Why the Pope’s embrace of science matters

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On June 18, Pope Francis issued the encyclical Laudato Si: On care for our common home. The letter has been widely praised for supporting the science on climate change. But it goes much further than many expected in documenting the phenomenal changes that our planet is undergoing, beyond climate. And the story of how the Pope has integrated science and religion (not always the easiest of companions, let’s face it) indicates, to me at least, a profound shift in world view.

The Pontifical Academy of Sciences has been bringing together climate scientists, economists and scholars pretty much since Francis’ papacy began in March 2013. My colleagues, professors Paul Crutzen, Veerabhadran Ramanathan and John Schellnhuber, have been part of a new level of dialogue between Earth system scientists and the Vatican. In April of this year, I attended a one-day scientific workshop on the moral dimensions of climate change and sustainable humanity.

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