We’re about to find out on Thursday, as Pope Francis is expected to call on people worldwide to reduce energy use and curb consumption in an effort to avert “unprecedented destruction of the ecosystem” that is linked to climate change.
The pope will also state unambiguously that he believes climate change has primarily been caused by human beings, rather than natural processes.
“Numerous scientific studies indicate that the greater part of the global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases … given off above all because of human activity,” Pope Francis, who has an undergraduate degree in chemistry, will explain.
Further, the pontiff is likely to tackle climate-change deniers head on, declaring:
“The attitudes that stand in the way of a solution, even among believers, range from negation of the problem, to indifference, to convenient resignation or blind faith in technical solutions.”
These statements and more are evidently contained in the pope’s encyclical, or letter to bishops, that the Vatican plans to release on Thursday. The encyclical is timed to set the stage for Pope Francis’ September visit to the United States, where he will address a joint session of Congress as well as the United Nations.
His statement had been embargoed by the Vatican but was obtained and published by L’Espresso magazine in Italy. Publication has caused an international uproar because, notes the Los Angeles Times, “it could roil the American presidential race by injecting religion into the already contentious politics of global warming.” The encyclical also raises serious questions about “the morality and sustainability of a world economy driven by capitalism and consumption.”
In the draft statement, titled “Laudato Si, On the Care of the Common Home,” Francis says human beings must be responsible custodians of the earth. The planet is “protesting for the wrong that we are doing to her,” he avows, “because of the irresponsible use and abuse of the goods that God has placed on her.”
“We have grown up thinking that we were her owners and dominators, authorized to loot her. The violence that exists in the human heart, wounded by sin, is also manifest in the symptoms of illness that we see in the Earth, the water, the air and in living things.”
Concern for the poor has been a touchstone of Pope Francis’ papacy since its beginning. In his statement, he acknowledges that climate change hits the poor hardest. Indeed, the draft encyclical calls for a new global authority tasked with tackling the “reduction of pollution and the development of poor countries and regions,” reports ChristianToday.com.
There are one billion Catholics worldwide, including 78.2 million baptized members of the Catholic Church in the U.S. In fact, Catholicism is America’s largest religious denomination, comprising 24% of the population. With the pope being the unquestioned leader of these congregants, his encyclical could play a major role in convincing citizens not only that climate change is real, but that we must act immediately to get it under control.