science contradicted its own scientific data.

Photo by Strange Happenings

Read the article. What if fossil fuel companies had simply shared the truth instead of hiding it and preventing real progress on climate change? One can only imagine. 

Working together, we can help take care of our common home.  

Paul Litwin

What’s the right thing to do?

This week, I’d like to share a wonderful quote by environmental activist and author, Wendell Berry:

We don’t have a right to ask whether we are going to succeed or not. The only question we have a right to ask is what’s the right thing to do? What does this Earth require of us if we want to continue to live on it? –Wendell Berry

Working together, we can help take care of our common home.  

Paul Litwin

Introducing the Laudato Si Action Platform

As I have written about before, in May of 2015 Pope Francis released his Laudato Si encyclical (tinyurl.com/ReadLaudatoSi). The encyclical addresses climate change, climate injustice, and the care for creation. In the encyclical, Our Holy Father implores us to listen to “both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor” and to act to save our common home, but the encyclical provides no action plan.

The Vatican’s Laudato Si Action Platform (LSAP), released in the Fall of 2021, provides an action plan. Quoting from the LSAP website (laudatosiactionplatform.org), the platform offers:

  • Laudato Si Planning Guides, which your institution, community, or family can use to discern and implement your response to Laudato Si
  • A process-oriented approach that responds to the charism of your institution, community, or family
  • Guidance on actions that help build a better future through the Laudato Si Goals
  • Recognition of your progress

Like the virtues, the LSAP revolves around the number seven. It is designed for 7 sectors (audiences) to target 7 goals over 7 years. The seven goals are:

  1. Response to the cry of the earth
  2. Response to the cry of the poor
  3. Ecological economics
  4. Adoption of sustainable lifestyles
  5. Ecological education
  6. Ecological spirituality
  7. Community resilience and empowerment

You might be wondering who the LSAP was created for. The answer is everyone! Materials have been prepared for each of the seven sectors, including individuals/families, parishes, and schools.

In fact, St John the Evangelist signed on to the LSAP in 2022 and has been working to complete its first year of the plan. As mentioned, the LSAP is a journey for seven years, with each year consisting of three phases: reflect, act, and evaluate. I will share more about the platform and St John’s journey in the coming weeks. 

In the meantime, I encourage you to embrace the Laudato Si Action Plan at the individual or family level. It’s easy: visit the website at laudatosiactionplatform.org and click on the Enroll button to start your journey. If you have any questions about LSAP, feel free to contact me.

Working together, we can help take care of our common home.

Paul Litwin

Good news and bad news on the climate in 2022

The past year brought a lot of bad climate news to the world. The planet was hit by numerous climate disasters, including massive flooding that displaced 7 million in Pakistan, Hurricane Ian which caused $100 billion damage in the US and Cuba, summer heatwaves and drought in the US and UK which caused $20 billion in losses. On top of that, very little was agreed to at COP 27 in Egypt and of course, there was Russia using its fossil-fueled riches to wreak havoc in the Ukraine.

According to Katharine Hayhoe, Canadian atmospheric scientist, climate author, and chief scientist at the Nature Conservancy, despite this bad news, there was much to celebrate in terms of progress on climate change in 2022 including:

  • The passage of the Inflation Reduction Act in the US which brought $391 billion in spending on energy and climate change.
  • Agreement to a new biodiversity treaty at COP15 in Montreal.
  • The International Energy Agency says that renewable energy will be responsible for the  majority of power generation globally by 2025.
  • Brazil and Australia elected new climate-friendly leaders after prior climate-hostile leadership.
  • France banned short-haul flights between Paris and Nantes, Lyon, and Bordeaux.
  • The European Union has agreed to cut fossil fuel emissions by 55% by 2030.
  • According to the World Bank, Africa has the world’s greatest solar energy production potential.
  • New homes built after 2025 in Tokyo must install solar panels.
  • Women in Papau New Guinea are leading mangrove conservation efforts that protect coastlines from climate-fueled storms.

Leah Stokes, wrote in the New York Times on Christmas:

“[W]hen we look back a decade from now, we may find that 2022 was an inflection point. New policies [around the world] are creating momentum for the shift toward clean energy. If moving away from dirty energy is like rerouting a giant ship, then this could be the year when world leaders started to turn the tanker around.”

Working together, we can help take care of our common home.  

Paul Litwin

I don’t want any more pieces about the climate!

I just finished reading a book (highly recommended) called Our House Is on Fire: Scenes of a Family and a Planet in Crisis, written by Malena Ernman, the mother of climate youth activist, Greta Thunberg. Ernman was a columnist for a chain of newspapers in Sweden and writes in the book how her editor emailed her: “The climate is a burning issue. lt’s super-important. But I want you to write about other topics. I don’t want any more pieces about the climate!”

Ernman replies “I could not agree more. I don’t want any more pieces about the climate either. I want to write about other things. Things that the newspaper and I have agreed to focus on. Culture. Thriving rural towns. Humanitarian projects…or really anything at all.”

She goes on to say that she can’t “because now things are the way they are”. She continues with a wonderful analogy: 

[It’s] a bit like being cozily curled up, deep asleep in a warm corner of a big sleeping bag inside a rain-drenched tent. You don’t really want to get up and deal with the problem. You want to go on sleeping. Like everyone else.

But you can’t.

I know. I can’t either. Working together, we can help take care of our common home.  

Paul Litwin

An underwater nativity

What would Jesus do if he were born into today’s climate crisis? Back in 2019, St. Susanna Catholic Church in Dedham, Massachusetts made a nativity scene that depicted Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, the three wise men, shepherds, and animals in knee-deep water.

The church was hoping to spark a conversation. The banner above the nativity scene read: 

“God so loved the world…” Will We?

Good question. Working together, we can help take care of our common home.  

Paul Litwin

A Letter to Everyone Who Has a Chance to Be Heard

This is a letter written by Greta Thunberg in 2017 or 2018, before she started her school strike for the climate; before she became famous for becoming the voice of a generation. Excerpted from Our House is on Fire: Scenes of a Family and a Planet in Crisis.

My name is Greta and I am fifteen years old. My little sister, Beata, will turn thirteen this autumn. We can’t vote in the parliamentary election even though the political issues now at stake are going to affect our whole lives in a way that can’t be compared with previous generations.

If we live to be a hundred then were going to be here well into the next century, and that sounds really strange, I know. Because when you talk about the future today, it usually means in just a few years’ time. Everything beyond the year 2050 is so distant that it doesn’t even exist in our imaginations. But by then my little sister and I–hopefully–will not even have lived half our lives. My grandfather is ninety-three and his father lived to be ninety-nine, so it’s not an impossibility that we’re going to live long lives, too.

In the years 2078 and 2080 we will celebrate our seventy-fifth birthdays. If we have children and grandchildren, perhaps they’ll celebrate those birthdays with us. Perhaps we’ll tell them what it was like when we were children. Perhaps we’ll tell them about
all of you.

Perhaps they are going to wonder why you, who had the chance to be heard, didn’t speak up. But it doesn’t have to be way. We could all start acting as if we were in the middle of the crisis we are in fact in.

You keep saying that the children are our future, and that you would do anything for them. Such things sound full of hope. If you mean what you say, then please listen to us – we don’t want your pep talks. We don’t want your presents, your package holidays, your hobbies or your unlimited options. We want you to seriously get involved in the acute sustainability crisis going on all around you. And we want you to start speaking up and telling it like it is.

Climate change and religion

Pew Research just released results from a survey conducted in April of 2022 to gauge Americans’ views on climate change

According to the researchers:

Most Americans say the Earth is getting warmer, including a narrow majority (53%) who say it is mostly because of human activity, such as burning fossil fuels. Most also view global climate change as an extremely or very serious problem.

When you break it down by religious views, Evangelical Christians were the group that was least likely to think that human activity was warming the earth (32%), with 31% saying it was due mostly to natural patterns, and 17% saying that there is no solid evidence the earth is getting any warmer. 

Photo by Rodolfo Clix

Catholics were better: 54% said that the earth was getting warmer because of human activity, while 25% said the earth was getting warmer due to mostly natural patterns and 9% saying that there is no solid evidence that the earth is warming. 

When asked to describe why global climate change is not a serious problem, 21% of Catholics (and 38% of Evangelicals) said that climate change is not too serious or not a serious problem. Members of non-Christian religions and those without any religion “consistently express the highest levels of concern about climate change”. 

Finally, when it comes to voting and climate change:

More than half of registered voters who are religious “nones” (55%) said in a March 2022 survey that climate change would be very important to their vote in the 2022 congressional elections, including seven-in-ten atheists (72%). Fewer Catholic (39%) and Protestant (31%) registered voters said it was a very important issue.

Working together, we can help take care of our common home.  

Paul Litwin

Dreaming of a Green Christmas

According to the Stanford University recycling center, Americans make 25% more trash between Thanksgiving and New Year’s than at any other time of the year. Much of it, of course, is caused by the waste produced by decorating and gift giving. So why not instead strategize how each of us can make less waste instead of more this Christmas season?

Photo by Daniel Reche

Here are some suggestions on how:

  1. For decorations, reuse or repurpose as much as possible. Ask your parents or grandparents if you can have some of their heirlooms. More than likely, they will be touched by the request and be happy to share. And when you do, carefully consider the carbon footprint of any decorations you do buy. 
  2. For gift wrapping, think the three R’s: Reuse wrapping paper and supplies that were gifted to you or items that started their lives in another capacity. For example, reuse newspaper and twine for wrapping gifts. Or skip the wrapping entirely. And finally, if you have to buy wrapping paper, make sure it can be recycled.
  3. Do-it-yourself gifts are often the best! Ideas include “breakfast in a mason jar” (made from rolled oats or other whole grains, seeds, and dried fruits), framed handwritten recipes or letters, homemade cutting boards, a batch of Christmas cookies, a pie, a homemade wreath, a reconditioned old toy, or a photo album.
  4. If you do end up buying a gift, your footprint will almost always be lighter by choosing gifts from a local shop rather than online. How about a book or two from your local bookstore, like Phinney Books, Couth Buzzard, or Third Place Books?
  5. Digital subscriptions are great ideas. This could be a subscription to a newspaper (e.g., NY Times), online learning, streaming music or movies (e.g., Netflix, Peacock, or Hulu), a virtual cooking class, or perhaps a virtual gym or meditation service.
  6. Of course, in person classes and memberships are great gifts too. Who wouldn’t want a massage certificate?
  7. Previously-owned (used) items have a smaller environmental impact than new items. How about a used bike for a kid or even an adult who wants to exercise more? Or maybe a gift card to or a neighborhood thrift store or Goodwill.
  8. My all-time favorite gift (as mentioned last year): donating to a worthy charity in a loved one’s name. Candidates include charities ministering to the poor such as Catholic Charities, Unbound, St Vincent de Paul, Doctors without Borders, International Rescue Committee, or Northwest Harvest. Other worthy causes include those working for climate action and justice, including Catholic Climate Covenant, the Laudato Si movement, 350.org, and Climate Reality. Or perhaps an animal shelter like Pigs Peace Sanctuary, Mercy for Animals, or the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. Google any of these to find their website.
  9. Lastly, have you ever thought of talking to your significant other, kids, and siblings about not purchasing (or purchasing minimal) gifts for each other and instead spending that money on a charity instead (see idea #8)? My siblings and I long ago decided against gifts for each other and only to purchase gifts for the children.

Working together, we can help take care of our common home.  

Paul Litwin

What is an Ecological Conversion?

Last week I suggested to you that Advent season was a great time to undergo an ecological conversion. So what exactly is an ecological conversion? The Laudato Si’ Movement defines ecological conversion as the “transformation of hearts and minds toward greater love of God, each other, and creation. It is a process of acknowledging our contribution to the social and ecological crisis and acting in ways that nurture communion: healing and renewing our common home.”

Photo by David Bartus

The ecological convert changes his or her approach to life. (I have written about this before; most recently this past Lent and much of what follows is borrowed from my previous writings on the subject.) The convert considers the effect of his or her decisions and actions on the integral ecology and tries to choose a path that shows reverence for God’s creation. 

The ecological converts’ work is often about learning to do more with less. Less consumption, less purchases, less waste, less resource usage, less of a footprint on the planet. Less usage of fossil fuels, less eating of meat. And when they consume/heat/cool/travel, they try to do it most efficiently, especially if they can afford to take the most creation-friendly path. 

The ecological convert shares their ecological convictions with others, but in a non-judgemental way. That is, they lead by example rather than by constant admonishment! 

During his Holy Thursday homily back in April, Father Crispin spoke about Jesus washing the feet of the apostles as an example to them and that the apostles had to spread Jesus’ message by washing the feet of others. Father Crispin stated rather emphatically, “Feet must be washed!”  

I am going to take the liberty of extending Father Crispin’s metaphor a bit further: dirty feet have a large footprint and leave a trail of dirt and refuse, while clean feet leave a minimal trail. So the ecological convert looks for feet to wash, to spread the “care for creation” message while reducing everyone’s footprints. The convert starts by washing their own feet (i.e., personal actions), then washes the feet of those closest to them (i.e., family and friends), the feet of their community (i.e., community members), and finally looks to advocate for clean feet for their city, their country, and the whole world (i.e., political/systemic actions). Yes, the ecological convert washes a lot of feet and everyone is the better for it.

Working together, we can help take care of our common home.  

Paul Litwin