Session 1: The Road to Paris and Beyond - A Primer on Climate Change Policy, Action, and Ethics

Fall 2015:

Monday, September 21, 2015 to Friday, October 2, 2015

This session will provide tools for studying the global climate change movement, drawing on the work of CRS and its U.S. and overseas partners. Emphasis will be on the upcoming December 2015 UN Climate Change Conference - its history and anticipated outcomes - and CRS' policy positions stemming from the agency's work in adaptation to climate change.

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The session will also address moral and theological voices in the global climate change movement, with emphasis on Pope Francis's encyclical on the environment. Note that Pope Francis's visit to the UN in New York and to the U.S. Congress will take place during this session (allowing us to draw on current news for our webcast and online discussion). 

"The stakes are high: the aim is to reach, for the first time, a universal, legally binding agreement that will enable us to combat climate change effectively and boost the transition towards resilient, low-carbon societies and economies." - Paris 2015: UN Climate Change Conference



Course materials

Learning Objectives

Learn about the work and objectives of the global climate change movement 

Consider ethical dimensions of global response to climate change, particularly those rooted in Catholic Social Thought

Examine what we can do as Americans to respond to climate change

Primary Resources

Introduction to climate change and CRS's integrated approach

Policy - The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (The December 2015 COP21)

Action - The Catholic climate movement and its context

The Global Catholic Climate Movement


The St. Francis Pledge


Case study on climate advocacy

Jame Schaefer, "Religious Motivation for Mitigating Human-Forced Climate Change: Scientifically Informed, Politically Astute, and Collaborative," International Journal of Climate Change Strategies and Management 6/1 (2014): 34-46. (Available in your institution's digital library.) This article examines the structure of, activities of, and use of scientific information by three faith-based organizations focused on mitigating the adverse effects of climate change. Organizations studied: Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life, the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change, and Interfaith Power and Light.


Ethics - Theology in the public square

Secondary Resources
  • Climate Change Facts, by the Global Catholic Climate Movement. Includes 16-minute video based on the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The video considers several questions, among which: 1) What role does inequality play in the way climate change impact is felt? 2) In what ways are people mitigating and adapting to climate change? 3) What will enable necessary mitigation and adaptation internationally?
  • Eight Ways that Climate Change Hurts Humans, by Smithsonian Magazine
  • Global Warming’s Six Americas,” Yale Project on Climate Change Communication. Website includes publications and visualizations concerning public opinion on climate change, notably a report dated November 5, 2015 "The Francis Effect: How Pope Francis Changed the Conversation about Global Warning" available at
  • Suzanne Van Hulle, "Impact of Climate Change on Health" Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 49/6, November 2017, pages 596-597.  Van Hulle discusses the implications of climate change on Catholic Relief Services' efforts in public health, notably "undermining our investment in supporting national malaria control programs in developing countries to control and prevent malaria activities ... and jeopardiz(ing) the health for millions".  She describes three adaptation strategies that CRS is using to guide countries address these concerns through advocacy and on-the-ground efforts: (1) prepositioning food, nutrition, and other health commodities and supplies; (2) developing health messages aimed at helping communities identify changes in their living environment; and (3) supporting Ministries of Health to ensure they are able evaluate and send time-sensitive messages.   PDF iconImpact of Climate Change on Health.pdf
  • "A Planetary Pope: When Francis speaks on the environment," by Christiana Z. Peppard, America, May 25-June 1, essay
  • Trocaire 2015 Lenten Lecture, by Cardinal Peter Turkson, March 2015, discussing the anticipated papal encyclical on human ecology.
  • Climate Change and the Common Good: A Statement of the Problem and a Demand for Transformative Solutions, April 2015, by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences (for context see the news article "Final Declaration on Workshop on Climate Change, by Vatican Radio, April 28, 2015 available at )