Pope calls for courageous and far-sighted action on climate change

His Holiness Pope Francis added a heavy-handed moral imperative to the global fight against climate change today, calling global warming an “urgent moral issue” that must be addressed by all peoples of the planet.

Pope Francis delivered his historic Papal Encyclical on Thursday, entitled “Laudato Si (Be Praised), On the Care of Our Common Home.”

The 192-page document is a blunt and powerful statement on the toll human activity has taken on the natural environment and our collective duty to change the attitudes, lifestyles, and economic systems causing harm to both people and the planet.

“Put simply, it is a matter of redefining our notion of progress,” the Pope writes in the encyclical, a letter which guides the Catholic clergy and clarifies the church’s position on modern issues.

Aimed at guiding all people of the world — not just Catholics — the encyclical advocates a “less is more lifestyle” which embraces progressive acts such as carpooling, recycling, and compassion for the poor and marginalized.

It calls upon on world leaders to make the “courageous” and “far-sighted” policies needed to transition the global energy supply off coal, oil and gas and toward clean, renewable sources “without delay.”

The encyclical was released six months before international leaders will gather in Paris to develop a collective plan to fight climate change.

Francis said he hopes the document would lead decision-makers at the Paris U.N. climate meetings to a wholesale change of mind and heart, saying “both the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor” must now be heard.

The Pope said he accepts the consensus of the scientific community that human activity is the main cause of climate change. He took specific aim at major polluters and economic powers in the oil and gas industry, blaming global warming on an unfair, fossil fuel-based industrial model that harms the poorest people and poorest nations the most.

“This vision of ‘might is right’ has engendered immense inequality, injustice and acts of violence against the majority of humanity, since resources end up in the hands of the first comer or the most powerful: the winner takes all,” he writes.

The Pope cited the deforestation of the Amazon, the melting of Arctic glaciers and the deaths of coral reefs as he rebuked “obstructionist” climate doubters who “seem mostly to be concerned with masking the problems or concealing their symptoms.”

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The much-anticipated encyclical is the latest in a month of milestones related to the global fight against climate change.

Last week, the leaders of the world’s most industrialized nations agreed to cut fossil fuels from the global economy by the end of the century. The move by the G7 served to revoke the argument often used by coal and oil companies that the use of fossil fuel resources is inevitable.

And a week earlier, the economic security of oil and gas holdings took another hit as Norway voted to divest its massive $900-billion pension fund from companies involved in coal, oil sands and other polluting industries.

Combined with the Pope’s historic encyclical, those working on solutions to global warming are optimistic that ambitious action is on the horizon.

“We welcome this papal call to humanity to come together for the common good,” said Louise Comeau, executive director with Climate Action Network Canada.

“Pope Francis has offered the world a comprehensive assessment of the human relationship to nature and called on us to change ourselves so that we are more respectful, humble and frugal in our demands on the world. We urge all Canadians and our governments to heed this most important call to action so that we contribute positively to securing a successful international climate agreement in Paris this December.”


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