Pope Francis and Investing

Francis Takes to Social Media to Implore his Followers to Action

Pope Francis in crowd with smartphones
Andrea Franceschini/Corbis News/Getty Images

Although bumped from yesterday's headlines by the horrific events in Charleston, the release by the Vatican of an Encyclical on Climate Change was a call to Billions of Pope Francis' followers for action which may well have major investment implications.

Francis himself took to Twitter (and where he is @Pontifex with 6.3 Million followers) using hashtag #LaudatoSi and tweeted dozens of highlight quotes which we will take a look at below.

Having been leaked earlier in the week by an Italian language publication, there were a plethora of earlier analysis of the piece.

Highlights pointed out earlier in the week here (from what were at the time Italian language translations) included:

“Science and religion … can enter into an intense and productive dialogue with each other”

“There is a very consistent scientific consensus”

“Never have we mistreated and offended our common home as we have in the last two centuries”

Climate change is “caused by the enormous consumption of some wealthy nations”

“It is impossible to sustain the current level of consumption”

“The environment is a common patrimony of all humanity”

“A truly ecological social approach should integrate justice in discussions about the environment”

“The Church … must listen and promote honest debate among scientists”

“It is urgent to develop policy”

“Heal our life, so we protect the world”

Apparently, the leaked version was very very close to the final version of Laudato Si released officially yesterday, but the English language tweets left little to the imagination, and which included (in order of tweet):

"I invite all to pause to think about the challenges we face regarding care for our common home."

"We need a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet." 

"There is an intimate relationship between the poor and the fragility of the planet."

"There is a need to seek other ways of understanding the economy and progress."

"There is a value proper to each creature."

"The throwaway culture of today calls for a new lifestyle. "

"“To commit a crime against the natural world is a sin against ourselves and a sin against God.” (Patriarch Bartholomew)

"The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all."

"Climate change represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day."

(and then perhaps one of the more amazing tweets) 

"The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth."

"These problems are closely linked to a throwaway culture."

"One particularly serious problem is the quality of water available to the poor."

"The human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together."

"The deterioration of the environment and of society affect the most vulnerable people on the planet."

"We have to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor."

"To blame population growth, and not an extreme consumerism on the part of some, is one way of refusing to face the issues."

(some have pushed back on this previous tweet, noting that population growth is very much a related issue and that the Vatican's stance on birth control is in opposition with this call to action on climate change)

"A true “ecological debt” exists, particularly between the global north and south."

"Developed countries ought to help pay this debt by limiting their consumption of nonrenewable energy."

"There is no room for the globalization of indifference."

(and then a tweet all investors can easily relate to)

"Economic interests easily end up trumping the common good."

(then this tweet which seems odd given innovation's clear role in solving for potential future climate change)

"The alliance between economy and technology ends up sidelining anything unrelated to its immediate interests."

(and then the big criticism of investment as a key factor)

"Whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market.."

The unprecedented Papal tweetstorm goes on from there, for those interested just check out @pontifex at Twitter.

So what to think about this?  Three things quickly come to mind:

1)  For all the imploring, a real, implementable solution is not provided. Climate is a tough problem and many who are alarmed don't know what to do or feel powerless, however, more awareness is better than less.

2)  There are some clear contrasts in the Pope's rhetoric, where he pushes back for example on Carbon Trading, technology in general and suggests population size is not the issue.  All three of these are somewhat odd positions to take. Again, a clear alternative path is not provided.

3)  While options for US investors are increasing in assets under management, such "religious" mutual funds don't address climate change, at least as of yet.

Perhaps this will emerge as a clear opportunity - linking Pope Francis's followers on a global basis to investment options which address climate change. Without that connection, we are stuck relying on policymakers, who are not yet up to the task.

Perhaps the climate negotiations should be moved from Paris to Rome.