Pope Francis prepares to deliver a powerful message on climate change

Pacific Standard: Representatives of the Chicago-based Heartland Institute, perhaps the best-known and best-funded organization dedicated to denying the existence of anthropogenic climate change, were in Rome recently, respectfully calling on the Holy Father. Their stated goal for the visit—in their own words, including exclamatory punctuation—has been “to inform Pope Francis of the truth about climate science: There is no global-warming crisis!”

The timing of their trip, like that desperate-seeming exclamation point, is telling. At some point over the next two to three months, Pope Francis will be issuing a clerically significant form of papal missive known as an encyclical. For those whose Sunday-school transcripts weren’t good enough to get them into the College of Cardinals, an encyclical is a letter sent by the pope to Catholic bishops instructing them to take immediate action on a matter of church doctrine. Less formally, it can be thought of as a personal message from the pope to the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, urging them to focus their spiritual energies on something the Church deems important.

That’s why so many people have been buzzing about what’s coming. As only the second encyclical to be signed by the new pope since he took office in 2013 — and the first that he has authored independently — this encyclical would be newsworthy no matter what it was about. But what makes it doubly so is its subject: climate change, and especially its devastating impact on global ecosystems. With more than a billion Catholics (and quite a few non-Catholics) hanging on his every word, Pope Francis will passionately make the humanitarian and spiritual case for acting on climate change — through, among other things, the conservation of resources, the pursuit of renewable energy, and the reduction of greenhouse gases. [Continue reading…]

ThinkProgress: Citing climate change as a major threat, one of the world’s largest insurance companies has pledged to drop its remaining investment in coal assets while tripling its investment in green technologies.

At a business and climate change conference held this week in Paris, AXA — France’s largest insurer — announced that it would sell €500 million ($559 million) in coal assets by the end of 2015, while increasing its “green investments” in things like renewable energy, green infrastructure, and green bonds to €3 billion ($3.3 billion) by 2020.

During the announcement on Friday, AXA’s chief executive Henri de Castries spoke about the threat that climate change poses to the environment, and the responsibility of insurance companies to deal with those threats. Last year, AXA paid over €1 billion ($1.1 billion) globally in weather-related insurance claims, citing climate change as a “core business issue” already driving an increase in weather-related risks.

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