2014-12-31 14:29:42

Democracy Now! - December 31, 2014

On today's episode of Democracy Now!

Pope Francis is set to make history by issuing the first-ever comprehensive Vatican teachings on climate change, which will urge 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide to take action. The document will be sent to the world’s 5,000 Catholic bishops and 400,000 priests who will distribute it to their parishioners. Given the sheer number of people who identify as Catholics worldwide, the pope’s clarion call to tackle climate change could reach far more people than even the largest environmental groups. "The document will take a position in favor of the scientific consensus that climate change is real ... and link the deforestation and destruction of the natural environment to the particular economic model of which Pope Francis has been a critic," says our guest, Austen Ivereigh, author of a new biography called "The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope." The pope also plans to address the United Nations General Assembly and convene a summit of the world’s main religions in hopes of bolstering next year’s crucial U.N. climate meeting in Paris.

Pope Francis emerged this year as a star diplomat when he played a key role in the thawing of relations between the Cuba and the United States and presidents of both countries thanked him by name for his support. Earlier this month, the pope offered to assist the United States with another diplomatic hurdle: its efforts to close the Guantánamo prison. The Vatican has reportedly offered to help find adequate humanitarian solutions through its international contacts. We speak with Austen Ivereigh, whose new biography about the pope outlines these achievements, including the pontiff’s call for the Catholic Church "to create still broader opportunities for a more incisive female presence" even as he has stopped short of embracing the ordination of women to the priesthood. Ivereigh also examines Pope Francis’ recent steps to recognize the significance of liberation theology in Latin America, which has faced a decades-long attack by the Vatican for its socialist orientation.

As the warmest year on record comes to a close, we end the last show of 2014 with climate activist and author Bill McKibben. He recently announced he is stepping down from the daily leadership of the climate action group 350.org, which he co-founded in 2007 and where he has been a leading voice warning of the dangers of not confronting global warming. He says he will remain a senior adviser and active member of the board, keeping 90 percent of his daily work the same. We play an excerpt of McKibben’s speech earlier this month in Stockholm, Sweden, where he received the Right Livelihood Award, known as the alternative Nobel Prize.