Faith leaders affirm climate consensus at Vatican Climate Change Conference

Vatican Square (Dennis Jarvis / Flickr)
Vatican Square (Dennis Jarvis / Flickr)
KC McGinnis | April 29, 2015

Religious, scientific and political leaders from around the world gathered to declare the moral obligation to heed the scientific consensus on global warming Tuesday.

“Human-induced climate change is a scientific reality, and its decisive mitigation is a moral and religious imperative for humanity,” read the official statement from the Vatican Climate Change Conference, held in Vatican City and hosted by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

The summit comes ahead of a papal encyclical anticipated to be released by Pope Francis in June of this year. Both Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict have repeatedly emphasized the need to consider the effects global warming has on the world’s poor.

“Political leaders of all U.N. member states have a special responsibility to agree at COP21 to a bold climate agreement that confines global warming to a limit safe for humanity,” reads the statement, referring to a U.N. climate summit to take place in Paris later this year, “while protecting the poor and the vulnerable from ongoing climate change that gravely endangers their lives.”

“The Catholic Church, working with the leadership of other religions, can now take a decisive role by mobilizing public opinion and public funds to meet the energy needs of the poorest 3 billion people, thus allowing them to prepare for the challenges of unavoidable climate and eco-system changes,” a more detailed version of the statement continues.

The Pope was joined at the summit by scientists and world leaders like U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon. These leaders insisted that the wealthy countries responsible for most of the world’s carbon emissions have a special responsibility to care for the world’s poor, who are often those worst harmed by rising sea levels and increasing storm severity in impoverished areas. Leaders from the summit warned that we may be nearing our last opportunity to keep human-induced warming below 2-degrees C, and that a transition to low-carbon and renewable energy will be a must in the push toward sustainability.

Coincidentally, the conference followed a recent presentation at Iowa State University by atmospheric scientist and climate change evangelist Katharine Hayhoe, who highlighted the role her faith plays in caring for the environment, allowing her and others “to fulfill the responsibility that’s been given to us to care for every living creature on this planet.”

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