Pope Francis is truly following in his namesake’s feet. On the 18th June the Vatican released Pope Francis’ keenly awaited encyclical, in the nearly 200 page document the Pope calls for swift and concerted global action on climate change. It is not just Christians Pope Francis reaches out to but humanity as a whole, referring to the climate as “a common good, belonging to all and meant for all.” The pope shows considerable concern for the ecological consequences of a warming world and addresses the social injustice of environmental change. The heaviest polluting countries are mostly western developed nations, but the impacts of climate change are falling disproportionately on the poor, “rises in the sea level mainly affect impoverished coastal populations who have nowhere else to go.” The pope stresses that as ecological conditions deteriorate, human conditions deteriorate too. Consequently, he argues, we all have a God-given duty to protect our home, which is beginning to resemble “an immense pile of filth.”
The encyclical has been applauded by climate action groups worldwide, both religious and secular. Yet, Pope Francis has come up against considerable criticism, not least from Jeb Bush, the American Republican presidential candidate, who stated in a campaign speech in New Hampshire “I don’t get economic policy from my bishops or my cardinal or my pope.” Bush joins the fossil fuel industry and climate deniers the world over in denigrating Pope Francis’ message, many feel the pontiff has no right to be stepping into the realms of politics. There is much animosity towards the encyclical among Republican Catholics. However, this is hardly a surprise, a recent survey found that of the 71% of Republican Catholics who believe climate change is happening, only 47% believe it is caused by humans and is a serious problem.
Overall, the response to the encyclical has been overwhelmingly positive and there is hope that Pope Francis will spur a new global strategy on climate change. The release of the encyclical precedes the Pope’s visit to the US in September where he will address the joint US Congress and speak at the United Nations to encourage climate change negotiators before the Paris climate summit this November.
Sources: The Guardian. Online. June 2015