“Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods. It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day.”
The release by Pope Francis of his recent encyclical Laudato Si – On Care for our Common Home (1) has drawn some controversy with suggestions he clean-up his own house before attempting to save the planet.
In keeping with environmental statements issued from other leading church figures such as the Archbishop of Canterbury, Patriarch Bartholemew (2) and the Dalai Lama (3) personal issues on religion and doctrine should be set aside and this document must be viewed as a strong message from an important world figure which sends a challenge to such others in the lead to the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris later this year.
In describing the world as our “common home” and the climate as our “common good” the encyclical, in a comprehensive 190 page document explores political and community values based on consumption-driven economic growth which has lead to a throwaway culture. Considering the world as a whole with all things interconnected, the continual cycle of extracting earth’s resources to feed endless economic growth is unsustainable and comes with the risk of global destruction. Although strong on religious creationism, these views hold well with a majority of environmentalists.
While technology can aid lifestyles it does not always solve problems but creates new ones at the expense of air and water quality, deforestation; the continual use of fossil fuels; acidification of oceans and rising sea levels; depletion of animal, bird and fish life; poverty and centralised populations which place an ever increasing burden on the planet and result in practices which despoil the totality of the environment. We must redefine our notion of progress.
“A technological and economic development which does not leave in its wake a better world and an integrally higher quality of life cannot be considered progress. Frequently, in fact, people’s quality of life actually diminishes – by the deterioration of the environment, the low quality of food or the depletion of resources – in the midst of economic growth.”
The Pope is especially critical on the world’s changing climate and lack of clear resolution with much interference from interested parties. He contends that weak international political responses have left things too late and have done too little to address the situation.
“As often occurs in periods of deep crisis which require bold decisions, we are tempted to think that what is happening is not entirely clear. Superficially, apart from a few obvious signs of pollution and deterioration, things do not look that serious, and the planet could continue as it is for some time. Such evasiveness serves as a license to carrying on with our present lifestyles and models of production and consumption.”
He dismissses carbon swaps or credits as being burdensome and penalising to less industrialised and poorer countries while enabling larger economies to continue polluting but pay less. Instead he calls for a set of enforceable global regulations and international agreements on pollution and greenhouse gas levels. The need for replacement of fossil fuels with renewables is an urgent priority. Clear boundaries should also be established to ensure protection of ecosystems. He applauds the many grass-root level ecological groups caring for and making others aware of the damaged environment.
He warns that only a more vigourous political will can enable any change. With the effects of climate change already upon the world, this is an urgent message.
This lengthy document is set out in six chapters. For those wishing to read the more relevant parts relating to the environment, the following are suggested:
Chapter I – Pollution and Climate Change – points 20-42; 53-59; Chapter 5 – Lines of Approach & Action – points 165-174; 182-187; 190-198.
(1) Laudato Si – On Care for our Common Home
(2)Climate Change & Moral Responsibility:
(3)Universal Responsibility & the Global Environment