THE mORAl imPERATiVE To move beyond this impasse, casting cli- mate change as a moral issue as much as an economic one has gained traction in sci- entific circles. In June 2015, Pope Francis embraced this viewpoint, issuing the now historic and controversial encyclical—an official papal letter typically offering direc- tion on Catholic faith—titled “Laudato Si.” The document used the observations of sci- ence to lament society’s irresponsible use of the environment, a condition intertwined with social injustices suffered throughout he world, especially by the poor. A relationship with a UC San Diego re-
searcher proved to be a key inspiration for
the Pope’s encyclical. Veerabhadran Ramana-
than, distinguished professor of atmospheric
sciences at Scripps, has been a proponent of
the powerful role religion can play in mobiliz-
ing public support for environmental steward-
ship. Pope John Paul II elected Ramanathan
to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in 2004.
Ramanathan’s convening of an academy
workshop at the Vatican in May 2014 was a
key precursor to the encyclical.
After the workshop, Ramanathan was
given a chance to briefly speak to the Pope.
The elevator pitch he delivered was that the
world’s 3 billion poorest people have no access
to fossil fuels and therefore have contributed
little to global warming. Yet, Ramanathan
added, they will suffer the worst consequences of climate change. Ramanathan said he left
the Pope to consider exhorting his followers to
become better environmental stewards.
Ramanathan has also addressed the
United Nations on the subject, and has publicly discussed the intersection of science
and moral authority with other religious
leaders, including the Dalai Lama.
Ramanathan followed up on his Vatican
experience by co-authoring a Science essay,
“The Pursuit of the Common Good.” The
piece begins: “Humanity is at a crossroads.
Do we continue trends of preceding decades
that lift people out of poverty and extend
life spans, but in the process run down the
planet’s natural capital? Solutions to this
profound problem will require greater cooperation among people.” A simple truth,
no matter how inconvenient.
For more, visit TRi TOnmAg.COm/ClimATE
Veerabhadran Ramanathan, distinguished professor of
atmospheric sciences at Scripps, is an avid proponent
of both the scientific and the ethical imperatives
behind environmental stewardship.
Weather at arMs
Even the Pentagon agrees—
climate change is a national
threat. From increased demand
for humanitarian efforts to
environmental threats to military
installations, the peril is out there.
Rear Admiral Tim gallaudet (Scripps,
Ph.D. 2001) visited Scripps in may 2014
for a workshop on rising sea levels. Then
the deputy director of the Navy’s Task
Force Climate Change, he outlined some
of the military’s vulnerabilities, as well as
its approach to assessment and coping.
gallaudet was subsequently named admiral
and commander of the Naval meteorology
and Oceanography Command, the first
Scripps alumnus to achieve the high ranking.
Research being carried out at UC San Diego
could prove fundamental to future national
security. Stronger understanding of weather
patterns—as well as improved weather
prediction and monitoring systems—will play
a significant role in how we can better adapt
to a changing world.