Climate Change: A Life Issue

Just posted to our site, in light of the ongoing UN conference on climate change in Durban, South Africa, Elizabeth Groppe makes the case for climate change as a pro-life issue:

Unlike abortion and the death penalty, climate change does not entail an intentional act that ends the life of another human being. It is the unintentional outcome of the industrial and agricultural processes that have accompanied our economic development. As early as 1979, however, scientists testified to Congress of the possible consequences of climate change, and our inaction is already taking the lives of vulnerable human beings. In 2009, a study conducted by the Global Humanitarian Forum found that climate change was already responsible for 300,000 deaths a year, the suffering of 325 million people, and economic losses of over $100 billion. Over 90 percent of those persons most severely affected were from developing countries that have contributed least to global carbon emissions.


In the coming decades, climate change can bring deadly famine, displacement and disease to large sectors of the human population and spawn mass extinctions of other species. In the long term, the climate could change so radically that the earth could no longer support human civilization. In this sense, caring for the climate and the biosphere is a paramount pro-life issue.

Pope Benedict XVI lamented the failure of the international community to take appropriate action on climate change at the Copenhagen Climate Conference in 2009. The Vatican has installed solar panels on the roof of the Paul VI auditorium and declared the intention to make Vatican City the first carbon neutral state. In the United States, the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change supported by the bishops’ conference and other Catholic bodies is leading multiple initiatives, including the Catholic Climate Covenant. Participants in this covenant pledge in the spirit of St. Francis to educate themselves, pray, change their own energy-intensive patterns of living and lobby for policies that will address the climate crisis. These essential initiatives can be strengthened by recognizing climate change as a life issue that merits our attention in October’s annual Respect Life programs and January’s National Prayer Vigil for Life. We should also pursue new pro-life initiatives specific to the climate crisis, such as legal action to hold our government accountable for its repeated failure to protect the earth for generations unborn.

Read the rest here.

Tim Reidy


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Stanley Kopacz
6 years 10 months ago
So, Joe, the indirect killing of human beings is OK?  If I dumped a few dozen gallons of xylene in my back yard, who would know if the miscarriage of the women drinking wellwater down the street was caused by it?  Or if the kid became autistic, who would know?  C'mon, let's cut the baloney and get down to doing what has to be done. What has to be done is no big mystery.   So some billionaires'll make a few less sheckels.  They'll live.
6 years 10 months ago

The indirect Killing of a human does have other factors that need to be considered in order to determine the morality of the act.

I can turn your hypothetical around and say that if we spend a trillion dollars in order to prevent the hypothetical situation of a person dumping xylene in your back yard then we would be indirectly killing those who will suffer from not having that trillion dollars for ather life saving endeavors.

You see Stanley this is a much more complex issue concerning life than the more absolute issue of directly killing an innocent person.  It seems that arrogant people who think there is only one right way to protect the environment need to take a class in humility.
david power
6 years 10 months ago
Joe ,I never thought I would see a comment from you attacking people for thinking they were infallible!!!.
I myself am not convinced by the arguments that we are at the edge of the abyss or anywhere near it .
I remember 12 years ago  in Geneva a lady who worked in the U.N told me that her homeland of the Maldives would not exist by 2010.It impressed me a great deal and so I remembered her prophecy (which she explained scientifically) and here we are with the Maldives still there.
What to do?Appeal to human vanity and ask every human being with a few bob(that means you America reader) to sponsor a tree somewhere.
We could have our name on it etc and visit it on holidays.
If we appeal to human virtue you can be sure the result will be a disaster and every hangup that people have with regards this issue will be a dead-end.
Moral outrage ,the type exhibited by everybody who writes on this subject is tiresome and getting us nowhere.
Let is say a big yes to greedy corporations and Power Plants that would make Monty Burns smile and also to an abundance of trees.
Having said that I do not want to thwart the plan of the Lord (Luke 21:25), and maybe us Christians should just say a collective "Bring it on " to Armeggedon.   
Stanley Kopacz
6 years 10 months ago
David, A better prediction is the one on the blog at  With the expected rise in sea level in concert with climate change, hurricanes like Irene will be more probable and with it the chance of Wall Street being knocked out by a storm surge.  To save Wall Street, the guest blogger engineer suggests the construction of giant gates like you have in the Thames.  I would much rather they not build the protection and move the Big Casino into a sub-basement.  It would be interesting to see if they'd rather invest in Big Fossil or not drown like rats.  My guess is they would end up trying to breath H2O.
Stanley Kopacz
6 years 10 months ago
Sorry Walter,

In the 1970s, the computers were slow and the science wasn't in yet so your statement makes no sense to me.  Science actually DOES accumulate knowledge.  THe actual history of scientific thought and progress on the matter, if you think science has any value except for making big money for big concerns, is at

Your comment about the unpredictability of weather has some truth to it.  The atmosphere is a non-linear system, so deterministic chaos theory does apply, for predicting short term variations in the future.  However, having once modeled an optical non-linear system, I know that the absorption of more energy in the system will result in even greater chaos and unpredictability, which is another negative effect.  And the climate we are used to for growing crops and planning our home construction will not be there any more. Some people in some areas may actually do better, but it will be drought and floods, most probably, for the rest.

My comment about planes was for Mr. SMith, who seems to think we are not adventurous enough.  I gave him another way to be adventurous.  That radiative material spewed from Fukushima had to go somewhere.  I wouldn't take those tests too seriously.  An undetectible small particle of radioactive material can be lodged in the lungs, banging away for years.  Also. a beta emitter would probably not be detected. The radiation doesn't get far.  Monitoring the health of a large set of living human beings over time will be the best indicator of what really happened.

As for me, I don't seee why we need large nuke plants when we can use that big fusion reactor 93M miles away.  A system less susceptible to the terrorists you're so afraid of and to Coronal Mass Ejections, too.

By the way, I don't think you're a cretin.  I just wouldn't let you near any dangerous technology.
6 years 10 months ago
The direct killing of an innocent human is always wrong.  Absolutely.

How to tackle the problems concerning the climate is not absolutely known, though some people arrogantly claim to know the infallible truth concerning this issue.
Stanley Kopacz
6 years 10 months ago
Joe, The problem is that you take a somewhat useful fiction like money and advance it over a basic like health.  We need good air, good water and good food as biological entities.  All the rest is nice to have but secondary and epiphenomenal.  I value my health and the ability to do calculus, for instance, over my financial status.  My comfortable financial status proceeds from my mental abilities.  One physical trauma to the head could take it away in a moment.  I wouldn't trade one percent of my brainspace and the pleasure it gives me for a billion dollars.   What will happen if the unregulated greed for fossil fuels leaves us a sickly, damaged species without even the strength of intellect to deal with challenges?  When I was young, I remembered Downs syndrome kids and palsied kids.  But I don't remember any autism.  Why so many now, 1/78 of boys?  This scares me very, very much.  Nothing says the human race can't stress itself out of existence.
David Cruz-Uribe
6 years 10 months ago

on the one hand, climate change is quite complicated as it requires the analysis of the energy balance of an entire planet.   On the other hand, the conclusions of painstaking research over decades can be reduced to a rather simple set of propositions:  the climate is changing; green house gases produced by humanity are responsible; if nothing is done to curb their emissions, the human race is going to be in deep trouble. 

The existence of the problem of climate change is nearly universally recognized except among a handful of climate change skeptics and oil company executives.  There is no unanimity on the solution, so I am not sure who you are talking about when you excoriate "arrogant people who think there is only one right way to protect the environment".

We need to deal with this problem now.  As we pray every Sunday, we will be responsible to God for what we have done and for what we (will) have failed to do.
C Walter Mattingly
6 years 10 months ago
While there is considerable disagreement as to the level of contribution greenhouse gases contribute to the old as the earth issue of climate change, perhaps we can all agree that there is no question that some forms of energy, most emphatically and particularly coal-burning power plants, produce gases hazardous to our health in great quantities. The question then becomes what can we do that is technologically proven and economically feasible to reduce these pollutants of our air and water which may also contribute to global warming? The answer lies largely in conversion of coal burning plants to gas burning ones. Essentially, for every coal-burning plant we convert to plentiful and cheap natural gas, we effectively reduce pollutants by about 60%. Far cleaner, although far more expensive, is to return to clean air and water nuclear power, which we disastrously abandoned half a century ago, likely resulting in 100,000 premature deaths from the ensuing coal pollution. Although nuclear power is far safer today, when we look at the safety record for civilian nuclear reactors over the years, we find, incredibly, zero deaths from their output (by comparison, there have been 41 deaths attributable to just a few windpower plants in the US the last 30 years.)

In the worst civilian nuclear disaster that has ever occurred in the responsible nations of the west, Fukujima, we now have the total deaths attributable to radiation from the accident in its first year: 0. Time to move forward.
Stanley Kopacz
6 years 10 months ago
Yup.  Cancer takes a while to start and then a little longer to kill.  Best thing for the nuclear power corporation is that, with the passage of time,  you can't prove your specific cancer was caused by radiation or some wonder chemical produced by another job creator.  It's unfortunate that people can't imagine a life that doesn't require total dependence on large corporate entities.  What we have now is an induced, artificial dependence which is primarily for the benefit of large, centralized concerns. 
Stanley Kopacz
6 years 10 months ago
What many don't know is how inefficient automobiles are.  The internal combustion engine only converts 15% of the huge amount of energy in a gallon into the motion we use.  The rest is thrown away as heat.  With an electric car, the conversion of stored electrical energy to what we want is 80% efficient.  That is why an electric car, even with power line losses on the order of 30%, transmitted from coal burning plants, has a lower carbon footprint.  The biggest gains to be made in reducing pollution still lie in improving efficiency.  Hopefully, the shockwave engines being developed at Michigan State U. will be successful, improving the efficiency of gas burning engines to 60%.  This could mean Priuses that get 150 mpg.  A better solution would be to rearrange the patterns of livng so that we are not so reliant on cars.  Suburbia is highly inefficient.  When I was a kid before the asteroid hit and killed all the dinosaurs, I could walk to stores and movie theaters and even places to get away from parents.  Now I need a car to do the simplest things. And a bicycle is impractical because they let idiots drive cars.
Another conservation method would install GPS-based speed governors in all cars to limit to the local speed limit.  This might also allow the safer use of bicycles. 
Stanley Kopacz
6 years 10 months ago
I agree we need to live more adventurously.  Let's start by getting rid of the porno scanners at the airports.  Let's deal with attacks on our country as they occur and not try to protect ourselves by trying to control the world.  Not trying to control the world might lead to fewer attacks on our country.
C Walter Mattingly
6 years 10 months ago
David (#8),
You may not be old enough to remember, but back in the early 70's, we were beseiged by scientists and environmentalists all warning us that we were about to enter a new, catastrophic Ice Age, and that by 2000 we would be entombed in ice with all sorts of problems threatening mankind. Those arguing to the contrary were disparaged or censored; those such as myself who were skeptical of the science were cretans who just didn't know or acknowledge scientific facts. Comes 2000, and lo and behold, we are approaching the Sauna Age, and those, such as myself who are skeptical of the science are cretans who just don't know or acknowledge the facts.
Perhaps there is wisdom in regard to these weather prognosticators: in the long run, the weather is unpredictable.
Stanley (@7),
It may be difficult to imagine, but more time has passed between the invention of the first viable nuclear reactor and the present than passed between the Wright brothers at Kitty Hawk and the Moon Landing. Nuclear power plants are incomparably more advanced, efficient, and safer than our aging ones from the 70's, which have had nothing short of an amazing safety record. Also far more is known about dosages and dangers of radiation exposure. Many thousands of Japanese, for example, have been tested for radiation levels and none have been found with dangerous levels of exposure to this point. So the argument that the future deaths or health problems resulting from radiation exposure cannot be measured is no longer of great validity. 
If you feel your privacy is excessively violated by airport screening, you can (1) take other transportation, or (2) be part of two separate plane departures. One will be for those such as myself who want the screening and tolerate the inspections because they would prefer to reduce the chances of being blown up in the sky. Another can be for those who object to such screenings and can board that plane, assuming they can find likeminded pilots and crews, along with the delighted terrorists.



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