Climate Change Widespread, Rapid, and Intensifying

Climate Change Widespread, Rapid, and Intensifying

It is impossible to turn on the news or read a newspaper these days without being confronted with catastrophic natural disasters (wildfires, droughts, floods, etc.) throughout the world. The world’s top scientists are telling us that climate change is not something that will happen in the future. It is here now and it will affect all of us, but those who are marginalized and economically poor will suffer disproportionately, and yet, they have done little to contribute to the causes of climate change.

According to the August 9, 2021 release of a report from Working Group I Climate Change 2021: the Physical Science Basis, of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), “Scientists are observing changes in the Earth’s climate in every region and across the whole climate system. Many of the changes observed in the climate are unprecedented in thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of years, and some of the changes already set in motion—such as continued sea-level rise—are irreversible over hundreds to thousands of years.”

Established by the World Meteorological Society and the United Nations Environment Programme in 1988, the IPCC’s mandate is “to provide the world with a clear scientific view on the current state of knowledge in climate change and its potential environmental and socio-economic impacts.” The entire Sixth Assessment Report will be released in 2022. This report alone involved a total of 78,007 expert and government review comments. The other two IPCC working groups are Working Group II, dealing with impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability; and Working Group III, dealing with the mitigation of climate change

The Working Group I report addresses the most updated physical understanding of the climate system and climate change, bringing together the latest advances in climate science, and combining multiple lines of evidence from paleoclimate, observations, process understanding, global and regional climate simulations. It shows how and why climate has changed to date, and the improved understanding of human influence on a wider range of climate characteristics, including extreme events.

“Climate change is already affecting every region on Earth, in multiple ways. The changes we experience will increase with additional warming,” said IPCC Working Group I Co-Chair Panmao Zhai. The report projects that in the coming decades climate changes will increase in all regions. For 1.5°C of global warming, there will be increasing heat waves, longer warm seasons, and shorter cold seasons. At 2°C of global warming, heat extremes would more often reach critical tolerance thresholds for agriculture and health, the report shows. But it is not just about temperature. Climate change is bringing multiple different changes in different regions – which will all increase with further warming.

These include changes to wetness and dryness, to winds, snow and ice, coastal areas, and oceans. For example:

  • Climate change is intensifying the water cycle. This brings more intense rainfall and associated flooding, as well as more intense drought in many regions.
  • Climate change is affecting rainfall patterns. In high latitudes, precipitation is likely to increase, while it is projected to decrease over large parts of the subtropics. Changes to monsoon precipitation are expected, which will vary by region.
  • Coastal areas will see continued sea-level rise throughout the 21st century, contributing to more frequent and severe coastal flooding in low-lying areas and coastal erosion. Extreme sea-level events that previously occurred once in 100 years could happen every year by the end of this century.
  • Further warming will amplify permafrost thawing, and the loss of seasonal snow cover, melting of glaciers and ice sheets, and loss of summer Arctic sea ice.
  • Changes to the ocean, including warming, more frequent marine heatwaves, ocean acidification, and reduced oxygen levels have been clearly linked to human influence. These changes affect both ocean ecosystems and the people that rely on them, and they will continue throughout at least the rest of this century.
  • For cities, some aspects of climate change may be amplified, including heat (since urban areas are usually warmer than their surroundings), flooding from heavy precipitation events, and sea-level rise in coastal cities.

 For the first time, this contribution to the Sixth Assessment Report provides a more detailed regional assessment of climate change, including a focus on useful information that can inform risk assessment, adaptation, and other decision-making, and a new framework that helps translate physical changes in the climate – heat, cold, rain, drought, snow, wind, coastal flooding and more – into what they mean for society and ecosystems.

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August 12, 2021

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Call to Action

Faith for Earth: A Call for Action

Several months ago a new book was published entitled Faith for Earth: A Call for Action. It was co-authored by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Parliament of Religions. The message from the Faith for Earth Initiative in the opening pages notes that “We need a common ethical system of values no matter what religion we believe” (UNEP) and that “The context in which we will make our choices must include the full panoply of faith, science, and social institutions. If these institutions are to become agents of sustainability, they will need to be enabled by knowledge and inspired by faith.” (Parliament of World’s Religions). The scriptural writings of each tradition as well as quotes from wisdom figures clearly articulate each faith’s concern for the environment and a commitment to honor care for creation not only in words but by actions.

The section on Catholicism notes that Laudato Si’ was written by Pope Francis to every person living on the planet and that it encompasses the fields of economics, politics, education, theology, and spirituality. It also states that “Since it was published, public perception of climate change as a moral issue has increased significantly and more people have been motivated to take action.”

Laudato Si’ provides a roadmap for navigating the very uncertain times in which we find ourselves today. We are facing an ecological crisis which is both a profound moral and cultural crisis. We have both separated ourselves from nature and placed ourselves above nature with disastrous consequences. Laudato Si’ calls us to an ecological conversion, an integral ecology which recognizes that everything is connected. The document Faith for Earth…quotes the work of Father Johstrom Kureethadam which sets forth a concrete means of working towards an ecological conversion both personally, but also as a community.

Father Ksureethadam uses the see-judge-act method of analysis to reflect on Laudato Si’. Long a part of Catholic Social Teaching, this method invites us to take a moment to stop and look at a situation with eyes wide open, then judge the situation in light of what our faith calls us to do and then act by determining how we can best be a bridge between what is and what our faith says should be. The following provides a structure that calls us to allow Laudato Si’ to move us from reflection to action – to ecological conversion.

Ten Green Commandments of Laudato Si’


  1. Earth, our common home, is in peril. Take care of it.
  2. Listen to the cry of the poor who are the disproportionate victims of the crisis of our common home.


  1. Rediscover a theological vision of the natural world as good news.
  2. Recognize that the abuse of creation is ecological sin.
  3. Acknowledge the human roots of the crisis of our common home.


  1. Develop an integral ecology as we are all interrelated and interdependent.
  2. Learn a new way of dwelling in our common home and manage it more responsibly though a new economics and a new political culture.
  3. Educate toward ecological citizenship through change of lifestyles.
  4. Embrace an ecological spirituality that leads to communion with all of God’s creatures.
  5. Care for our common home by cultivating the ecological virtues of praise, gratitude, care, justice, work, sobriety, and humility.

Faith for Earth: A Call for Action is free to download by simply googling the title.

Caroljean Willie, SC, Ph.D.
February 6, 2021









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New Climate Team

New Climate Team

January 10, 2021

President-Elect Biden has a very ambitious plan to confront climate change directly and re-engage with the world community by once again signing on to the Paris Agreement. The President-elect touted his ambitious climate plan, which seeks to end carbon emissions from power plants by 2035 and proposes broader public investment in green infrastructure, including $2 trillion for clean energy projects. He spoke about creating jobs, modernizing the nation’s water, transportation and energy infrastructures, turning the country toward electric vehicles and lowering the nation’s carbon emissions.

He announced shortly after being elected” I’m pleased to announce a team that will lead my administration’s ambitious plan to address the existential threat of our time, climate change… Like their fellow Cabinet nominees and appointees, members of our environmental and energy team are brilliant, they’re qualified, tested and they are barrier-busting.”

Rather than write about each of his team members, I would like to introduce them using their own words.

Deb Haaland, Secretary of Interior nominee

“Growing up in my mother’s Pueblo household made me fierce. My life has not been easy. I struggled with homelessness. I relied on food stamps and raised my child as a single mom. These struggles give me perspectives though, so that I can help people to succeed. My grandparents, who were taken away from their families as children and sent to boarding school in an effort to destroy their traditions and identities, maintained our culture.”

“This moment is profound when we consider the fact that a former secretary of the interior once proclaimed his goal to, quote, civilize or exterminate us. I’m a living testament to the failure of that horrific ideology. I also stand on the shoulders of my ancestors and all the people who have sacrificed so that I can be here.”

Jennifer Granholm, Secretary of Energy nominee

“My commitment to clean energy was forged in the fire. I was governor of Michigan, as the President-Elect said, during the great recession when it struck and pushed our auto industry, which is the life blood of Michigan, to the brink of utter collapse. Workers were losing their jobs through no fault of their own, banks wouldn’t lend, people were losing their houses. Our unemployment rate in Michigan was 15%, in Detroit it was 28%, but then, thankfully, as now, help was on the way. Joe Biden and the Obama administration worked with us to rescue the auto industry and the million jobs that are attached to it.”

“The path to building back better starts with building, and manufacturing, and deploying those products here. Stamping them, made in America, and exporting them around the world. We can win those jobs for American workers with the right policy. We can. And I know what those jobs will mean for both the planet and for those workers and families.”

Michael Regan, EPA Administrator nominee

“Growing up as a child, hunting and fishing with my father and grandfather in eastern North Carolina, I developed a deep love and respect for the outdoors and our natural resources, but I also experienced respiratory issues that required me to use an inhaler on days where pollutants and allergens were especially bad. I’ve always been curious about the connections between our environment and our health. How the world around us contributes to or detracts from our enjoyment of life.”

“We’re going to ensure that EPA is once again a strong partner for the states, not a road block. We will be driven by our convictions that every person in our great country has the right to clean air, clean water and a healthier life, no matter how much money they have in their pockets, the color of their skin or the community that they live in. We will move with a sense of urgency on climate change, protecting our drinking water, and enact an environmental justice framework that empowers people in all communities.”

Brenda Mallory, chair of White House Council on Environmental Quality nominee

“I grew up in the working-class community of Waterbury, Connecticut, a town not so different from Scranton, Pennsylvania. I know the faces of the marginalized and I appreciate the challenges of urban pollution. While the words climate change and environmental injustice were not part of the vernacular back then, the evidence of their impacts was all around. In that setting, there was plenty of opportunity to work to make a difference in people’s lives.”

“It is essential that we deploy smart and humane policy to help communities pull themselves back from the edge and improve the health, security and prosperity of all people. The Build Back Better plan is poised to breathe new life into the Council on Environmental Quality. CEQ will work with a broad range of partners on a broad range of issues to tackle the full breadth of climate change, preserve the natural treasures of our nation, center environmental justice, and help more communities overcome legacy environmental impacts.”

Gina McCarthy, National Climate Adviser appointee

“All I can think of is back when I was in grammar school and the nuns used to jump up and say, run, close the windows in your classrooms because when the rubber factory across the street started to spew chemical stenches into the air, it would come wafting into our classroom and that smell kept us from recess more days than I or my teacher ever cared to remember. So I figured out early there was just an intrinsic connection between our environment and our health. And that understanding drew me into a very long career of public service, which I will never regret and always cherish.”

“And I did it because I was trying to help families and communities just like mine and those who are facing certainly much steeper and more insidious legacies of environmental harm so they could overcome the challenges that were holding them back. Environmental protection is part of my moral fiber. It’s what I live for. And I’m proud of the progress that we’ve made across the United States and I’m proud of the work that I did for many years at local and state governments as well as at EPA to make sure our air and water were cleaner, to make communities safer and more livable and begin to confront the crisis of climate change. And I’m here today because climate change is not only a threat to the planet, it is a threat to our health and our wellbeing. It’s a threat to people everywhere and the precious natural resources that we depend on.”

Ali Zaidi, Deputy National Climate Adviser appointee

“When my parents moved from Pakistan to Pennsylvania, they brought two little kids and a few suitcases of dreams. Dreams their kids are living today … my brother, a doctor on the front lines of the Covid crisis, and me, moving to the front lines of the fight against climate change. To be healthy, to have purpose, to be able to give back, that is how our parents taught us to define the American dream.”

President-elect Biden has also created a new cabinet level position and appointed John Kerry as his special presidential envoy for climate.

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