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Leading climate scientists call on religious leaders to help save the environment

Scientists call for massive mobilisation inspired by the Vatican and other religions

Tom Bawden
Friday 19 September 2014 00:08 BST
Leading scientists have said that man’s relationship with natural resources is “at a crossroads”
Leading scientists have said that man’s relationship with natural resources is “at a crossroads” (Getty Images)

Two of the world’s leading scientists have made an unprecedented call on religious leaders to spark a “massive mobilisation of public opinion”, insisting that only through God can we save the environment.

Writing in the journal Science, Cambridge University’s Partha Dasgupta and Veerabhadran Ramanathan, of the University of California, have made an impassioned plea for help in curbing the “potentially catastrophic” effects of what they call “the ongoing abuse of the planet’s natural resources”.

Arguing that human’s relationship with natural resources is “at a crossroads”, they say: “Unsustainable consumption, population pressure, poverty and environmental degradation are intricately linked, but this is appreciated neither by development economists, nor by national governments who permit GDP growth to trump environmental protection in their policies.”

“The transformational step may very well be a massive mobilisation by the Vatican and other religions for collective action to safeguard the well-being of both humanity and the environment,” they add.

Naomi Oreskes, professor of history of science at Harvard University, said the call was a remarkable development in the world of climate science.

“This is a watershed moment. For 20 years, scientists have been reluctant to speak out on the need to change business as usual for fear of being labelled ‘political’ and reluctant to address the moral dimensions of climate change for fear of being labelled ‘unscientific’,” she said.

But Dr Dasgupta and Dr Ramanthan have broken from the mould following in the footsteps of great scientific and moral leaders such as Neils Bohr and Albert Einstein by reminding us that “we are all responsible for the common good”, she added.

Professor Dasgupta said: “Religion has access to networks at every level in a way that scientists do not, and that’s really why we are appealing to them to help address common issues for the sake of a common good.”

“I think a lot of people see the religious contribution as a cosy topic which we should only discuss on Sunday mornings, but it could prove decisive. An organisation like the Catholic Church is structured in such a way that makes it remarkably effective at, for example, leading a famine relief campaign,” he added.

He said that religious leaders could collaborate with academic institutions, such as the Royal Society or the US National Academy of Sciences, to structure campaigns aimed at ending the over-exploitation of the planet’s natural resources.

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