Pope Francis will be issuing a papal encyclical later this year in which he will be telling the Church and its followers climate change is real. He will also say the Church and its followers must act on climate change on the moral and scientific grounds. The encyclical will be delivered to all of the bishops and priests with instructions they are to deliver it to their congregations.
For this reason, the Heartland Institute has sent a delegation to Rome in an attempt to "inform Pope Francis of the truth about climate science." It
doesn't sound as if the Pope will be listening, though. While
Heartland's delegation is there, Pope Francis will be hosting a workshop on global warming which
will include U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and Harvard economist
Jeffrey Sachs. Sachs is the Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and is the special adviser to the Secretary-General on Millennium Development Goals.
The big question here is, why does
Heartland care? They have simply ignored the science before, why not
just ignore the religion, as well? Just do the math for the answer.
The number of people that will be reached by this encyclical is huge. By some estimates, the Catholic church numbers about 1.1 billion followers with another 240 million Eastern Orthodox followers. About 80 million of those followers are in the U.S. (including 30 percent of Congress, more than any other religion). An encyclical is a letter from the pope to the bishops addressing some issue of Catholic doctrine. So, when the pope tells the followers of the Church they must acknowledge the reality of climate change and act on it, they will become sinners in the eyes of the Church if they fail to do so.
The ability to make such a definitive statement to such a large portion of the population is real power. Now, the deniers are taking note and it looks like they're scared. Heartland has no scientific credibility whatsoever. Now, they'll shortly have no religious credibility, either. And, that is one of the things they have depended on with many deniers claiming climate change is not real because we are not big enough to defy God and change the world He created.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Based on their actions, Heartland doesn't think it will play out in their favor.