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How A San Diego Scientist Helped Shape The Pope’s Climate Change Plans

Above: "Ram" Ramanathan meets Pope Francis during a Vatican meeting on climate change, May 2014.

Aired 12/30/14 on KPBS News.

Climate change will be high on the Catholic Church's agenda in the coming year, and a San Diego scientist played a role in convincing Pope Francis to take up the issue.

Climate change will be high on the Catholic Church's agenda in the coming year, and a San Diego scientist played a role in convincing Pope Francis to take up the issue.

In 2015, the pope will reportedly issue an edict calling on the world's estimated 1.2 billion Catholics to take action on climate change. He'll also visit regions devastated by recent natural disasters, and will attempt to influence United Nations' climate talks taking place in Paris late next year.

The church is prioritizing climate change just months after the Scripps Institution of Oceanography's Veerabhadran "Ram" Ramanathan organized a Vatican meeting on the issue.

Ramanathan said the discussion, which spanned four days in May, was encouraging.

"The Vatican agreed that we need a massive mobilization of public opinion about the seriousness of the issue, and why it's our responsibility to be good stewards of the planet," he said.

Ramanathan is a member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. He believes religious leaders are now in a better position than scientists to inspire action.

"Science has done its part," said Ramanathan, citing the consensus among researchers that human activity is warming the planet.

Ramanathan understands the pope's position could stir controversy with more politically conservative Catholics. But he said, "People need to hear — when they go to temples, churches, or synagogues — that this is not some scientific conspiracy. This is something that is happening."

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