Pope Francis recently released an encyclical calling climate change “one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day.” As expected, Republicans lashed out at Pope Francis, and presidential candidate Rick Santorum chided him by saying that Pope Francis should “leave science to the scientists.” There are few issues that Republican politicians from right-wing to moderate get behind in almost complete opposition quite like climate change, even when it means defying the Catholic Church which many of them are members of.
The Vatican hosted a two-day summit on climate change this week which featured remarks by Pope Francis, and approximately 60 mayors from around the world attended. Ten mayors from the United States also were among those present, and not one was a Republican.
Not a single Republican mayor attended a two-day climate change summit at the Vatican this week. While dozens of U.S. mayors of both parties were allegedly invited, only Democrats accepted, U.S. News has learned.
The one-sided turnout may partly be due to the hastily assembled guest list – Republican mayors James Brainard of Carmel, Indiana, and R. Rex Parris of Lancaster, California, who have spearheaded efforts to address global warming, say they were not invited. But the RSVPs also suggest how deep the political divide over global warming now goes, spurring even local GOP mayors to spurn a prestigious invitation from the papacy.
“Republican voters, the people out there, they’ve actually turned the corner in actually recognizing that climate disruption is caused by pollution. But the leadership, all the funding comes from the people who don’t want people to believe that,” says Parris, a self-described “right-wing conservative” who harnessed solar power to slash emissions in his desert city of 160,000. (Source)
Part of the problem is that the issue of climate change is so incredibly partisan in nature (although it really shouldn’t be), not to mention the incredible amount of money being spent by fossil fuel companies to push back against the science that proves it is real. Republican politicians, even if they and their constituents accept the science of climate change, risk committing political suicide if they do not go along with the powerful oil and gas lobby.
Climate change shouldn’t be a partisan issue since we are all affected by it, regardless of political beliefs. Sadly, many conservatives believe that they have to deny it exists, or that humans are causing it, simply because the science of climate change is accepted by liberals. They’re like children with oppositional defiant disorder, ignoring facts that come from authority figures on the subject. 97% of climate scientists agree that “climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities.”
Pope Francis is scheduled to visit the United States this September, and part of his itinerary includes addressing a joint session of Congress on September 24th. Ahead of his trip, his approval ratings in the United States have plummeted, especially with conservatives who are upset with him due to his emphasis on income inequality and climate change. His speech to Congress is expected to cover these topics and remind them, especially the Catholic lawmakers, of their moral obligation to address these issues – even though conservatives are likely to ignore him in favor of big money donors such as the Koch brothers.
Sadly, if Republicans are unwilling to listen to Pope Francis on issues like income inequality and taking care of the poor, it’s highly unlikely anyone else is going to make them change their beliefs on climate change any time soon.
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