Gov. Brown Visits Vatican, Urges Religious Leaders to ‘Awaken the World’ to Climate Change

Califonia Gov. Jerry Brown kicked off a 10-day European tour on Saturday with a visit to the Vatican, where he delivered the keynote at a climate change symposium organized by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

California Gov. Jerry Brown delivers an address to the Vatican's Pontifical Academy of Sciences on Nov. 4, 2017. (Credit: Office of Gov. Jerry Brown)

California Gov. Jerry Brown delivers an address to the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences on Nov. 4, 2017. (Credit: Office of Gov. Jerry Brown)

Kevin de León, president pro tempore of the state Senate, also delivered an address at the three-day event that began Thursday.

The series of meetings is among several the Vatican’s academies of sciences and social sciences have held over the past three years with politicians, scientists, theologians and other policymakers on the topic of the Earth’s shifting environment. Pope Francis is then briefed on the findings and outcomes of the symposiums.

“Until the religious sensibility is engaged — until religious leaders from every part of the globe and from every denomination are engaged — we’re not going to be able to move aside the huge rock of indifference, complacency and inertia,” Brown said in his opening remarks Saturday.

Brown urged leaders to connect with citizens on an emotional level, rather than parroting data and facts.

“The connection of health to climate change is central, because climate change is an abstraction,” he said. “Very few people can grasp or really be moved by it. But the pollution effects, people get that.”

Along with public health, he called for a focus on diseases, air pollution and the “element of injustice that people who have done the least to cause the injury have suffered from it the most.”

“Going forward, we’re going to have to find the pathway to awaken the world, to get done what needs to be done,” he said. “We’re not going to get there with just science and technology. There’s no technical fix adequate to the challenge we face.”

Pope Francis, for one, has already employed such methods himself. In 2015, he issued a blunt encyclical, Laudato si, that speaks harshly on the current state of the environment and classifies wantonly polluting the Earth as a sin.

“The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth,” is perhaps one of the best-known quotes in the lengthy writing, which he gifted to President Donald Trump when he visited the Holy See in May.

Since then, Trump has pulled out of the Paris Agreement, but on Friday his administration contradicted itself by publishing a report finding “no convincing alternative explanation” to human-driven climate change.

In his remarks, delivered Friday, de León drew a contrast between environmental policy in California and on the national level. For example, there are 10 times more clean-energy jobs in California alone than there are coal-mining jobs in the entire U.S.

“In contrary to the fake news and the alternative facts spewing out of Washington, California’s economy in thriving, in large part because of our commitment to climate action,” he said.

For his part, Brown on Saturday sought to calm the delegates’ concerns about U.S. efforts, saying policy changes can occur on many levels and “the Trump factor is very small.”

The governor will continue his climate tour with discussions with European Union leaders in Brussels before heading to the state of Baden-Württemberg, Germany, which along with California is co-founder of the Under2 Coalition between 188 jurisdictions seeking to combat climate change.

From there he will travel to Oslo, Norway, to meet with climate scientists and serve as a special adviser at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany, his press office said.