Skip to main content

Climate change and the Pope

Dan Farber, professor of law | March 1, 2011

Obviously, I need to pay more attention to news from the Vatican, since this story is a year old:

Pope Benedict XVI focused his annual address to ambassadors accredited to the Vatican on the environment and the protection of creation. He denounced the failure of world leaders to agree to a new climate change treaty in Copenhagen last month.

In his address to diplomats from more than 170 nations accredited to the Vatican, Pope Benedict expressed concern about the failure to reach agreement on climate change at the Copenhagen summit last month.

More recently, the U.S. bishops have emphasized the Church’s concern about climate change:

The bishops and other leaders of the National Religious Partnership for the Environment outlined in a letter to Congress broad agreement on four key principles:

  • The principle of prudence requires us to act to protect the common good by addressing climate change.
  • The consequences of climate change will be borne by the world’s most vulnerable people and inaction will only worsen their suffering.
  • Policies addressing global climate change should enhance rather than diminish the economic situation of people in poverty.
  • Policies should help vulnerable populations here and abroad adapt to climate impacts and actively participate in these efforts.

The USCCB supports strong leadership by the United States and policies that protect poor and vulnerable people, at home and abroad, from 1) bearing the most severe impacts of climate change and from 2) the human and economic costs associated with legislation to respond to climate change.

Climate change is a very long-term problem, so perhaps it’s not surprising that the world’s oldest continuously operating institutution — which has been the Catholic Church since the last Chinese emperor abdicated — is taking the issue seriously.  Unlike many other institutions (not to mention today’s politicians), the Church presumably expects to be around in the upcoming centuries when climate change gets really bad.

Cross-posted from the environmental law and policy blog Legal Planet.

Comments to “Climate change and the Pope

  1. It is reasonable to ask church-people, and thus the Pope, whether the ABUNDANCE of life is as sacred as the ABUNDANCE OF LIFE FORMS.

    My believe is that there are far too many people on earth today than it should be expected to support. We have “multiplied” and “filled the earth”. The earth is now full. So an old Biblical commandment, recorded when mankind was sparse upon the earth, should now go into honored retirement.

    If humans were to substantially stop eating meat and drinking beer, we might be able to feed the over-supply of people for a while longer, but the “green revolution” of the 1960’s got more food (just when the THEN SMALLER over-supply of people needed it) at the cost of increasing the use of petroleum (and thus speeding global warming on its way).

    It is no use to “solve” the problem of feeding “too many people” unless you also solve the problem of having “too many people”. The earth-system is a “system” and the whole system must be considered when system-problems are to be solved.

    I’ve addressed this sort of concern to the Catholics I knew in the 1970s, but got no helpful reply. As in so many items of human headstrongness, I have little hope about this problem either.

  2. Pope Benedict XVI has spoken over and over and over publicly about the Church’s environmental concerns (as had his predecessors) — and there’s more than one reason he’s doing it.

    Put simply, the Catholic approach to ecology embraces all life, in all forms, and in all stages of development—as well as decline. It seeks to hold as sacred the means by which life (especially human life) is conceived and nurtured. It seeks the protection of life because Catholics affirm that all life (that is, the entire ecosystem) was created by God as “good.” This is not an arbitrary belief. It transcends the believer. And so it defines them.

    Sadly, many critics of the Church (which I once was) don’t really care what the Church teaches in full, or why.

    If you’re interested in learning more about how faith and reason work together within Catholic thought—especially within ecological protection—visit my blog.

  3. Apparently these folks don’t realize how calamitous the consequences of global warming are becoming already in this century.

    An absolute fact of life is that every single human being, and most if not all other life on earth, shall suffer “severe impacts of climate change” on a scale that threatens us with extinction.

    Most disastrously for humanity is the fact that every human institution in the world has totally failed to implement anything to avoid calamity at this point, and the window of opportunity is closing more rapidly than we really know because our scientists are constantly dumbfounded by how unexpectedly fast many climate change tipping points are toppling already.

    I sure hope the Pope has the direct line to God that he claims to have, because that’s our only hope and prayer at this point.

    Because if church leaders are only depending on “strong leadership by the United States” producing “legislation to respond to climate change” we are most certainly doomed because the reality is that none of our institutions are preventing climate change, and the worst case scenario proof of this is that every international climate change conference and other meeting of the world’s scientists has been a total failure to avoid calamity so far.

  4. Here’s the thing. While it’s great that the Vatican is taking a stand on climate change, they are failing in a huge way to address one of the principle causes of the problem, which is overpopulation. If the Catholic Church really wants to do something meaningful about the problem of climate change, it should seriously reevaluate its position on birth control.

Comments are closed.