In the face of an escalating global crisis, Pope Francis issued a stern warning suggesting that our planet is inching alarmingly close to an environmental breaking point due to escalating climate change. This sentiment comes in the wake of several devastating weather events worldwide, including the destructive storm Elias in Greece.
The Pontiff voiced a deep criticism of global decision-making bodies, labeling them as ineffective. He targeted deniers of climate change directly, denouncing their attempts to “deny, conceal, gloss over or relativise the issue”, asserting that the human impact on the climate has become indeniable.
His chastising statements have been disseminated in a significant update to his groundbreaking paper on the environment, initially released in 2015. Alarmingly, Pope rhetoric painted a picture of irreversible damages caused by climate change.
A champion of battling climate change, Pope Francis has consistently designated it as a central focus of his papacy which was earlier underpinned by his 2015 encyclical – the most authoritative form of papal teaching. This move signalled a crucial shift for the entire Catholic Church.
Since then, the Pope has persistently taken to task the world’s political leaders, imploring them to take decisive measures against climate change. Furthermore, he castigated “irresponsible lifestyles”, predominantly prevalent in Western countries. He underlined that per capita emissions in the US were two-fold higher than those in China and seven-fold as compared to the poorest nations.
A sweeping transformation in the “irresponsible lifestyle connected with the Western model”, according to the Pope, would produce a substantial long-term impact. He warned that it would be dangerously defeatist to completely abandon hope, as this would leave humanity, especially those in poverty, at the mercy of the harsh impacts of climate change.
The Pope was also vocal in his call for a revamped global decision-making procedure, scrutinizing the existing protocol put in place decades ago as inadequate and ineffective. He criticized politicians who commit to climate rules but fail to implement them, deeming such behaviour merely as a distraction tactic aimed at diverting attention.
While acknowledging the progress achieved through the COP summits, Pope Francis lamented the absence of punitive measures if commitments were not met. He highlighted that certain recommendations from the latest international agreement at COP27 were left undefined.
His warning extended to overreliance on carbon capture technologies, noting that pinning our hopes on such techniques would be akin to “papering over the cracks”. He compared such overconfidence in future technical solutions to a deadly form of pragmatism.
Just like his previous exhortation, the Pope’s recent address integrates an ethical plea with scientific arguments for combating climate change. Towards the end, the Pope has a direct message for the world leaders, challenging them about their legacy and inaction on climate change, thereby urging them to examine their motivations for holding onto power in the face of such a pressing issue.