Press releases from the many educational institutions in our area don’t always catch our attention, but one recent one did.

The subject the reaction of several Rutgers scientists to Pope Francis’s recent statement on climate change and the need to do something about it. As we were preparing our annual Health and Fitness issue, we couldn’t help take notice of the pope’s message. And even if some divine intervention proves that so many of us are wrong, and that the wacky weather we are now experiencing is due only to natural meteorological fluctuations, can it ever be healthy to pollute our environment with the accelerated burning of carbon-based fuels? (See page 9 for a collection of rallying cries from a group of environmental activists who will assemble in Trenton on Thursday, June 25.)

One of the people quoted in the release is Jennifer Francis of the Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences, whose research on the jet stream shows a link between the rapidly warming Arctic and an increase in extreme weather events: Francis was featured in our February 25 cover story on that link. Her response to the pope’s statement:

“Members of the Catholic faith span political boundaries, so I am hopeful that a statement from the pope will help part the clouds that have obscured the facts about climate change, created public confusion where there should be none, and prevented inaction by our government leaders. When the pope speaks, millions of people listen. I hope his message on climate change will mark a turning point toward action.

“One of the reasons often heard for someone denying the fact that humans have changed the climate is that they believe we are too insignificant to have such a widespread influence on the Earth or that God would not let it happen. A statement by the pope affirming that human activities are indeed harming the Earth’s oceans, atmosphere, and ecosystem — and that we need to take better care of our one and only planet — may change the minds of those who have used these arguments for inaction.”

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