Message of Patriarch Bartholomew I to the 19th Congress of the Parties (COP19)
A message from His All-Holiness, Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, to the 19th Congress of the Parties (COP19) which is meeting in Warsaw, Poland, as part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, can be found on the Patriarchate’s website.
A few people have asked me to comment on the Patriarch’s message in light of the monograph which Dr Morriss & I recently authored. I’m not sure that I can, and for a simple reason: I am a student of the Fathers and of Orthodox theology, and most of the Patriarch’s message urges political action on the international level, about which I am not competent to write. The Patriarch’s message is brief. The theology is straightforward and sound. I have no idea whether the Warsaw Conference (which has drawn over ten thousand attendees) will achieve anything that will promote the welfare of the environment; I tend to be skeptical about things like that, but I do not have enough information about their work or goals to comment intelligently on it.
I suppose if I were to offer any thought about His All-Holiness’s message it would be ask how prudent it is to base remarks on environmental issues that are not yet settled. For example, the Patriarch begins his message, “This week – even as the world mourns the tragic loss of life in the unprecedented Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippine Islands – political leaders have converged on Warsaw, Poland, in yet another anticipated meeting on climate change.” I think His All-Holiness is making a tacit claim—that others have made explicitly—that the typhoon that struck the Philippines was especially large because of climate change. Because some have made this claim, others have countered it, and reports from scientists, citing data, are appearing in the press and online to support or deny the claim. I have seen a few of these and I have not even been looking for them, so persons interested in the question can find them easily enough for themselves.
I raise the question of prudence only because if we ground our statements on the claims of others that, on closer inspection or better data, turn out to be false, we risk undermining our moral witness. And I would hate to see undermined the moral witness of the Ecumenical Patriarch, or anyone else who speaks for the Church.
If you have any thoughts or comments on the Patriarch’s message, I would like to hear from you, and I invite your comments.