Pope Francis has taken another step towards a more harmonious coexistence of science and faith by speaking out against man-made climate change in an encyclical titled “Laudato Sii”, which uses both scientific and theological arguments to urge all humans, not just Catholics, to help fight against the ongoing crimes against our planet that threaten the health of all people worldwide.
In convincing the world of the urgency of climate change reform and finding more clean sources of energy, it is important to add a strong moral angle, which the Pope provides, in addition to the existing scientific and economic principles supporting the environmental message. The Pope’s message says that “ultimately politics and technology have failed to save the earth” and the populace must reform in personal ethics and morals before the problem of our ailing world can truly be solved.
Pope Francis particularly addresses his concern for the poor, and how they will be the most negatively affected by the changes to the world brought on by climate change. “The worst impact [of climate change] will probably be felt by developing countries in coming decades,” he said, and much of the moral aspect of his environmental crusade focuses on ending the cycle of the self-serving rich continuing to exploit the earth and its natural resources for personal gain, while the poor suffer from the aftermath of their environmental destruction.
This assertion by the Pope is strongly supported by scientific studies, which find that poorer areas in the world will suffer the most from the effects of climate change. As it has been shown to be a magnifying agent of environmental catastrophe, grasping onto any extreme weather phenomena and heightening its extremity, it will result in even less rainfall in drought-stricken areas of East Africa and Oceania, and more devastating tropical storms in places like the Indian subcontinent and West Africa. This means that climate change will likely continue to be perpetuated by wealthy executives in their secure, expensive, well-furnished homes while those who live in poorer, less developed areas of the world lose their homes and even their lives as casualties of billion-dollar profits. We therefore need to take a moral initiative and make all of the world’s citizens realize that climate change is something that affects us all, even if we may not see it from the tenth story balconies of bustling metropolises, or from the windows of our suburban homes, with the views of our back yards obscured by the glare of our television sets. We cannot run from this problem any more than we can run from our own mortality. It is a part of nature, a part of the world we live in now. Man cannot run from the ground beneath his feet. We must stand together or fall together.
The Pope, a figure of moral and spiritual authority for more than one billion people, has taken an enormous step forward by not only addressing this issue that affects everyone on a global scale, but mobilizing the people of the world to take a stand for the home they share, and the health of the planet’s vast ecosystem. However, his statements concerning climate change have attracted some opposition from the more right-leaning members of the religious spectrum, most notably members of the Republican Party of the United States, several of whom deny the scientific authenticity of man-made climate change. Presidential hopefuls Rick Santorum and Jeb Bush have both spoken out against the Pope’s message, predictably reiterating the mantra that “science should be left to the scientists,” continuing the GOP’s record of ignoring the general scientific consensus in their denial of a phenomenon that 97% of climate scientists acknowledge. Jeb Bush has responded by insisting that religion should be left out of politics, which is interesting considering the Republican right’s patchy history of respecting the separation of religion and politics. This recent political backlash to the Pope’s laudable statements serves to demonstrate that irony, along with climate change, is one of the many things present in the world whose existence some Republicans remain unaware of.
We can only hope that Pope Francis’s admirable initiative on environmental issues can serve as a rallying cry for people all over the world and offer much-needed reinforcements in the desperate battle we continue to fight against man-made climate change.