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CLIMATE-IRELAND Nov-10-2009 (660 words) xxxi

Irish bishops call climate change one of today's most critical issues

By Cian Molloy
Catholic News Service

DUBLIN, Ireland (CNS) -- Global climate change is "one of the most critical issues of our time," and how people respond to it will "have consequences for the future of every person and every form of life," said Ireland's Catholic bishops.

In a pastoral statement, "Cry of the Earth," released Nov. 10, the bishops acknowledged that not all scientists believe climate change is caused by human activity, but said their statement "draws on the analysis of the great majority of climate change scientists who believe such a link exists," including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Ireland's Environmental Protection Agency and other experts.

"In light of such overwhelming consensus among credible national and international organizations working in this area," the pastoral said, "the precautionary principle means that we should react now to the risk of serious harm posed by the plausible link between certain types of human activity and the damaging effects of climate change."

The bishops said the earth's "systems of life are interdependent and finely balanced. Small changes in one part of the planet's rhythms and systems can have significant, if not dramatic consequences for the whole of the earth and its creatures."

Looking at IPCC reports, the pastoral noted that the average temperature of the world is 0.74 degrees Celsius (1.33 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than it was 100 years ago; the last 50 years have been the warmest in the last 1,300 years in the northern half of the planet; and Ireland has been warming more quickly than some other parts of the world.

"Even though the winter of 2008-2009 was the coldest for 30 years, our winters are much milder than they were 50 years ago," the bishops said.

The bishops supplied an explanation of the "greenhouse effect" and said that while it has been beneficial to life on earth in the past, it might now be harmful.

"The IPCC and other scientific organizations have drawn particular attention to the following: The levels of greenhouse gases have been increasing since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution 250 years ago; the levels are now higher than at any time in the last 650,000 years; they believe this is mainly as a result of burning fossil fuel, which is so central to our modern economy and way of life," the bishops said.

The bishops summarized the effects of global warming and said that, in Ireland, the effects are likely to include increased heat waves in the summer and greater rainfall during the winter. They said water shortages and higher temperatures in summer will most affect Dublin and the highly populated east coast; 20 percent of Ireland's native plants face extinction; and it will be difficult to grow potatoes, the country's main subsistence crop.

Repeating Pope John Paul II's 1990 call for an "ecological conversion," the bishops outlined practical actions that individuals and parishes can take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including conducting environmental audits, making greater use of renewable energy instead of fossil fuels and reducing waste.

The bishops also distributed an information pack that includes a postcard to voice support for the climate change campaign being organized by Trocaire, the Irish bishops' overseas aid agency. Trocaire plans to contact the Irish elected representatives who will attend the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December, to let them know about the number of people who signed the postcards.

The bishops also posted the document and two video interviews on their Web site, www.catholicbishops.ie. In the first interview, Archbishop Dermot Clifford of Cashel discusses the stewardship role of the church and its people in relation to the environment; in the second, John Sweeney, director of the Irish Climate Analysis and Research Units, explains how climate change and global warming are being driven predominantly by human activity and what the consequences will be for people, agriculture and the economy in Ireland.

END


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