Climate Change

President Carter First To Use Solar Panels On The White House In 1979 – Guess Who Took Them Down?

attribution: None Specified


On June 20, 1979, solar panels were installed on the roof of the White House. It was the first time any president had done so, back when solar energy was just a concept. John Wihbey withYale’s Climate Connections writes:

“For President Jimmy Carter, it had been nearly three years of tough fighting for clean energy. After a long rollout of green tax credits, the creation of a nascent Energy Department, and a pledge to conduct the “moral equivalent of war” (at the time, spoofed by critics as “MEOW”) against an energy crisis, Carter had built up scars. And there would be more to come. He had had battles with Congress and with his political enemies over green issues. But he had some victories, too, and this day brought one more, a small moment of symbolism.”

According to President Carter, the solar energy had, “the power of the sun to enrich our lives as we move away from our crippling dependence on foreign oil.”

And then into the Oval Office rolls Ronald Reagan. Wihbey continues:

“The panels became objects of increasing indifference. And so did the tax credits and research funds that had provided the real meat of Carter’s energy initiatives.President Reagan had declared government the problem, not the solution. That meant no energy credits. That also meant no solar panels.

Reagan press secretary Dale Petroskey told the Associated Press: ‘Putting them back up would be very unwise, based on cost.’ “

Based on cost? The original cost to install solar panels onto the White House roof was only $28,000 – mere pocket change for government spending – even then. Ironically, President Obama reinstalled solar panels into the White House in 2013.

Happy ending? Well, it’s a start. As for President Carter’s panels,

“…in 2006, one panel made it down to the Carter Library in Atlanta, delivered there, fittingly, by two students in a vegetable oil-powered vehicle. The Carter library gladly took them, perhaps sensing the deepening ‘I-told-you-so’ irony of our moment.”

Jimmy Carter, the 39th President has been unjustly criticized and labeled ‘the worst president’ (until George W. Bush), when in fact Carter was one of America’s greatest presidents. Even calling him the ‘best ex-president’ is somewhat of an insult. He was the only president since World War II to keep this country out of war. Under Carter’s administration, no bombs were dropped and no bullets were fired under the American banner. Imagine the thousands, possibly millions, of lives that were spared from this warless president, as well as the Camp David Accords which Carter facilitated. The 1978 peace treaty between Israel and Egypt has kept the two middle eastern countries at peace with each other for over three decades.

The myth about President Carter being ‘weak’ was perpetuated and spoon-fed to Americans by the Reagan administration, the GOP, and the corporate mainstream media of the day. Thanks to social media, a Facebook page has been created to perpetuate the truth – President Carter was, and is, a remarkable Democrat, humanitarian, world peacemaker, and national treasure.

You can visit and LIKE the Facebook tribute page here: HONORING JIMMY CARTER

Leslie Salzillo

Lindsey Graham Challenges Republicans: ‘Tell Me Why’ You Deny Climate Science

Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaks during a No Labels Problem Solver convention, Monday, Oct. 12, 2015, in Manchester, N.H. | CREDIT: AP PHOTO/JIM COLE


Today, during a convention in New Hampshire hosted by the bipartisan group No Labels, Republican presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) took a moment to differentiate himself from the rest of the GOP field by talking about climate change.

As one of the only Republican presidential candidates to repeatedly bring up climate change in the press and during campaign stops, Graham began by asking the audience if anyone there believed climate change was real. Nearly half of the attendees raised their hands and applauded.

“I do, too,” Graham said. “So here’s the trade-off. For those of you who believe climate change is real, you’re gonna have to deal with a guy like me who will push a lower carbon economy over time and in a business friendly way. The great trade-off is energy producers and environmentalists in a room trying to find, over a 50 year period, a way to go to a lower-carbon economy while in the meantime responsibly exploring for fossil fuels that we own and trying to create alternative energy in every sector of the economy.”

Graham’s assertion that climate change must be solved in a business-friendly way — a position that includes support for continued fossil fuel extraction — elicited a call of “Keep it in the ground!” from one audience member. An analysis of global fossil fuel reserves published last January inNature found that, in order to avoid catastrophic climate change, the vast majority of existing fossil fuel reserves will need to remain in the ground.

Graham continued by contrasting Democrats who view climate change as a “religion” with Republicans that refuse to accept the mainstream consensus on climate science.

“It is, to me folks, a problem that needs to be solved, not a religion,” Graham said of climate change. “So to my friends on the left who are making this a religion, you’re making a mistake. To my friends on the right who deny the science, tell me why.”

Trotting out a popular climate denier talking point, Graham told the audience that he is “not a scientist,” joking that he received a “D” in science in school only because the teacher didn’t give “F’s.” But, he continued, he has seen first-hand the way that climate change is altering the landscape and lifestyle of places around the world, from Alaska to Antarctica.

“I’ve been to the Antarctic,” Graham told the audience. “I’ve been to Greenland. I’ve been to Alaska and I’ve heard from people who live in these regions how the climate is changing. And when 90 percent of climatologists tell you that it’s real, who am I to tell them they don’t know what they’re talking about?”

Technically, Graham’s comment is incorrect — 97 percent of climate scientists, not 90 percent, believe that climate change is real and that human activity is the primary cause. But Graham’s acceptance of mainstream climate science could work in his favor with voters — according to a recent poll, 90 percent of Americans — across political parties — believe that candidates running for Congress or president should have an understanding of the science that informs public policy.

Graham concluded the climate section of his speech by outlining how he would combat climate change while helping business. The trade-off, Graham said, would include more nuclear power and oil and gas exploration combined with a push toward low-carbon technologies.


Memo To Media: Obama’s Clean Power Plan Is Not Primarily About Politics



The most important benefits of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan do not involve either President Obama or his “legacy” — seriously, New York Times?

The Clean Power Plan is primarily about public health and preserving a livable climate by reducing carbon pollution from the dirtiest coal plants. It is directly aimed at improving the health of tens of thousands of Americans — and enabling a global treaty that might ultimately save most of the country from turning into a near-permanent Dust Bowl.

At one time, the New York Times was considered the pinnacle of “serious” journalism, the “paper of record.” But consider their Politico-style analysis of Obama’s Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants — a plan that he was legally obligated to put forward, a plan that is objectively the bare minimum the United States can do in the global fight to prevent catastrophic climate change from ruining the lives of billions of people for decades and centuries to come.

The Times’ front-page headline in its big Sunday story with leaked details of the plan is “Obama to Unveil Tougher Environmental Plan With His Legacy in Mind.” That is the print headline, the web headline, and the URL — so apparently the editors were in complete agreement from the start that this dreadful headline captures the most important news about why the President unveiled this plan.

Significantly, the Times provides exactly ZERO named sources to justify this “view from nowhere” headline and story:

As the president came to see the fight against climate change as central to his legacy, as important as the Affordable Care Act, he moved to strengthen the energy proposals, advisers said. The health law became the dominant political issue of the 2010 congressional elections and faced dozens of legislative assaults before surviving two Supreme Court challenges largely intact.

It’s all about politics and legacy, according to the Times panjandrums … and those famous unnamed “advisers.” The Times further asserts (baselessly): “But over all, the final rule is even stronger than earlier drafts and can be seen as an effort by Mr. Obama to stake out an uncompromising position on the issue during his final months in office.”

“Uncompromising?” Really? The Times is aware that Team Obama tried the legislative route in its first term: “Mr. Obama tried but failed to push through a cap-and-trade bill in his first term….” I guess Obama failed to “push through” that bill — if that phrase means “making concession after concession to get any Republicans to actually vote for it.”

The Times never mentions the fact the president is legally obligated to put forward a plan. As I’veexplained, after Senate conservatives rejected any compromise over legislation that would have reduced carbon pollution from power plants, something from the EPA very much like the Clean Power Plan became legally inevitable.

At no time does the Times even entertain the notion that the president cares about the health and well-being of Americans — or the moral responsibility the country bears as the biggest cumulative polluter. This despite Obama holding a major “White House Public Health and Climate Change Summit” on June 23!

You have to read more than 900 words to even get to the scientific necessity of the matter:

Climate scientists warn that rising greenhouse gas emissions are rapidly moving the planet toward a global atmospheric temperature increase of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, the point past which the world will be locked into a future of rising sea levels, more devastating storms and droughts, and shortages of food and water. Mr. Obama’s new rules alone will not be enough to stave off that future. But experts say that if the rules are combined with similar action from the world’s other major economies, as well as additional action by the next American president, emissions could level off enough to prevent the worst effects of climate change.

That would have been great as a third or fourth paragraph, but as an 18th paragraph, it’s unlikely many people who see the headline will ever get that far.

Also, the statement in boldface is not scientifically accurate because of the phrase “emissions could level off enough to prevent the worst effects of climate change.” Emissions leveling off will NOT cause carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere to level off. In fact, they would continue rising and rising, which would guarantee the worst effects of climate change.

What the New York Times should have written was “global emissions could eventually drop fast enough to prevent the worst effects of climate change.” We need a 50 percent drop in global emissions by mid-century. The public and policymakers and the media remain very confused on this point — and with stories like this it’s no wonder.

NOTE: I was originally going to criticize the AP for its Clean Power Plan story, “Who wins and loses under Obama’s stricter power plant limits” (viewable here). It had many of the same Politico-style flaws as the Times piece — especially an “inside the DC beltway” focus whereby the “winners” included environmentalists, but not actually public health or a livable climate.

But the AP appears to have replaced that with a vastly superior piece, “Obama heralds impact of power plant greenhouse gas limits,” which makes the key moral point that the most newsworthy beneficiaries are humanity: “Calling it a moral obligation, President Barack Obama unveiled the final version of his plan to dramatically cut emissions from U.S. power plants, as he warned anew that climate change will threaten future generations if left unchecked.”

Kudos to the AP for this fix.


Melting Arctic Ice Is a Warning, but Oil Companies See It as a Chance to Drill

Ben Stewart heads media relations for Greenpeace International and is author of a book about the Arctic 30. (Photo: The New Press)

The “almighty dollar” seems to be top priority here.  Big Money buys political power:  (support via campaign contributions),  political power gets money for supporting Big Business – and it’s a vicious cycle ad infintum.  The old saying “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” comes to mind.


In September 2013, 30 Greenpeace activists from 18 countries protested Russia’s drilling in the Arctic. In response, their ship, Arctic Sunrise, was seized by masked commandos, and these men and women were charged with piracy and thrown into the Russian prison system. Read their story in Don’t Trust Don’t Fear Don’t Beg,yours to own with a donation to Truthout. Click here to order this gripping book today!

Truthout recently interviewed Ben Stewart, who heads media relations for Greenpeace International and is the author of Don’t Trust Don’t Fear Don’t Beg.

Mark Karlin: What was the action that members of Greenpeace on the ship Arctic Sunrise undertook in 2013?

Ben Stewart: It was September, and the codename we gave this action was Azeroth. The plan was to sail the Arctic Sunrise towards the Prirazlomnaya oil platform, 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle, and do something to stop its drilling and simultaneously draw global attention to what was happening up there. At that point the Prirazlomnaya was the most controversial oil platform in the world; it was trying to be the first rig to pump oil from the icy waters of the Arctic. It was at the vanguard of the new Arctic oil rush.

There were 30 people on board our ship – 28 activists and two journalists. The plan was to scale the side of the rig and hang a one-ton survival pod off the side. Some protesters would live in the pod, tweeting and Skyping from it. It would stop the drilling and allow them to communicate why they were there.

Why was the activist effort to stop Arctic oil drilling by the giant Russian oil and natural gas company Gazprom so urgent?

We felt we had to take a stand against Arctic oil drilling. You can’t clean up an Arctic oil spill – if a Deepwater Horizon-style disaster struck, it would be a calamity. It took 6,500 boats to “clean up” the Gulf of Mexico; that kind of deployment is not possible in the polar regions. And if there was a blowout, the return of winter ice could very quickly stop the drilling of a relief well. That would mean oil spilling for months, gathering under the ice and circulating around the pole.

Then there’s the irony of drilling for oil there. It’s only possible because climate change has caused the summer sea ice to retreat. We’re drilling for the fuels that caused the ice to melt, and when we burn it we’ll cause the ice to melt more, letting them drill for more oil. Most people see the melting ice as a warning for humanity. The oil companies see it as a chance to drill. It’s insane.

What is the status of Gazprom’s exploration for oil and natural gas in the Arctic as of June 2015?

Gazprom ended up pumping oil in 2014, and delivering it to Rotterdam. Sanctions against Russia have affected their ability to fully exploit the Arctic this season, but the company (and Putin) are determined to push deep into the Arctic region.

Continue reading here>>>

Neil deGrasse Tyson Defends Pope And Destroys Religious Climate Denial In One Tweet

Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Twitter pic…


If there’s one person who understands science, it’s world-renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. And if there’s one person who has proven to be an ardent supporter of science, it’s Pope Francis. So, it should come as no surprise to see Tyson stand up and defend Pope Francis against people who refuse to acknowledge science, specifically about climate change, and more specifically, the Republicans doing the science denial. People who typically like to believe they are more religious than the Pope (yes, the Pope).

Besides Tyson thoroughly enjoying and sharing the fact that the Vatican employs a dozen astrophysicists…

… is another tweet where he completely lays the truth out on the table and makes one of the most solid points surrounding climate denial and religion.

Tyson is referring to Pope Francis’ stance on Climate Change and how he has continually spoken about how we need to take the issue of a warming planet very seriously.

These “Christian” conservative Climate Change deniers, who claim to be holier than Thou- who often seem to claim to understand the Bible better than the Pope himself- honestly also see themselves as “supreme holy figures.” And if Pope Francis can acknowledge the science of 97% of scientists surrounding Climate Change, than one would think, so could these Republicans.

The truth of the matter is- being a purveyor of the Bible and having a love for the planet should be going hand in hand. For it is the Bible itself that calls for people to be stewards of the Earth and care for all living things. Denying Climate Change doesn’t make you more religious or a better follower of the Bible, or understand Christianity and how the world works at a higher understanding — it makes you stupid, because the data and evidence is all there in front of your face.

Let’s put it this way — if 97% of chefs told you a piece of food was poison, would you still eat it? Likely not.

Well, 97% of scientists are telling us that we are poisoning the planet and forcing it to warm at a rate that is not natural, and by the time it really starts affecting the day-to-day life of people, it will be far too late to begin giving a damn.

The real question is — why are these Climate Change deniers actually denying the science? And to get to the bottom of that, you need look no further than the closest energy lobby who has their hands very deep in these politicians pockets to make sure energy policies and regulations don’t change — even if those changes are crucial to combating a quickly warming planet.

To put it simply, Tyson is correct — you can indeed be religious while at the same time acknowledge Climate Change and the science behind it.

10 things you need to know today: June 18, 2015

AP Photo/David Goldman


1.Gunman kills nine in Charleston church
A white gunman reportedly shot and killed nine people Wednesdaynight during a prayer service at a historic African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina. At least one other person was injured. The gunmen fled the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, a downtown Charleston landmark, on foot, setting off an overnight manhunt. “I do believe this is a hate crime,” Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen said. Church members said state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, the church’s pastor, was among the dead.

Source: The Post and Courier

2.Pope demands saving Earth from climate change
Pope Francis on Thursday called for a global “revolution” to fight climate change. In the first papal document on the environment, Francis urged world leaders to hear “the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor” and take “decisive action, here and now,” to fight pollution that is damaging the environment and causing temperatures to rise. The Pope firmly backed scientists who say climate change is mostly a man-made problem. “The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth,” he wrote.

Source: Reuters, CNN

3.Woman will be featured on $10 bill
The Treasury Department announced Wednesday that it will put a woman on the $10 bill in 2020 in time to mark the 100th anniversary of the constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote. The government is appealing to the public for input on who should replace Alexander Hamilton, the nation’s first Treasury secretary, on the bill’s face. Susan B. Anthony and Sacagawea briefly appeared in recent years on $1 coins, but Martha Washington was the last woman featured on a bill when she was shown on a silver-dollar note in the late 1800s.

Source: The Washington Post

4.FCC proposes $100 million fine against AT&T over data “throttling”
The Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday proposed fining AT&T $100 million for allegedly misleading customers with unlimited data plans that their speeds would slow way down they exceeded a set amount of data use in a billing cycle. “Unlimited means unlimited,” FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Travis LeBlanc said. The proposed penalty is the largest such fine ever. AT&T has 30 days to respond. It says the FCC has considered the practice, known as “throttling,” as an acceptable way to balance its network capacity with users’ needs.

Source: Reuters

5.Hong Kong legislature votes down China-backed election reform
Hong Kong lawmakers on Thursday rejected electoral reforms backed by Beijing but opposed by local democracy advocates. Two-thirds of the 70-member legislature were needed to approve the changes, but 28 voted no. China has promised voters the right to pick their next administrator, but only from a list of pre-screened candidates. The proposal triggered last year’s so-called umbrella protests by activists demanding open, truly democratic elections.

Source: The New York Times

6.Lack of recruits plagues effort to train Iraq troops
A U.S. push to train 24,000 Iraqi soldiers this year has been hampered by a lack of Iraqis willing to join the fight against the Islamic State. “We simply haven’t received enough recruits,” Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Wednesday. “We must see a greater commitment from all parts of the Iraqi government.” Iraq’s government criticized Carter last month for saying Iraqis lacked a “will to fight” ISIS.

Source: Los Angeles Times

7.House tries again on fast-track trade bill
House Republicans on Thursday plan to try to revive a fast-track trade bill President Obama wants to help him secure a 12-nation Pacific trade pact. House Democrats helped defeat the measure in a vote last week. They have demanded more protections for U.S. workers. If the streamlined new version of the bill passes, the Senate, which approved the original version, would have to take up the new version.

Source: Reuters

8.Fed leaves interest rates low, but signals hike later this year 
The Federal Reserve’s Open Market Committee said Wednesday that it would hold the benchmark federal funds interest rate at historically low levels — virtually zero — for now. The short-term rates have been kept low since 2008 to boost the recovery, but Fed policy makers said forecasts indicated that the economy was improving enough to begin raising rates slowly later this year. “My colleagues and I would like to see more decisive evidence that a moderate pace of economic growth will be sustained,” Fed Chair Janet Yellen said.

Source: Los Angeles Times

9. California rules Uber drivers are employees, not contractors
The California Labor Commissioner has ruled that drivers for the app-based taxi service Uber are employees, not contractors. The decision currently only applies to a driver asking for reimbursement for $4,152.20 in expenses, but it could have a huge impact on Uber. If it loses appeals of the ruling, it could have to pay for unemployment insurance, Social Security, and worker’s compensation, dramatically increasing its labor costs. Uber says it is merely a neutral technology platform linking drivers with customers.

Source: Mercury News

10.Brian Williams to stay at NBC, but not as Nightly News anchor
NBC plans to announce Thursday that suspended newsman Brian Williams will not return as anchor of the network’s Nightly Newsbroadcast, according to news reports. Williams was sidelined four months ago for falsely claiming that his helicopter had taken fire while he was reporting on the Iraq war. Lester Holt, who has been filling in for Williams, is expected to be named his replacement. Williams is expected to remain with the company working on breaking news at cable news network MSNBC.

Source: CNN

Harold Maas

Republicans’ leading climate denier tells Pope Francis to butt out of climate debate

Senator Jim Inhofe speaking at the 2012 CPAC in Washington, D.C. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

Senator Jim Inhofe speaking at the 2012 CPAC in Washington, D.C. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)


Washington’s notorious snowball-thrower was at it again – even on a June day with forecast highs of 92 degrees – as the Senate’s most powerful environmental leader delivered a pep talk to activists who deny the science behind climate change.

Oklahoma senator James Inhofe, who now chairs the Senate environment and public works committee despite famously calling global warming “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people”, took a star turn on Thursday at the Heartland Institute, whose conferences function as a hub for climate deniers.

His message – that “God is still up there” and that Pope Francis should mind his own business – sent a clear signal to his fellow conservatives: climate sceptics have a loyal – and newly powerful – friend in Congress.

Actually, there was more than one: Lamar Smith, the Texas congressman who heads the science, space and technology committee, raised cheers from the room when he said he proposed a 40% cut in Nasa’s budget for earth sciences last week.

In the world outside, anticipation was building for the pope to deliver his much-awaited encyclical next week, when he is expected to cast climate change as a moral issue.

On Thursday, Democrat senators Sheldon Whitehouse and Brian Schatz launched a carbon-fee bill – and got a respectful hearing – at the American Enterprise Institute, the leading conservative thinktank, in a possible sign that the uniform opposition to political climate solutions may be softening. And on Monday, leaders of the G7 industrial countries committed to phasing out fossil fuels by the end of the century .

For Inhofe, however, steeped in an oil industry that has contributed nearly $2m to his lifetime political career , it will always be that winter day in the Senate earlier this year, when he tossed a snowball across the Senate floor as evidence there is no such thing as climate change. He reprised the stunt with an image repeating over and over on the screen behind him here on Thursday.

The senator, in the company of friends and fellow disbelievers, handed out a page of 12 talking points for those confronted by evidence of climate change. He urged Heartland activists to go out and fight against what he called “the myth of global warming”.

He stood by his claim that climate change was a hoax, he told reporters later, even though it is not. The pope could do little to change his mind, he said – although the Catholic leader’s position on climate science certainly seemed to be a sensitive point for Inhofe.

“Everyone is going to ride the pope now. Isn’t that wonderful,” he said. “The pope ought to stay with his job, and we’ll stay with ours.”

A few moments later, Inhofe said: “I am not going to talk about the pope. Let him run his shop, and we’ll run ours.”

As for the suggestion that world leaders were beginning to move on climate change, Inhofe argued there would be no real follow-through, from the G7 or at the negotiations in Paris at the end of the year, which are aimed at reaching an international agreement to limit warming to 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F).

“They talked about it – very good,” he said. “Now they say it is all going to come together in Paris, and I don’t think it is.”

In any event, Inhofe said Republicans were showing no indication that his party is ready to fall into line. “If you look at Republican candidates, they are all denying this stuff with the exception of Lindsey Graham,” he said.

Graham, the Republican senator from South Carolina who is considered a long shot for president, told an interviewer over the weekend that, if elected, “we’re going to address climate change, CO2 emissions in a business-friendly way”.

Back at the hotel full of deniers, Inhofe – after essentially telling the pope to butt out of his business – could not resist trespassing on that of the Vatican. Calling on those at the Heartland Institute to fan out and fight the Environmental Protection Agency rules for carbon pollution on power plants, due to be finalised this summer, and other environmental measures, he said: “If we do it as a team you will be doing the lord’s work, and he will eventually bless you for it. Amen.” © Guardian News and Media 2015

Fox Host Hits Santorum On Pope And Climate Change: You’re Not A Scientist (VIDEO)



“If he’s not a scientist — and, in fact, he does have a degree in chemistry — neither are you,” Wallace said, adding that 80-90 percent of scientists agree that humans contribute to climate change.

The Pope is expected to release a strong statement on climate change in an encyclical by June 18.

“If he shouldn’t talk about it, should you?” Wallace asked.

“We have to make public policy with regard to the environmental policy,” Santorum, a devout Catholic, said. “Whether we like it or not, people in government have to make decisions with respect to our public policy that affect American workers.”

“The Pope can talk about whatever he wants to talk about — I’m saying, what should the Pope use his moral authority for?” he asked.

“He would say he’s protecting the Earth,” Wallace interjected.

“There are more pressing problems confronting the earth than climate change,” Santorum said.

Watch the clip around the 7:20 mark: HERE


Big Oil to Pope Francis: We Know What’s Best for the World’s Poor

Photo: Franco Origlia

The analogies that come to mind describing  Big Oil are plentiful…and none too kind.

New Republic

“In other words, an industry driven by profit above all is attempting to rebrand itself as a champion for the poor”.

Over the course of this year, Pope Francis will ramp up his foray into the politically charged debate for action on climate change. It begins unofficially with Tuesday’s Vatican summit, co-hosted by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. This summer, Francis will publish his widely anticipated encyclical, a Catholic document that will examine man’s moral relationship with nature.

Unlike the usual discussions of climate change as an economic and scientific issue, Francis conveys it as a moral cause. His past comments—that it “is man who has slapped nature in the face”—frame the issue in vivid and urgent terms. He’s presented the fossil fuel industry with a challenge. Though they have a well-worn playbook for countering the economic, political, and scientific need for climate change action, industry is in relatively new territory with religion. How will they reply? 

Here’s a hint: Heartland Institute, a conservative think tank closely aligned with the fossil fuel industry and climate-change denial, will send its own “experts” to the Vatican to argue against the Pope’s points in a side panel for reporters. These experts will no doubt parrot the usual Heartland line, distorting the scientific consensus of humans’ impact on the climate and its consequences. “The world’s poor will suffer horribly if reliable energy—the engine of prosperity and a better life—is made more expensive and less reliable by the decree of global planners,” Heartland Institute President Joe Bast wrote in a press release. The American Petroleum Institute (API), the oil industry’s lobby arm, reprised a similar theme, telling The Guardian, “fossil fuels are a vital tool for lifting people out of poverty around the world, which is something we’re committed to.”

In other words, an industry driven by profit above all is attempting to rebrand itself as a champion for the poor. If you take this logic a step further, like Alex Epstein, founder of Center for Industrial Progress (and fossil fuel consultant), did in his 2014 book, The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels, it is the world that owes industry executives a debt of gratitude. “I believe that we owe the fossil fuel industry an apology,” he writes. “While the industry has been producing the energy to make our climate more livable, we have treated it as a villain. We owe it the kind of gratitude that we owe anyone who makes our lives much, much better.” Epstein is confident in fossil fuels’ ability to make the world “wonderful for human life.”

These critics, except maybe for Epstein, do have a point: It is an immense challenge to transition the world to clean energy without heaping burden on the poor, and it would also be unfair to expect countries such as India to make the same drastic cuts to carbon pollution as the United States and Europe.

This is the central divide of ongoing talks for an international climate deal: How much should industrialized nations contribute and how much should the developing world? Because of that gulf, India won’t be identifying a peak date for carbon pollution; China has identified a date after 2030; the United States will bring its emissions down at least 26 percent by 2025. It is not easy to balance the needs of 100-plus countries, and the Kyoto Treaty and Copenhagen both fell apart largely due to this conflict.

That doesn’t mean the fossil fuel industry has the moral high ground. Inaction today guarantees irreversible warming for centuries to come. Far from making the environment “wonderful,” as Epstein says, carbon pollution lands hardest on the people with the fewest resources to adapt. It means more extreme weather, rising food insecurity, an increase in vector-borne diseases, and higher levels of water contamination. Climate change and air pollution already impose a huge cost on the world’s poor, which Heartland and API overlook—the impacts of extreme weather and sea level rise, for example, mean low-lying nations such as Bangladesh have the most to lose. An independent report in 2012 from the group DARA International linked 400,000 deaths per year, worldwide, to climate change.

Fossil fuels are just as dangerous in the immediate term as they will be years from now. The same DARA report attributed five million deaths annually to burning fossil fuels, as carbon-intensive economies see many deaths from outdoor air pollution, indoor smoke from poor ventilation, occupational hazards, and skin cancer. China and India, in fact, should arguably be more motivated to transition to cleaner fuels in the near term. Their citizens are choking on their cities’ polluted air.

In 2013, the world spent $550 billion on direct subsidies for fossil fuels. “On average, the richest 20 percent of households in low- and middle-income countries capture 43 percent of fuel subsidies,” an International Monetary Fund report found. It’s an all-too-typical trend: The rich stay on top, and the rest suffer the consequences. The people most responsible for climate change hardly need Pope Francis on their side.

10 things you need to know today: September 30, 2014

Hong Kong's 'Umbrella Revolution' isn't backing down.

Hong Kong’s ‘Umbrella Revolution’ isn’t backing down. (AP Images/Vincent Yu

The Week

Afghanistan signs a long-delayed security pact, Hong Kong demonstrators defy China crackdown, and more

1. Afghan government signs security pact with the U.S.
Afghanistan’s new government signed a long-delayed security agreement with the U.S. on Tuesday, a day after the inauguration of President Ashraf Ghani. His predecessor, Hamid Karzai, had refused to sign, partly over his anger over civilian deaths. The deal will allow 9,800 U.S. troops to stay behind after foreign forces leave on Dec. 31. Ghani called on the Taliban to join peace talks, saying Afghans are “tired of this war.” [Reuters]


2. Hong Kong demonstrators defy China crackdown
Pro-democracy protesters returned to the streets of Hong Kong on Tuesday, escalating their fight for free elections in the former British colony now controlled by China. Tens of thousands of demonstrators blocked some of the international financial center’s busiest streets on Monday, with many of the protesters holding umbrellas to deflect tear gas fired by police. Hong Kong’s Beijing-appointed leader, Leung Chun-ying, told protesters to end their so-called umbrella revolution “immediately.” [USA Today, The New York Times]


3. Scientists link wild weather to man-made climate change
Man-made climate change increased the odds of nine weather extremes that hit across the world last year, including a heat wave in Australia, intense rain in parts of the U.S., and possibly California’s devastating ongoing drought. Two teams of scientists found no link to California’s water and air temperatures, but another found that rain-blocking high-pressure patterns were three times more likely with man-made global warming than without. “There’s definitely a climate change signal,” lead author Daniel Swain said. [San Jose Mercury News, The Associated Press]


4. Court halts Catalonia independence referendum
Spain’s constitutional court on Monday halted preparations for an independence vote set for November in the powerful Catalonia region. The central government is arguing that the vote would be illegal. The country’s 1979 constitution says all Spaniards must have a vote on all issues of sovereignty, and Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said holding the referendum only in Catalonia would be “a grave attack on the rights of all Spaniards.” The court’s unanimous decision to hear the case means it could be months or even years before the vote can proceed. [The Associated Press]


5. Police link suspect in Virginia student’s disappearance to a similar case
The arrest of suspect Jesse Matthew in connection with the disappearance of University of Virginia student Hannah Graham has yielded what police are calling a “significant break” in the 2009 death of another young woman in the same town, Charlottesville, Virginia. Police said Monday there was a “new forensic link” between the Graham case and the murder of Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington, 20, after she left a Metallica concert. [CNN]


6. Judge holds Argentina in contempt for ignoring orders on paying creditors
A U.S. judge in Manhattan ruled Argentina to be in contempt of court for ignoring his injunction against repaying only the bondholders it chooses. The judge, Thomas P. Griesa, warned that he could impose sanctions if the cash-strapped South American nation does not start following his instructions as the government of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner contends with hedge funds seeking $1.5 billion in payments on bonds Argentina let go into default in 2001. [The New York Times]


7. Armed intruder got farther into White House than first reported
The man who hopped a White House fence and ran inside carrying a folding knife got farther into the building than initially reported, according to Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), whose House subcommittee on national security oversight will address the breach in a Tuesday hearing. The intruder — Iraq war veteran Omar Gonzalez, 42 — was not tackled just inside the door, but dashed through the entrance hall and the East Room of the presidential residence before he was stopped, Chaffetz said. [Reuters]


8. Walmart says Tracy Morgan and friends were not wearing seat belts in crash
Walmart filed court papers on Monday saying that actor and comedian Tracy Morgan and others in his limousine were not wearing seatbelts when a Walmart truck driver plowed into them on the New Jersey Turnpike in June, suggesting they were partly to blame for their injuries. Morgan’s colleague James McNair was killed in the crash, which occurred as the entertainers were driving home after a show in Delaware. Morgan’s lawyer called the company’s response to the victims’ lawsuit “appalling.” [The Associated Press]


9. Search crews stay away as Japan volcano rumbles again
New tremors raised the threat of another volcanic eruption on Japan’s Mount Ontake on Tuesday, forcing hundreds of military searchers to abandon plans to resume the search for at least 24 people still missing after Japan’s worst volcanic eruption in decades. Rescue and recovery crews already have recovered 12 bodies from areas below the 10,062-foot peak that were covered with ash and rocks after the Saturday eruption. [BBC News]


10. Global wildlife species have declined by half in four decades
The world has lost half its wildlife species in the last 40 years, the World Wildlife Fund said Tuesday, citing the London Zoological Society’s latest Living Planet Index. Mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and ocean fish have declined by 52 percent, on average, and freshwater species have suffered an even more catastrophic fall of 76 percent. One big reason is habitat loss. West African elephants, for example, are down to six to seven percent of their historical range. [NBC News]