Climate scientists, activists, and academics have used reason, data, and morality to desperately sound the alarm bell around the urgent need to address the climate crisis. For the most part, those pleas have gone unanswered. Now, Pope Francis is offering a sophisticated new alternative: pray and hope for the best.
“Let us implore God’s gifts of wisdom and strength upon those charged with guiding the international community as they seek to meet this grave challenge with concrete decisions inspired by responsibility towards present and future generations,” Francis wrote. “Time is running out; this occasion must not be wasted, lest we have to face God’s judgment for our failure to be faithful stewards of the world he has entrusted to our care.”
The letter was followed up days later by a Tweet where Francis called for a new “universal solidarity...that values profit over people.”
Ahead of the climate meeting, the Vatican sent a formal message to the conference comparing the combined assault of climate change and the covid-19 virus to the damage caused by a global conflict and said rich, developed countries owe and “ecological debt” to others. Francis also spoke to the BBC calling on countries to provide a “radical” response to the current climate effort and encouraged a new sense of “shared responsibility.”
“We can confront these crises by retreating into isolationism, protectionism, and exploitation,” Francis said, “or we can see in them a real chance for change.”
Francis has made speaking out about climate change a priority since he assumed his leadership role in 2013, even going as far as to publish an entire book-length Encyclical on the subject called titled: Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home. That book and the Pope’s other statements have earned him the ire of climate change skeptics, and even some Christians on the political right who have gone as far as to call him a “fake Christian.”
Though Pope Francis’s pleas for prayer and action are lacking on any meaningful specifics, that’s not necessarily the world thing if he can convince a meaningful percentage of Catholics to care about climate change. And there’s no shortage of observers: The Vatican estimated there were about 1.34 billion Catholics spread out across the globe as of December 2019.