Pope Francis took a strong stand on anthropogenic climate change Monday, telling a gathering of diplomats in the Vatican that global warming is a result of human action.
We must not “downplay the importance of our own responsibility in interaction with nature,” Francis told the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See. “Climate changes, with the global rise in temperatures and their devastating effects, are also a consequence of human activity.”
In his statement, Pope Francis went beyond earlier declarations that seemed to exclude the Church taking a formal stand on questions of climate science.
In his 2015 teaching letter on the environment, Laudato Si, the Pope explicitly declared that “the Church does not presume to settle scientific questions or to replace politics.”
In the same text, Francis said that he was encouraging debate rather than trying to impose his own understanding of environmental concerns.
“On many concrete questions,” he wrote, “the Church has no reason to offer a definitive opinion; she knows that honest debate must be encouraged among experts, while respecting divergent views.”
Francis also said it is necessary to create “a social debate” in which of those involved in any way can explain their problems and “have access to adequate and reliable information in order to make decisions for the common good,” something rarely seen in contemporary discussions of climate change that tend to exclude climate change skeptics.
Nonetheless, with the passage of time, Pope Francis has seemed to take an ever more decided stance behind the notion of manmade global warming, while sending signals that there was not much room for debate on the issue.
In November 2016, the Pope called climate change skeptics to an “ecological conversion,” while denouncing what he believed to be a “weak reaction” from governments to the climate crisis. He also criticized “the ease with which well-founded scientific opinion about the state of our planet is disregarded.”
On that occasion, the Pope also said that politicians had been “distracted” in implementing important measures to curb carbon emissions and blamed the sluggish adoption of COP21 protocols on “an economy which seek profit above all else.”
“Never before has there been such a clear need for science to be at the service of a new global ecological equilibrium,” Francis told his audience, while painting a picture of a world on the verge of “ecological collapse” and a “consequent increase of poverty and social exclusion.”
In his address to diplomats Monday, Francis continued along a similar vein, stressing the duty to leave “a more beautiful and livable world” to future generations and “to work, in the light of the commitments agreed upon in Paris in 2015, for the reduction of gas emissions that harm the atmosphere and human health.”
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