The Catholic bishops of California released a pastoral statement on the environment Tuesday, calling on citizens to confront “the risks of a warming climate.”
“The disruption of the earth’s climate is one of the principal challenges facing humanity today, with grave implications for the poor, many of whom live in areas particularly affected by environmental degradation,” the bishops declared in their 7400-word document.
“Climate disruption will exacerbate social and economic inequalities, which points to the need to prioritize strategies to help all those in need adapt to our new climate reality,” they said, which means that changes “in lifestyle, policy, and economics are absolutely necessary.”
The bishops also tied climate change to recent weather phenomena in California, proposing that global warming is aggravating the state’s meteorological volatility.
“California’s climate is variable, with recurring droughts and occasional floods, but our warming planet exacerbates this variability. Droughts are becoming more common and more intense, with rainfall more volatile. Our climate is now characterized by wetter wet years and drier dry years,” they said.
“As California becomes warmer, the most alarming implication is appearing in our mountains, where more precipitation is falling as rain, not snow. Increased winter runoff threatens more floods, and the Sierra snowpack is melting earlier, reducing water supplies,” the bishops stated. “California’s four warmest years on record have all occurred since 2014, with all predictions suggesting even greater warming.”
Curiously, despite millennia of massive climate swings involving ice ages, extinction events, and pluvial periods, the bishops express their conviction that “climate change is something new” and will require “new, innovative responses across all sectors of society.”
“A broad consensus among scientists worldwide identifies the primary cause of climate disruption as the burning of fossil fuels for energy generation, industry, and transportation,” they assert.
The bishops urge “climate adaptation,” employing scientific knowledge “to forecast how our environment is changing, and undertaking responsible actions to protect everyone, especially the vulnerable.”
Since climate change is exacerbating conflicts, all Californians must “prepare for an increasingly unpredictable climate,” they state.
Among the many solutions proposed, the bishops urge the creation of “an environmental consciousness within all Catholic families” as well as the enactment of policies that “drastically reduce carbon dioxide emissions and other polluting gases.”
Carbon dioxide is technically not a pollutant, since it is a natural component of the air we breathe (rather than a foreign contaminant), along with oxygen, nitrogen, and argon.