12Mar Pope Francis Concerned about Global Warming

Pope Francis Concerned about Global Warming

Fr. Seán McDonagh, SS

The fact that Laudato Si’ appeared six months before the crucial COP 21 meeting in Paris was very helpful. Memories of the abortive Copenhagen Conference in 2009 haunted those preparing for the Paris COP.
Another failure would have done enormous damage to the United Nations efforts to get a global treaty in place. According to Prof John Sweeney, NUI Maynooth, Ireland, the detailed choreography involving the United Nations, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (JPIC) the Vatican, and the tireless efforts of the French diplomatic system paid off and, despite some last-minute hitches, the first legally binding global agreement on climate change – requiring action by both developing and developed countries – was adopted and will enter in to force in 2020.[1]

It is important to remember that there was no mention of climate change in the Caritas in Veritate Social encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI which appeared six months before the Copenhagen Conference in 2009.. The Vatican threw all its diplomatic energy in order to get a positive outcome at Paris 2015.

Pope Francis congratulated the world leaders present at the COP-23 event and invited them to maintain a high level of cooperation. He renewed his urgent call for renewed dialogue on how we are building the future of the planet. “We need an exchange that unites us all,” he said, “because the environmental challenges we are experiencing, and its human roots affects us all.” The Pope warned participants not to fall into four perverse attitudes regarding the future of the planet: “denial, indifference, resignation and trust in inadequate solutions.” Finally, Pope Francis hoped that the COP-23 would be “inspired by the same collaborative and prophetic spirit manifested during the COP-21”, the event at which the historic Paris agreement was signed.[2]

Some island leaders from the Pacific Ocean area took time out from the COP 23 to pay a visit to Pope Francis in the Vatican. The president of the tiny island of Nauru, Baron Waqa told the pope “we are on the frontline of climate change. The devastating impact of cyclones has caused enormous losses for our fragile economies and matters have not ended there.”[3] Highlighting the moral authority of Pope Francis on ecological issues, the Pacific leaders noted that the significance of the encyclical, Laudao Si’ which they said had re-dynamised the discussion on the recognition above all, of the vulnerable, in the face of climate change.[4]

In October 2017, Pope Francis implicitly criticized the United States for pulling out of the Paris agreement on climate change. The United States is the only country out of 195 signatories to have withdrawn from the accord, which aims to cut emissions, blamed for the rise in global temperatures. U.S. President, Donald Trump announced the decision in June shortly after visiting the pope, a strong supporter of the Paris deal. At the time a Vatican official said the move was a slap in the face for the pope and the Vatican.[5]

In this address to the Diplomatic Corps on January 8th 2018, Pope Francis called on humans to care for the earth. He is particularly concerned with the devastating impact of climate changes. According to him “there is a need to take up, in a united effort, the responsibility of leaving to coming generations a more beautiful and liveable world, and to work, in the light of the commitments agreed upon in Paris in 2015. The spirit that must guide individuals and nations in this effort can be compared to that of the builders of the medieval cathedrals that dot the landscape of Europe, who knew that they would not see the completion of their work. Yet they worked diligently, in the knowledge that they were part of a project that would be left to their children to enjoy.[6]

Recent studies have shown us another aspect of climate change. Climate change could choke entire marine ecosystems by cutting oxygen levels in the ocean. [7]
Oxygen-poor waters have always existed in the sea, but in the last 50 years these “oxygen minimum zone” have grown because of   climate change. Warm sea water can dissolves less oxygen than cold water. A fall of a few degrees is enough to put enormous stress on some marine ecosystems.

[1] Dr. John Sweeney, “Walking the Road from Paris,” in Laudato Si’: An Irish Response, 2017, pages 137 and 138.,

[2] Pope Francis sends letter to COP23 climate conference in Bonn, Vatican Radio, http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2017/11/16/pope_francis_sends_letter_to_cop23_climate_conference_in_bon/1349337

[3] “Threatened islands appeal to Pope,” Sunday Examiner, November 26th 2017, page 4.

[4] ibid

[5] Philip Pullella,, “Pope implicitly criticizes U.S. for leaving Paris climate accord,” October 15th 2017. https://www.aol.com/article/news/2017/10/16/pope-implicitly-criticizes-us-for-leaving-paris-climate-accord/23244500/

[6] Andre Tornielli, “defending the right to life, freedom and physical integrity of every human person,” Pope Francis speaks to the Diplomatic Corps on January 8th 2018, Vatican Cty.

[7] Chris Baraniuk, “Our oceans are set to suffocate,”NewScientist, 11 November 2017, page 8.

One Response

  1. Lloyd Allan MacPherson

    This is my last comment on an article from Sean McDonagh. I can’t do it anymore. This guy is your national treasure and it pains me to see people sit back and wait for the “powers that be” in Ireland to respond to this issue when it is the same “powers that be” who somehow catalysed these dire circumstances with which we are being inconvenienced today, all for the pursuit of power, money, and proper global market position.

    This is all very informative Sean, but let’s not forget a few things:

    Benedict was the person that got this very ball rolling in the right direction in March of 2008 with his establishment of the 7 greatest sins of our times which, thanks to him, now include : environmental pollution, genetic manipulation, accumulating excessive wealth, inflicting poverty, drug trafficking and consumption, morally debatable experiments, and the violation of fundamental rights of human nature. This declaration went very much undetected at the time but to those who have been championing the cause related to environmental protection, it meant a lot and inspired greatly as we can see in his replacement.

    He is the same Pope who in 2010 declared via a statement labelled “The Truth is Accessible to Human Reason” (searchable on Vatican News’ YouTube channel) that putting people in unnatural laws will cause them to act unnaturally which when you look at the constitution of the reform groups, clearly resonates as a call to disobedience.

    Reform groups have flourished under Pope Benedict and Francis. They have provided you the incubation space for needed growth. To think otherwise is ludicrous.

    Caritas in Veritate needed not speak about the environment because it explained the root cause of all environmental degradation – poor management by political/business leaders who are chasing profit and growth for its own sake. Eliminate this push for “profit-at-any-expense” mindset and your environmental problems will start to recede as will the now polluted waters of the Pacific (nuclear, plastic, mercury, etc.).

    Pope Francis will surely have the last laugh where it concerns Trump and that nation which inhibits progress on so many levels. Trump is eliminating every known obstacle to profit – he is in the process of overturning 67 confirmed environmental rules, for what he believes, infringe on fossil fuel development. Insanity at its finest – let’s overturn and rollback and expect a different result.

    With China now refusing to accept 24 specific compounds for recycling due to environmental and health concerns, the United States will be more frantic than ever trying to find a fix for their plastic obsession (as will the rest of the world for that matter). The forbidden plastics are endocrine disrupting chemical laden and now will pool instead of cycle. China hasn’t agreed to stop manufacturing them, mind you – these compounds are now gifts for posterity. Lucky us I guess – hypocrisy is real.

    The Pope should start working to Girard’s maxim and realise that the solution won’t be born from a political movement. He has to start being critical of the every day Catholic. This is now a bottom up solution and not something that can be solely rectified within a top down strategy. The parish can be a carbon killer if it wants to but as it stands right now, it is just one of many in line to be child killers, equipped with an apathetic approach to change and a penchant to look to leadership to make all the necessary adjustments to somehow clear our collective conscience.

    Our mindset is somehow programmed to passively allow the market to sort things out without personal sacrifice. This is a large computational error as Girard would have us think. We are sheep, deep down, in need of shepherds, some would have us believe. That is not always the case. In all of us, buried deep is the wolf who is ready to “pack-up” and eliminate a threat, collectively. We need no masters or shepherds when we act like the wolf. We begin to work together collectively to carve out our destiny and terraform our surroundings.

    Cue the silence…


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