Vice President Biden issued a sweeping endorsement Tuesday of Pope Francis a day after publication of the Vatican’s draft encyclical on climate change, saying of the pontiff, “We have a good one now.”
Biden, the first White House official to comment on the leaked draft, credited the pope for helping to move public opinion on a problem that both the church and the Obama administration have sought to frame as a moral issue.
The remarks came during a speech that was Biden’s first public appearance since the funeral services for his son, Beau Biden.
“There’s a consensus growing,” Biden said, after quoting from media coverage of the leaked encyclical, the official version of which is due to be issued Thursday. “This doesn’t only have a moral component to it. It has a security component to it, as well as an economic component.”
The White House had declined Monday to respond to the leaked draft, in which the Vatican accepts the scientific consensus linking human activity to global warming and calls on the world’s wealthy nations to reduce consumption and cut back on the use of fossil fuels. The draft document chastises climate-change deniers and says the “poor and the Earth are shouting” for action on addressing the causes of warming.
Biden, addressing a White House-sponsored forum on clean-energy investment, noted the recent activism on climate change by a wide range of religious communities, “from leading evangelicals … to the pope.”
“I’m a practicing Catholic. I always joke — they say, ‘Why am I a practicing Catholic?’ I say, ‘Because of the nuns and Jesuits,’ ” Biden said. Then he added, referring to the church’s first Jesuit pope: “We have a good one now.”
Biden went on to read excerpts from an article about the leaked draft from The Washington Post, which in a verbal slip, he referred to as “The Washington Pope.”
“Post. Pope, heh,” he said, correcting the error. “They sometimes think they’re ‘pope.’ ”
Echoing several of the draft encyclical’s themes, Biden warned that the world was rapidly approaching a “point of no return” for preventing severe impacts from climate change, and he berated members of Congress and climate-change skeptics for blocking progress on reducing greenhouse gases. At Tuesday’s forum, the White House announced several initiatives designed to encourage private investment in technology to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.
“It’s not only the morally right thing to do, it’s also a smart economic play,” said Biden, describing climate change as the “single-most important” challenge facing the administration.