Earlier today, Pope Francis met with the UN Secretary-General to share his concerns about climate change — a meeting that did not go unnoticed by the Heartland Institute, a right-wing American organization known for its global warming skepticism.

Pope Francis met with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to discuss the upcoming Paris summit on climate change, a crucially important confab that some experts fear is the last good chance to forge a plan on carbon emissions and set limits to rising temperatures. The Pontifical Academy of Sciences also met with the UN Secretariat and some important NGOs to discuss climate change and other issues. During the meeting, the academy challenged politicians to end their “infatuation” with a mode of economic growth that’s destroying the planet.

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The Pope has been quite outspoken on the topic of climate change, saying that “I don’t know if it is the only cause but in great part it is man who has slapped nature in the face. We have in a sense taken over nature.” Unlike his predecessors, this Pope is quite green — and he’s starting to take some flak.

Earlier, the Heartland Institute sent a message to Vatican saying “there is no global warming crisis.” As The Guardian reports:

The Heartland Institute, a Chicago-based conservative thinktank that seeks to discredit established science on climate change, said it was sending a team of climate scientists to Rome “to inform Pope Francis of the truth about climate science.”

“Though Pope Francis’s heart is surely in the right place, he would do his flock and the world a disservice by putting his moral authority behind the United Nations’ unscientific agenda on the climate,” Joseph Bast, Heartland’s president, said in a statement.

Jim Lakely, a Heartland spokesman, said the thinktank was “working on” securing a meeting with the Vatican. “I think Catholics should examine the evidence for themselves, and understand that the Holy Father is an authority on spiritual matters, not scientific ones,” he said.

The Heartland Institute, which has received funding from energy companies and the foundation controlled by conservative activist Charles Koch, claims that anthropogenic global warming is a myth, and that efforts to combat climate change will “shut down” the world economy. This despite the fact that a 2013 review of thousands of peer-reviewed studies found that 97.1% show that climate change is caused by human activity.

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What makes this particular clash interesting is that it may be setting up a confrontation between the Pope and the religious right in the United States. This may only be the beginning, especially in consideration of an upcoming Papal encyclical declaring the Vatican’s position on the environment and humanity’s relationship with nature.

[ The Guardian | The Economist | BBC ]

Image: Raffaele Esposito/Flickr/CC