Pope Francis Criticizes Continued Search for Fossil Fuels at Meeting with Oil Executives

At Vatican conference, Pope Francis implores investors, oil leaders to help stop climate change, saying the poor ‘suffer most from the ravages of global warming’

“Civilization requires energy, but energy use must not destroy civilization!” Pope Francis said at a Vatican climate change conference.
“Civilization requires energy, but energy use must not destroy civilization!” Pope Francis said at a Vatican climate change conference. PHOTO:VINCENZO PINTO/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

Pope Francis warned against the “continued search” for fossil fuels Saturday and urged a gathering of oil executives, investors and officials to meet the world’s energy needs while protecting the environment and the poor.

“Civilization requires energy, but energy use must not destroy civilization!” he said at a Vatican climate change conference attended by top executives including Exxon Mobil Corp. Chief Executive Darren Woods,  BP PLC Chief Executive Bob Dudley and BlackRock Inc. Chief Executive Laurence Fink.

Environmental protection has been a signature theme for Pope Francis, who has said he took the name of St. Francis of Assisi in part because of the medieval saint’s love for the natural world.

At the conference, co-sponsored by the University of Notre Dame and featuring nearly 20 speakers Friday and Saturday, the pope said that an estimated 1 billion people still lack electricity and noted that access to energy is an essential resource for escaping poverty.

But he warned that a failure to reduce the use of fossil fuels would lead to a “spiral of extreme climate changes due to a catastrophic rise in global temperatures, harsher environments and increased levels of poverty.”

The poor “suffer most from the ravages of global warming,” he said, through water shortages and extreme weather which in turn drive mass migration, among other ways.

Pope Francis commended oil and gas companies for adopting policies that account for “assessment of climate risk” and he encouraged the practice of environmentally sensitive “green finance” investment strategies. But he warned that “markets and technology” wouldn’t be sufficient to stop climate change, since our “current economic system thrives on ever-increasing extraction, consumption and waste.”

He lamented the “continued search for fossil fuel reserves” in spite of 2015 Paris Agreement, which “clearly urged keeping most fossil fuels underground.”

Pope Francis on Saturday urges a small gathering of energy executives, investors and officials at the Vatican to balance the world's energy needs with environmental protection.
Pope Francis on Saturday urges a small gathering of energy executives, investors and officials at the Vatican to balance the world’s energy needs with environmental protection. PHOTO:VATICAN MEDIA

The leaders of energy companies speaking at the two-day event included  Claudio Descalzi, chief executive of Italy’s Eni SpA, Occidental Petroleum Corp. Chief Executive Vicki Hollub, and former Royal Dutch Shell PLC Chairman Mark-Moody Stuart.

Others slated to speak were Hiromichi Mizuno, the chief investment officer of Japan’s public pension fund, Anne Simpson, director of corporate governance at the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, and Ernest Moniz, who served as U.S. energy secretary under former President Barack Obama.

Oil leaders were expected to discuss their view that providing energy to those who don’t have it alleviates poverty. The companies also planned to stress their support for global action to reduce emissions, such as a tax on carbon emissions, according to people familiar with prepared remarks on the meeting. Many companies also have begun to invest in renewable energy or potential technological breakthroughs to mitigate the impact of warming temperatures.

Exxon is studying how fuel cells can be used to capture carbon emissions at power plants. BP is one of the top generators of wind power in the U.S. and recently invested in a solar company. Norway’s state energy company, formerly known as Statoil, has changed its name to Equinor  and is developing offshore wind projects.

Earlier this year, BlackRock’s Mr. Fink in a letter urged chief executives at global companies to “make a positive contribution to society.” The world’s largest asset manager has played a key role behind the scenes in insisting that companies take action to respond to climate change.

Pope Francis’ meeting with oil executives and investors comes almost exactly three years after the publication of his encyclical Laudato Si’, in which he called global warming a major threat to life on the planet and said it is mainly caused by human activity.

In that document, which as an encyclical ranks among the highest levels of papal teaching, the pope blamed special interests for blocking policy responses and indicted the market economy for plundering the Earth at the expense of the poor and future generations.

Pope Francis’ acknowledgment of the challenge inherent in meeting global energy demand while limiting the harmful effects of climate change will be encouraging to oil and gas professionals, said William Arnold, a former Shell executive who teaches at Rice University.

“This is an inspirational effort to find a balance between environmental protection and developing resources the world needs,” said Mr. Arnold. “It’s become increasingly difficult in the industry to find settings where you can have this kind of discussion.”


Avoiding meat and dairy is ‘single biggest way’ to reduce your impact on Earth


Biggest analysis to date reveals huge footprint of livestock – it provides just 18% of calories but takes up 83% of farmland

 Cattle at an illegal settlement in the Jamanxim National Forest, state of Para, northern Brazil, November 29, 2009. With 1,3 million hectares, the Jamanxim National Forest is today a microsm that replicates what happens in the Amazon, where thousands of hectares of land are prey of illegal woodcutters, stock breeders and gold miners. Photograph: Antonio Scorza/AFP/Getty Images

Avoiding meat and dairy products is the single biggest way to reduce your environmental impact on the planet, according to the scientists behind the most comprehensive analysis to date of the damage farming does to the planet.

The new research shows that without meat and dairy consumption, global farmland use could be reduced by more than 75% – an area equivalent to the US, China, European Union and Australia combined – and still feed the world. Loss of wild areas to agriculture is the leading cause of the current mass extinction of wildlife.

The new analysis shows that while meat and dairy provide just 18% of calories and 37% of protein, it uses the vast majority – 83% – of farmland and produces 60% of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions. Other recent research shows 86% of all land mammals are now livestock or humans. The scientists also found that even the very lowest impact meat and dairy products still cause much more environmental harm than the least sustainable vegetable and cereal growing.


The study, published in the journal Science, created a huge dataset based on almost 40,000 farms in 119 countries and covering 40 food products that represent 90% of all that is eaten. It assessed the full impact of these foods, from farm to fork, on land use, climate change emissions, freshwater use and water pollution (eutrophication) and air pollution (acidification).

“A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use,” said Joseph Poore, at the University of Oxford, UK, who led the research. “It is far bigger than cutting down on your flights or buying an electric car,” he said, as these only cut greenhouse gas emissions.

“Agriculture is a sector that spans all the multitude of environmental problems,” he said. “Really it is animal products that are responsible for so much of this. Avoiding consumption of animal products delivers far better environmental benefits than trying to purchase sustainable meat and dairy.”

The analysis also revealed a huge variability between different ways of producing the same food. For example, beef cattle raised on deforested land result in 12 times more greenhouse gases and use 50 times more land than those grazing rich natural pasture. But the comparison of beef with plant protein such as peas is stark, with even the lowest impact beef responsible for six times more greenhouse gases and 36 times more land.


The large variability in environmental impact from different farms does present an opportunity for reducing the harm, Poore said, without needing the global population to become vegan. If the most harmful half of meat and dairy production was replaced by plant-based food, this still delivers about two-thirds of the benefits of getting rid of all meat and dairy production.

Cutting the environmental impact of farming is not easy, Poore warned: “There are over 570m farms all of which need slightly different ways to reduce their impact. It is an [environmental] challenge like no other sector of the economy.” But he said at least $500bn is spent every year on agricultural subsidies, and probably much more: “There is a lot of money there to do something really good with.”

Labels that reveal the impact of products would be a good start, so consumers could choose the least damaging options, he said, but subsidies for sustainable and healthy foods and taxes on meat and dairy will probably also be necessary.

One surprise from the work was the large impact of freshwater fish farming, which provides two-thirds of such fish in Asia and 96% in Europe, and was thought to be relatively environmentally friendly. “You get all these fish depositing excreta and unconsumed feed down to the bottom of the pond, where there is barely any oxygen, making it the perfect environment for methane production,” a potent greenhouse gas, Poore said.

The research also found grass-fed beef, thought to be relatively low impact, was still responsible for much higher impacts than plant-based food. “Converting grass into [meat] is like converting coal to energy. It comes with an immense cost in emissions,” Poore said.

The new research has received strong praise from other food experts. Prof Gidon Eshel, at Bard College, US, said: “I was awestruck. It is really important, sound, ambitious, revealing and beautifully done.”

He said previous work on quantifying farming’s impacts, including his own, had taken a top-down approach using national level data, but the new work used a bottom-up approach, with farm-by-farm data. “It is very reassuring to see they yield essentially the same results. But the new work has very many important details that are profoundly revealing.”

Prof Tim Benton, at the University of Leeds, UK, said: “This is an immensely useful study. It brings together a huge amount of data and that makes its conclusions much more robust. The way we produce food, consume and waste food is unsustainable from a planetary perspective. Given the global obesity crisis, changing diets – eating less livestock produce and more vegetables and fruit – has the potential to make both us and the planet healthier.”

Dr Peter Alexander, at the University of Edinburgh, UK, was also impressed but noted: “There may be environmental benefits, eg for biodiversity, from sustainably managed grazing and increasing animal product consumption may improve nutrition for some of the poorest globally. My personal opinion is we should interpret these results not as the need to become vegan overnight, but rather to moderate our [meat] consumption.”

Poore said: “The reason I started this project was to understand if there were sustainable animal producers out there. But I have stopped consuming animal products over the last four years of this project. These impacts are not necessary to sustain our current way of life. The question is how much can we reduce them and the answer is a lot.”

Going For Vacations To Hawaii? Take The Right Sunscreen With You

Hawaii Sunscreen Coral Reef Damage
Image source: YouTube Video Screenshot

Hawaii bans sunscreen ingredient oxybenzone after a group of researchers from the United State and Israel discovers coral bleaching.

A new piece of legislation signed into law by Dave Ige will ban sunscreen from use in Hawaii if it contains oxybenzone. Just one drop of sunscreen containing the material may cause coral to fade – driving home how dangerous the substance is for organisms that are already being threatened.

After the passing of the Hawaii bill, the European Union is already taking steps to ban oxybenzone from sunscreen themselves – and the recent signing may help the legislation gain traction.

Oxybenzone, also known as BP-3, is used in more than 3500 personal care products that are being sold worldwide in order to protect from damage from UV light. While it may be good for the health of our skin, it may have damaging effects on coral – making the use of the substance a net loss for our environment.

Researchers clearly feel that the benefits the oxybenzone in sunscreen gives to humanity don’t outweigh the damage to coral, and there are other ways in order to protect our skin that don’t have the same environmental repercussions.

The Israeli-U.S. survey results were actually first published back in October 2015, but weren’t used to motivate legislation in Hawaii until recently. The research was published in the “Environmental Pollution and Toxicology Archive” and shows that oxybenzone from swimmer skin, municipal sewage discharge and coastal septic tank systems can contaminate coral reefs.

While oxybenzone may continue to be an issue from sewage discharge and septic tanks, the reduction of use on swimmer’s skins may help the coral reefs around Hawaii and around the rest of the world if areas like the European Union are to follow suit with their own version of the legislation.

“We have found that oxybenzone causes severe morphological abnormalities, DNA damage and endocrine disruptions that lead to coral closure and death,” said researchers Ariel Kushmaro and Stella Goldstein-Goren at the Environmental Biotechnology Laboratory at the Ben Grevien University in Avgaff. Department of Bioengineering.

Kushmaro added: “We are pleased to see that our study will have a measurable impact on the reduction of coral reef communities caused by chemicals, waste runoff and climate change,” reports Israel21C.

Around 14000 tons of sunscreen lotion is discharged into coral reefs every year – the majority of which contains between 1-10% oxybenzone. This is a major problem for bleaching, and hopefully the passage of this bill will help address the issue and help delay the destruction of these vibrant ecosystems. With the authors estimating that at least 10% of global coral reefs are at high risk this year, it’s clear that action is needed.

The study found that the concentration of oxybenzone observed in seawater surrounding the coral reefs were as low as 62 parts per million, which is equivalent to a single drop of water in six semi-Olympic swimming pools. It’s clear that the compound in sunscreen is terribly damaging for the coral reefs around Hawaii – even in very small amounts.

Because of the extreme damage, the legislation to ban oxybenzone from sunscreen in the area completely was likely necessary. While we may not see a ban around the world due to oxybenzone’s usefulness against UV light and the concentrations of coral reef in certain areas, it’s good that it’s at least going into effect in Hawaii.

Kushmaro said: “In Israel, sunscreens using benzophenone chemicals are widely used.

“According to the measurements not included in the study, similar concentrations of benzophenone were found near the coral reef in Eilat.

Since these chemicals are likely to be washed away from the swimmer’s body, swimming and snorkelling areas The concentration will be higher, such as the coral reef reserve in Eilat. ”

Further information can be found in the Environmental Pollution and Toxicology Archive.