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Green Left Pope Francis Demands Climate Action “Without Delay” To Prevent Climate “Catastrophe”

By Dr Gideon Polya

 10 August, 2015

In stark contrast to the terracidal One Percenters, Pope Francis recognizes a looming climate catastrophe and millions of premature deaths from carbon burning pollutants, demands massive decarbonisation and conversion to renewables starting without delay in the  next few years, rejects Carbon Trading as a dishonest ploy, advocates a fully borne Carbon Price (Carbon Tax) on polluters, proposes boycotts of polluters, condemns loss of biodiversity and advises intergenerational solidarity.

Pope Francis' landmark, faith- and science-informed  Encyclical “ Laudato si” (“Praised be”) runs to over 190 pages and has 246 sections [1] but the science-based,  humane essence for a climate change-threatened world can be summarized by his extraordinary use of some key terms and phrases.

Jesus Christ-informed, science-informed and indeed scientifically- and specifically chemically-trained Pope Francis in his landmark 2015  Encyclical  Letter “Laudato si” shows great moral and  technical  leadership  in stark contrast  to the greed-driven, pro-One Percenter, neoliberal   leadership  of the First World in:

(1) recognizing the worsening existential threat of a man-made climate change “catastrophe” for  the  Biosphere, Humanity, the poor and future generations (Section 4, [1]);

(2) recognizing that millions of  “premature deaths” (avoidable deaths) already occur each year due to pollution and poverty (Sections 20 and 48, [1]);  

(3) demanding urgent action “without delay” to start slashing fossil fuel burning and replacing it with renewable energy  “in the next few years” (Sections 26 and 165, [1]);

(4) asserting that the environmental and social costs of pollution must be “fully borne” by those incurring them (i.e. a full Carbon Price) (Section 195, [1]);  

(5) asserting that a market-based, Carbon Trading,  Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) approach may simply become a “ploy” to permit continuing pollution (Section 171 , [1]);  

(6) advocating individual and collective action through “boycotts” of those responsible for the worsening climate emergency (Section , [1]);

(7) decrying “the loss of biodiversity” and asserting that “we have no right” to do speciescide (Sections 32-42, especially 33, [1]),  and

(8) advocating “intergenerational solidarity” in recognition of the appalling intergenerational injustice  of climate change and environmental degradation  (Section 159, [1]).

These 8 key assertions of Pope Francis are in agreement with expert scientific  opinion as summarized below:  

(1) Re Pope Francis' climate change “catastrophe”, it is now very unlikely that the world will avoid a catastrophic 2 degrees Centigrade temperature rise.  The world may have only 3 years left at current rates of pollution before it exceeds a Terminal Carbon Budget that must not be exceeded  if we are to have a 75% chance of avoiding a catastrophic 2C temperature rise [2] , the US used up its “fair share” of this budget in 2014 and a similarly climate criminal Australia used up its fair share of this Terminal Carbon Budget in 2011 [3, 4]. Indeed  paleoclimatologists, climate scientists, glaciologists and ice sheet scientists inform us that over 90% of the extra heat in recent decades has gone into the ocean,  the equilibrium consequence of 400 parts per million CO2 in the atmosphere  is a sea level rise of  20 metres,  all Arctic summer sea ice may be gone within a decade,  and the present worsening situation  means a several metre sea level rise in the coming  century with the real threat of non-linear changes, tipping points and relatively sudden catastrophic changes [5, 6]. Increased temperature has already contributed to increased sea level, storm intensity, flooding and droughts i.e. climate catastrophe has already arrived for Island Nations, low-lying mega-delta nations like Bangladesh and desert countries like those of the Sahel, North Africa and the Middle East.

(2) Re Pope Francis' “premature deaths” from poverty and climate change,  the 3 key existential threats facing Humanity are nuclear weapons, climate change and poverty. Nuclear weapons can destroy all of Humanity with a nuclear terrorist rogue states now including  (upper estimates of numbers of warheads in brackets) the  US (7,315), Russia (8,000), Apartheid Israel (400), France (300), UK (250), China (250), Pakistan (120), India (100), and North Korea (less than 10) [7]. Already each year about 0.5 million people die  from climate change [8], and   7 million die from air pollution [9]. In prosperous, educated, advanced  Australia  about 100 people die annually  from heat stress and about 10,000 die from carbon burning pollutants, the breakdown being 5,000 (coal burning) ,  2,000 (vehicle exhaust) and 3,000 (other burning) [10].  Poverty kills and each year about 17 million people (half of them  children) die avoidably (prematurely) from deprivation or deprivation–exacerbated disease and  1.5 billion people have died thus since 1950 [11]. 10 billion people may perish prematurely (avoidably) this century, or an average of 100 million dying thus each year, if climate change is not requisitely addressed   [12].

(3)  Re Pope Francis' proposed massive decarbonisation commencing “without delay” and “in the next few years”, the world has already effectively run out of time to avoid a plus 2 degrees Centigrade catastrophe [2-6]. The World  needs to (a) change societal philosophy to one of scientific risk management, biological sustainability and Christ-like social humanism,  with complete cessation of species extinctions, and  zero tolerance for lying; (b) urgently reduce atmospheric CO2  to a safe, pre-Industrial Revolution level of about 300 ppm CO2 as recommended by leading climate and biological scientists [13, 14]; and (c) effect a rapid switch to the best non-carbon and genuinely renewable energy (solar, wind, geothermal, wave, tide and hydro options that are currently roughly the same market price as coal burning-based power and much cheaper if the true cost of coal burning is “fully borne”) and to energy efficiency, public transport, needs-based production, re-afforestation and return of carbon as biochar to soils coupled with correspondingly rapid cessation of fossil fuel burning, deforestation, methanogenic livestock production and population growth (the latter being disputed by Pope Francis) [15-20]. Unfortunately greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and atmospheric CO2 are remorselessly increasing, and World Bank  analysts have recently re-assessed the World's  annual GHG pollution as 50% bigger than hitherto thought, with livestock contributing  over 50% of the bigger figure  [16]. In exact agreement with Pope Francis' call for urgent action “without delay”, the Synthesis Report of the 2,500-delegate March 2009 Copenhagen Scientific Climate Change Conference concluded that “Inaction is inexcusable” [21] and a 2010 Open Letter by 255 members of the US National Academy of Sciences, including 11 Nobel Laureates, concluded: “Delay is not an option” [22].

(4) Re Pope Francis' “fully borne”  Carbon Price, Dr Chris Hope from 90-Nobel-Laureate University of  Cambridge, UK,  estimates a damage-related Carbon Price of $150-$250 per tonne CO2-equivalent [23] whereas in  coal- and gas-rich Australia the Labor Opposition proposes a derisory, ETS-based  Carbon Price of $7 per tonne CO2-equivalent and the “No Carbon Tax” Coalition Government insists on $0 per tonne CO2-equivalent, with both supporting unlimited coal, gas and iron ore exports that will see world-leading per capita GHG polluter Australia exceed the whole World's 2010-2050 Terminal Carbon Budget by a factor of 3 [24]. Applying a Carbon Price of US $200 per tonne CO2-equivalent, the World has an historical Carbon Debt of $540 trillion that is increasing at $20 trillion each year, and Australia has a Carbon Debt of $11 trillion that is increasing at $600 billion per year (increasing at about $60,000 each year per head for under-30 year old Australians) [3].

(5) Re Pope Francis' dismissal of Carbon Trading as a neoliberal “ploy”,  the Cap and Trade, Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) approach (supported by the pro-fossil fuels Australian Labor Opposition and  many in the pro-fossil fuels Australian Coalition Government) has been empirically unsuccessful, is accordingly counterproductive,  currently applies to only 12% of World GHG pollution, and is fraudulent in that it involves rich countries selling licences to pollute the one common atmosphere and ocean of all peoples [25]. Effective legislative actions to stop GHG pollution would involve tough laws  to stop climate crimes [26, 27] and effective market actions would involve  divestment from fossil fuels [28].

(6) Re Pope Francis' assent to “boycotts”, people who care for Humanity, the Biosphere and future generations must (a) inform everyone they can, and (b) apply Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against all those disproportionately  involved in GHG pollution and the effective climate change denialism of climate change inaction. There is now massive global divestment in fossil fuels to avoid  both Climate Genocide [12] and investment yielding unusable “stranded assets” [28]. Boycotts , Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) were effective against the minority Apartheid regime in South Africa and are currently being  applied worldwide against the ongoing Palestinian Genocide by nuclear terrorist Apartheid Israel that has largely ethnically cleansed Palestine of Christian Palestinians and ethnically cleansed 90% of the land of Palestine  [29, 30].

(7) Re Pope Francis'  decrying the “loss of biodiversity”, it is estimated that the rate of species extinction is now 100-1,000 times greater than normal [31]. Life on Earth exists in defiance of the second Law of Thermodynamics that states that the entropy (or “disorder”) of the universe inevitably increases – but highly ordered life decreases entropy by feeding on free energy from the inanimate world.  The fundamental  dichotomy of “Beauty”  and “truth” was succinctly stated by British poet John Keats in the conclusion to his poem “Ode on a Grecian Urn”: “Beauty is truth, truth beauty," – that is all/  Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know”. We simply cannot destroy things of beauty that we cannot replace. From an agnostic and secular Humanist  perspective, if  we have any “purpose” at all it is to defy the Second Law of Thermodynamics and  promote and preserve the Beauty and Truth of evolving, self-aware, and self-replicating  matter. The ongoing speciescide and ecocide are akin to egregious blasphemy and presage a catastrophic omnicide and terracide in an ongoing,  greed-driven, neoliberal War on Terra. Indeed the immense destructive impact of Humanity on the Biosphere has led scientist to describe the present era as the Anthropocene.

(8) Re Pope Francis' call for “intergenerational solidarity”, an extraordinary aspect of the continuing climate crime by the remorselessly greedy One Percenters is that the Biosphere that belongs to present and future generations is being  stolen for wilful destruction (speciescide, ecocide, omnicide and terracide) from future generations, this constituting egregious  intergenerational theft, intergenerational inequity and intergenerational injustice [26, 27]. The  huge historical   Carbon Debt from a global Carbon Economy can be obtained by an appropriate  Wealth Tax [32]. Ongoing GHG pollution must stop if we are to return atmospheric CO2 concentration to a safe 300 ppm CO2 from the present dangerous and damaging 400 ppm CO2 (as advocated by numerous scientists [18]) - and this means that the full, damage-related  cost of  ongoing GHG pollution must be “fully borne” by the polluters as recommended by Pope Francis  [1, 33]


Pope Francis' “Laudato si” is a landmark, faith-, science- and humanity-informed call to urgent  global action on climate change for Humanity and the Biosphere [1, 33].  Pope Francis recognizes a looming climate “catastrophe” and “millions of premature deaths” from carbon burning pollutants,  demands massive decarbonisation and conversion to renewables starting “without delay” and “in the  next few years”, rejects Carbon Trading as a dishonest “ploy”, advocates a “fully borne” Carbon Price (Carbon Tax) on polluters, proposes “boycotts” of polluters, condemns “loss of biodiversity” and advises “intergenerational solidarity”. 

In contrast to Pope Francis' science-informed agenda to seriously address man-made climate change, world leaders are paying lip-service to the worsening climate emergency and offering  “too little too late”. Thus US President Obama has a Clean Power Plan involving “32% off 2005 coal plant pollution by 2030”. However, while Obama recognizes the seriousness of man-made climate change and pollution-based premature deaths (avoidable deaths), he deceptively and mendaciously offers too little too late by 2030 – in effect,  a derisory  5% reduction in overall greenhouse  gas (GHG) pollution in 2030 [34].

Pope Francis' position on climate change has been described as “Green Left” by both a supporter,  Professor Robert Manne,  writing in The Monthly [35],  and by a detractor, Paul Kelly, writing  in The Australian newspaper of the neoliberal, pro-war, extreme right-wing and effective climate change denialist Murdoch media empire [36]. In the current circumstances in which over 7 million people already die each year from climate change and air pollution [8, 9] and 17 million die annually from deprivation and deprivation-exacerbated disease [11], “Green Left' is a badge of honour and humanity.  

It is now very likely that it is too late to avoid a catastrophic plus 2 degrees Centigrade temperature rise, but we are all obliged to do everything we can to make the future “less bad” than it otherwise will be for the Biosphere, our children and future generations. There are many things that decent folk – and especially young people - can do to help save Humanity,  the Biosphere and the Planet [37, 38] but chief among these are to (a) inform everyone they can, (b)  urge and apply Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against all those climate criminal  people, politicians, parties, companies,   corporations and countries disproportionately complicit in the worsening climate crisis and climate change inaction, and (c) support Green Left politicians who want major action now and in Green Left Pope Francis' words “without delay”.


[1]. Pope Francis , Encyclical Letter “Laudato si”, 2015: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html .

[2]. Gideon Polya,  " Doha climate change inaction. Only 5 years left to act", MWC News, 9 December 2012: http://mwcnews.net/focus/analysis/23373-gideonpolya-climate-change.html .

[3]. “Carbon Debt Carbon Credit”: https://sites.google.com/site/carbondebtcarboncredit/ .

[4]. “Years left to zero greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution relative to 2013”: https://sites.google.com/site/carbondebtcarboncredit/years-left-to-zero .

[5]. “Are we doomed?”: https://sites.google.com/site/300orgsite/are-we-doomed .

[6]. "Too late to avoid global warming catastrophe": https://sites.google.com/site/300orgsite/too-late-to-avoid-global-warming .

[7]. “Nuclear weapons ban , end poverty & reverse climate change”: https://sites.google.com/site/300orgsite/nuclear-weapons-ban .

[8]. DARA, “Climate Vulnerability Monitor. A guide to the cold calculus of a hot planet”, 2012, Executive Summary pp2-3: http://daraint.org/climate-vulnerability-monitor/climate-vulnerability-monitor-2012/ .

[9]. . World Health Organization (WHO), “7 million premature deaths annually linked to air pollution”: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2014/air-pollution/en/ .

[10]. “Australian carbon burning-related deaths and carbon burning subsidies”, Yarra Valley Climate Action Group: https://sites.google.com/site/yarravalleyclimateactiongroup/2011-carbon-burning .  

[11]. Gideon Polya, “Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950”, that includes a history of every country from Neolithic times and is now available for free perusal on the web: http://globalbodycount.blogspot.com/  .

[12]. “Climate Genocide”: https://sites.google.com/site/climategenocide/  .

[13]. 300.org: . https://sites.google.com/site/300orgsite/300-org .

[14]. “300.org – return atmosphere CO2 to 300 ppm CO2”: https://sites.google.com/site/300orgsite/300-org---return-atmosphere-co2-to-300-ppm .

[15].  “2011 climate change course”: https://sites.google.com/site/300orgsite/2011-climate-change-course .

[16]. Robert Goodland and Jeff Anfang. “Livestock and climate change. What if the key actors in climate change are … cows, pigs and chickens?”, World Watch, November/December 2009: http://www.worldwatch.org/files/pdf/Livestock%20and%20Climate%20Change.pdf .

[17]. “Cut carbon emissions 80% by 2020”: https://sites.google.com/site/cutcarbonemissions80by2020/ .

[18]. “100% renewable energy by 2020”: https://sites.google.com/site/100renewableenergyby2020/ .

[19]. “Gas is not clean energy”: https://sites.google.com/site/gasisnotcleanenergy/ .

[20].  “Biofuel Genocide”: https://sites.google.com/site/biofuelgenocide/ .

[21]. Synthesis Report of the March 2009 Copenhagen Scientific Climate Change Conference: http://climatecongress.ku.dk/pdf/synthesisreport .

[22]. 2010 Open Letter by 255 members of the US National Academy of Sciences, “Open Letter: climate change and the integrity of science”, Guardian, 6 May 2010: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/may/06/climate-science-open-letter  .

[23]. Dr Chris Hope, “How high should climate change taxes be?”, Working Paper Series, Judge Business School, University of Cambridge, 9.2011: http://www.jbs.cam.ac.uk/media/assets/wp1109.pdf .

[24]. Gideon Polya, “Australia 's Huge Coal, Gas & Iron Ore Exports Threaten Planet”, Countercurrents, 15 May 2012: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya150512.htm .

[25]. “Science & economics experts: Carbon Tax needed NOT Carbon Trading”: https://sites.google.com/site/300orgsite/sciennce-economics-experts-carbon-tax-needed-not-carbon-trading/ .

[26]. “Climate Justice & Intergenerational Equity”: https://sites.google.com/site/300orgsite/climate-justice .

[27]' “Stop climate crime”: https://sites.google.com/site/300orgsite/stop-climate-crime .

[28]. “Divest from fossil fuels”: https://sites.google.com/site/300orgsite/divest-from-fossil-fuels .

[29]. “Boycott Apartheid  Israel”: https://sites.google.com/site/boycottapartheidisrael/.

[30]. “Palestinian Genocide”: https://sites.google.com/site/palestiniangenocide/ .

[31]. Phillip S. Levin and Donald A. Levin, “The real biodiversity crisis”, Macroscope, January-February 2002: http://www.soc.duke.edu/~pmorgan/levin&levin.2002.the_real_biodiversity_crisis.html .

[32]. Gideon Polya, “4 % Annual Global Wealth Tax To Stop The 17 Million Deaths Annually”,  Countercurrents, 27 June, 2014: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya270614.htm .

[33]. Gideon Polya, “Pope Francis Demands “Fully Borne” Cost of Pollution (Carbon Price) To Prevent “Millions Of Premature Deaths”,  Countercurrents, 29 July, 2015: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya290715.htm .

[34]. Gideon Polya, “Obama's Clean Power Plan Will Only Cut 2030 US Greenhouse Gas Pollution By 5%”, Countercurrents, 7 August, 2015: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya070815.htm .

[35]. Robert Manne, “”Laudato si”: a political reading”, The Monthly, 1 July 2015: https://www.themonthly.com.au/blog/robert-manne/2015/01/2015/1435708320/laudato-si-political-reading .

[36]. Paul Kelly, Green-Left Pope endorses flawed view of progress”, The Australian, June 2015.

[37]. Gideon Polya , “2015 A-to-Z  Alphabetical List Of Actions And Advocacies For Climate Change Activists”, Countercurrents,  14 January, 2015: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya140115.htm

[38]. Gideon Polya, “100 Ideas For Climate Change Activists Trying To Save The Biosphere And Humanity”,  Countercurrents, 10 August, 2013: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya100813.htm .

Dr Gideon Polya has been teaching science students at a major Australian university for 4 decades. He published some 130 works in a 5 decade scientific career, most recently a huge pharmacological reference text "Biochemical Targets of Plant Bioactive Compounds" (CRC Press/Taylor & Francis, New York & London , 2003). He has published “Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950” (G.M. Polya, Melbourne, 2007: http://globalbodycount.blogspot.com/ ); see also his contributions “Australian complicity in Iraq mass mortality” in “Lies, Deep Fries & Statistics” (edited by Robyn Williams, ABC Books, Sydney, 2007: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/ockhamsrazor/australian-complicity-in-iraq-mass-mortality/3369002#transcript

) and “Ongoing Palestinian Genocide” in “The Plight of the Palestinians (edited by William Cook, Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2010: http://mwcnews.net/focus/analysis/4047-the-plight-of-the-palestinians.html ). He has published a revised and updated 2008 version of his 1998 book “Jane Austen and the Black Hole of British History” (see: http://janeaustenand.blogspot.com/ ) as biofuel-, globalization- and climate-driven global food price increases threaten a greater famine catastrophe than the man-made famine in British-ruled India that killed 6-7 million Indians in the “forgotten” World War 2 Bengal Famine (see recent BBC broadcast involving Dr Polya, Economics Nobel Laureate Professor Amartya Sen and others: http://www.open.edu/openlearn/history-the-arts/history/social-economic-history/listen-the-bengal-famine ). When words fail one can say it in pictures - for images of Gideon Polya's huge paintings for the Planet, Peace, Mother and Child see: http://sites.google.com/site/artforpeaceplanetmotherchild/ and http://www.flickr.com/photos/gideonpolya/



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