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How Will the Pope's Position Affect the Poor and the Presidential Election?

How will Pope Francis’s climate change encyclical impact the world’s poorest citizens? And will it affect the upcoming presidential election? Bonner Cohen of the National Center for Public Policy Research and Bill Galston of the Brookings Institution had a thoughtful conversation about the possibilities in their June 24 appearance on the Al Jazeera America program “Inside Story with Ray Suarez.”

“Millions of Catholics live in parts of the world which are very vulnerable,” noted Cohen. “What we really don’t want to do, I think, is impose policies that would deny these people access to electricity or make their access to electricity more difficult.  That’s where I think the Pope has to be very very careful here, because if he favors policies that will ultimately put some of the good things about the modern life out of the reach of the most vulnerable, he will ultimately wind up perpetuating poverty and putting himself behind policies that will lead to shorter life expectancies, and that’s not something I think any of us want.”

So how will presidential candidates respond to Pope Francis’s climate change encyclical, and will it matter? 

Cohen expects the Republican candidates “to say, ‘Listen, we need to be very careful in going about this, because first of all, do no harm.  Don’t impose policies that ultimately hurt people, denying them access to the many amenities of modern ingenuity that have our lives much more livable than our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents could possibly have imagined.’

“On the Democratic side,” Cohen continued, “you will probably see the Pope’s words evoked many many many times.”

However, will all of this even matter in the presidential election?  Cohen notes that Pew Center surveys indicate that American voters see climate change as last priority.

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