The Pope Is Speaking Out on Climate Change.

June 16th 2015

On Thursday, Pope Francis is expected to call for action in combating climate change, according to an encyclical letter leaked on Monday by the Italian magazine L'Espresso. The encyclical letter -- a papal letter to bishops that is one step below a papal bull -- was set to be released to the press on Thursday morning and then later to the public. According to the Vatican the leaked draft is not the final version.

The final version is much-awaited, as it is not only Pope Francis' first major encyclical, but also addresses the "unprecedented destruction of the ecosystem." The timing of the release -- without the leak -- was set to be prior to the pope's U.S. visit. Pope Francis is set to speak before a joint session of Congress and before the United Nations in September.

For Pope Francis, climate change is a moral issue, and in the encyclical he makes mention to preserving "creation." "In this encyclical, I intend especially to engage in a dialogue with everyone about our common home," he wrote according to the New York Times.

The encyclical took a year to draft and everyone from scientists, economists, theologians and priests, helped contribute to it. A major question -- and point of contention -- is whether the pope would say that manmade activities contribute to climate change. This was seemingly answered by the leaked draft.

“Humanity is called to take note of the need for changes in lifestyle and changes in methods of production and consumption to combat this warming, or at least the human causes that produce and accentuate it,” Pope Francis wrote, according to the Guardian. “Numerous scientific studies indicate that the greater part of the global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases … given off above all because of human activity.”

NPR reports that in January the pope stated that "it's man who has slapped nature in the face." In the encyclical the pope also reportedly discusses the global reliance on fossil fuel and suggests "carbon credits" as a possible way to curb emissions.

In the encyclical, Pope Francis talks about how climate change will adversely affect the poor and calls on governments -- especially those of wealthy nations that contribute greatly to pollution -- to act. It is unclear if the pope's push for climate action will influence Catholic Republicans both on and off Capitol Hill. (Here's a look at Catholics' overall attitudes toward climate change, put together by the Public Religion Research Institute.)

"With regard to climate change, progress has been deplorably scarce,” Pope Francis writes. “The reduction of greenhouse gases requires honesty, courage and responsibility, especially by the most powerful and the most polluting countries."

The encyclical, named Laudato Sii, or "Praised Be," is broken up into six chapters, the New York Times reports, and will address everything from water rights, the ecological movement, technology, global governance, loss of biodiversity, and the Bible's teachings. However, according to the leaked draft, the pope will deflect the notion that controlling the population numbers (and using contraception) are solutions to climate change.

This is not the first time that Pope Francis (who studied chemistry before joining the seminary) has spoken out about the environment. "May the way people treat the Earth not be guided by greed, manipulation, and exploitation," Pope Francis stated earlier this year on Earth Day​, "but rather may it preserve the divine harmony between creatures and creation, also in the service of future generations."

There were many reactions to the leaked document. Some activists and scientists spoke out on Twitter:

Several conservative Catholics also responded to the encyclical:

Last week, in preparation for the Pope's announcement, Catholic League President Bill Donohue told Newsmax the following:

“Catholics will offer him respect, but in terms of accepting what he has to say as guiding their thoughts, no, it’s not going to happen. We know, for example, that even on issues as the death penalty, for example, or on gun control or on helping the poor, there’s a lot of different issues where Catholics can disagree on.”

Earlier this week, Judge Andrew Napolitano said the following on Fox Business:

"[The Church] provided the moral basis for the liberation of Eastern Europe. Is the Pope going to provide the moral basis for, what, regulating the pollutants in the environment? 

"I don't know if he is going to compel Catholics to certain agreement with him, he really doesn't have authority to do that. Is he, I think, going to suggest that government has the duty to the keep the environment clean because that will help save the poorest among us...

"If the pope is going to say Catholics have to get behind the left on global warming, that would be absurd and it would cause a schism in the Church."

In early June, prior to the pope's announcement, former Sen. and current presidential candidate Rick Santorum stated:

"The church has gotten it wrong a few times on science, and I think that we probably are better off leaving science to the scientists."

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