Laudate Deum Apostolic Exhortation of the Holy Father Francis
To All People of Good Will on the Climate Crisis


Laudate Deum Apostolic Exhortation of the Holy Father Francis
To All People of Good Will on the Climate Crisis

Pope Francis, in this latest Apostolic exhortation, calls a spade a spade. He states, ‘Climate change is one of the principal challenges facing society and the global community… And to express bluntly that this is no longer a secondary or ideological question, but a drama that harms us all, the African bishops stated that climate change makes manifest “a tragic and striking example of structural sin”.

The Pope speaks to the story line that minimizes the scientific information that we have available to us today. We all have heard the claim perhaps even by family members or friends that the planet has always had, and will have, periods of cooling and warming. But Pope Francis quips, “They forget to mention another relevant datum: that what we are presently experiencing is an unusual acceleration of warming, at such a speed that it will take only one generation – not centuries or millennia – in order to verify it.” “Admittedly, not every concrete catastrophe ought to be attributed to global climate change. Nonetheless, it is verifiable that specific climate changes provoked by humanity are notably heightening the probability of extreme phenomena that are increasingly frequent and intense. For this reason, we know that every time the global temperature increases by 0.5° C, the intensity and frequency of great rains and floods increase in some areas and severe droughts in others, extreme heat waves in some places and heavy snowfall in others… If it should rise above 2 degrees, the icecaps of Greenland and a large part of Antarctica [5] will melt completely, with immensely grave consequences for everyone.”

He responds to the fear that reducing the use of fossil fuels and developing cleaner energy sources will lead to a reduction in the number of jobs. His conviction is “the transition to renewable forms of energy, properly managed, as well as efforts to adapt to the damage caused by climate change, are capable of generating countless jobs in different sectors. This demands that politicians and business leaders should even now be concerning themselves with it.”

Pope Francis clearly relies on science quoting the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2023, which states “More than 42% of total net emissions since the year 1850 were produced after 1990.” ([8]IPPCC) He goes on to quote the data that makes the present temperature rise a necessity to trumpet. “We have confirmed that in the last fifty years the temperature has risen at an unprecedented speed, greater than any time over the past two thousand years. In this period, the trend was a warming of 0.15° C per decade, double that of the last 150 years. From 1850 on, the global temperature has risen by 1.1° C, with even greater impact on the polar regions. At this rate, it is possible that in just ten years we will reach the recommended maximum global ceiling of 1.5° C. ([9]IPPC)

Some may be surprised that the Holy Father is so glued to science and figures, but he feels compelled to back up his religious convictions with empirical evidence. He bemoans the reality that Catholics are as divided on this subject as the masses.  He states, “I feel obliged to make these clarifications, which may appear obvious, because of certain dismissive and scarcely reasonable opinions that I encounter, even within the Catholic Church.” He speaks of how money and profit trump the care for the earth, “Regrettably, the climate crisis is not exactly a matter that interests the great economic powers, whose concern is with the greatest profit possible at minimal cost and in the shortest amount of time.”

The Pope echoes the concerns of many world citizens who cry for the end of fossil fuels. “The necessary transition towards clean energy sources such as wind and solar energy, and the abandonment of fossil fuels, is not progressing at the necessary speed. Consequently, whatever is being done risks being seen only as a ploy to distract attention.” We must act now. “Although the measures that we can take now are costly, the cost will be all the more burdensome the longer we wait.”

Pope Francis is not fearful to name names. “If we consider that emissions per individual in the United States are about two times greater than those of individuals living in China, and about seven times greater than the average of the poorest countries, [44] we can state that a broad change in the irresponsible lifestyle connected with the Western model would have a significant long-term impact.”

He ends with this warning: “ “Praise God” is the title of this letter. For when human beings claim to take God’s place, they become their own worst enemies.”

Review by Ken Forster, OMI