BY GUEST BLOGGERAugust 20, 2013

written by: Dan Misleh, Executive Director, Catholic Coalition on Climate Change

Climate ChangeOn Tuesday, a leaked draft of the summary report from the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s fifth assessment about climate change made headlines in the New York Times.  The IPCC collects the data from hundreds of scientists from around the world to make their periodic assessments.  Their fifth report is expected in the early fall.

In 2007 assessment, the IPCC was 90% sure that climate change is forced primarily by human activity and now the scientists are 95% certain.  Is 19 out of 20 really that much different than 9 out of 10?  And the report will undoubtedly outline the dangers we face as the climate continues to warm.

But what is significant here is that in 2001 the U.S. Catholic Bishops issued Global Climate Change: A Plea for Dialogue, Prudence and the Common Good based in part on the third IPCC assessment.  That assessment said that human activities were “likely” (i.e., between 66 and 90% certainty) forcing climate change.  In their wisdom, the bishops applied the virtue of prudence and said, In facing climate change, what we already know requires a response; it cannot be easily dismissed…even in a situation with less than full certainty, where the consequences of not acting are serious—justifies, indeed can obligate, our taking action intended to avert potential dangers.  So now what’s our excuse not to act?

To learn more about Catholic teaching on climate change, visit Catholicclimatecovenant.org.  Even better, participate in the Feast of St. Francis education initiative: Melting Ice, Mending Creation or take the St. Francis Pledge and commit to living a more sustainable life and be in solidarity with those most at risk from a changing climate: the world’s poor and vulnerable people.

Misleh is a graduate of Xavier University and will be a keynote speaker at the 2013 Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice.

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