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Holy See: moral imperative to act in face of climate change

September 24, 2014

Addressing the UN Climate Summit on behalf of the Holy See, the Vatican’s Secretary of State did not offer specific policy proposals but emphasized that the international community has a moral responsibility to address climate change.

Citing statements of Pope Francis and Pope Benedict, Cardinal Pietro Parolin said on September 23 that “the Holy See has often stressed that there is a moral imperative to act, for we all bear the responsibility to protect and to value creation for the good of this and future generations.”

“The scientific consensus is rather consistent and it is that, since the second half of the last century, warming of the climate system is unequivocal,” he continued. “It is a very serious problem which, as I said, has grave consequences for the most vulnerable sectors of society and, clearly, for future generations.”

“Numerous scientific studies, moreover, have emphasized that human inaction in the face of such a problem carries great risks and socioeconomic costs,” he added. “This is due to the fact that its principal cause seems to be the increase of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere due to human activity. Faced with these risks and costs, prudence must prevail, which requires thoughtful deliberations based on an accurate analysis of the impact our actions will have on the future.”

Cardinal Parolin said that

market forces alone, especially when deprived of a suitable ethical direction, however, cannot resolve the interdependent crisis concerning global warming, poverty and exclusion. The greatest challenge lies in the sphere of human values and human dignity; questions which regard the human dignity of individuals and of peoples are not able to be reduced to mere technical problems. In this sense, climate change becomes a question of justice, respect and equity, a question which must awaken our consciences.


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  • Posted by: filioque - Sep. 26, 2014 2:07 PM ET USA

    Evidently the level of scientific understanding among readers of is much higher than in the US Congress or the College of Cardinals.

  • Posted by: JJF - Sep. 25, 2014 3:05 PM ET USA

    There is intentional confusion by the politicians between pollution and global warming. They say we must stop pollution (right), thus we have to reduce carbon dioxide emissions (wrong). Sure we want to reduce: soot, sulfur and nitrogen gases, ozone, and CO. But we exhale CO2, and it helps the crops. If it causes warming, then most of the world will use less energy. Although the greenhouse effect is valid, there is no evidence that it overwhelms other natural processes like solar variation.

  • Posted by: MAG - Sep. 25, 2014 2:30 PM ET USA

    Perhaps the good Cardinal Parolin could focus his energies on souls and genuine evangelical action instead of pseudo-science. Or he could at least read a bit of history on the medieval warm period and little ice age. St. Vincent DePaul, Ora pro nobis.

  • Posted by: unum - Sep. 25, 2014 9:18 AM ET USA

    I was not aware that the Vatican had a department of climatology that provided studies to support such a call to the international community. The Vatican’s Secretary of State certainly has an independent study on which to base his remarks.

  • Posted by: filioque - Sep. 24, 2014 11:27 PM ET USA

    You don't need a degree in science to know that only evidence counts. What is the evidence that human activities are causing global warming? It has not been published. Even the IPCC has not presented any such evidence. This is a huge grab for control of resources and economies and the poor in developing nations will suffer most if it succeeds. Churchmen and everyone else should look past the claimed "consensus" and ask for evidence that we are driving climate.

  • Posted by: bernie4871 - Sep. 24, 2014 8:49 PM ET USA

    GW is just an extension of the anti people "sustainable development" cabal, and historically that includes Holy See reps at the UN. So let's address it - GW is fraudulent. I've lived long enough to know its just normal change. Better if they just talked about the 1.3 billion babies murdered by abortion 1980/2010 - the world population when I was born.

  • Posted by: bppettie - Sep. 24, 2014 8:27 PM ET USA

    If indeed there was something we could do about human made climate change, then we do have a moral imperative to do something; however, since the entire matter is a hoax and fraud and there is absolutely no credible evidence of any human made climate change of any kind whatsoever, then there is nothing to do. However, why not do something about the environment that we can do -- recycle and reuse, stop dumping trash on the highways... sensible things that can make a difference.

  • Posted by: Minnesota Mary - Sep. 24, 2014 7:40 PM ET USA

    What these "church men" fail to realize is that God is in control of the climate, not man. Climate Change/Global Warming is just another scheme to redistribute wealth from one group to another. It's really Communism in disguise.

  • Posted by: [email protected] - Sep. 24, 2014 6:44 PM ET USA

    What a bunch of nonsense. There are thousands of scientists who do not agree with the so called man-made climate change. Definitely jumps from climate change to poverty to exclusion. One would think that a person of his statue would be able to make sense. Guess not. This whole thing is scam for the rich who want to trade in carbon commodities. The Church is really swinging left and a one world government concept. Be careful when you dance with the devil. You get burned.

  • Posted by: koinonia - Sep. 24, 2014 6:09 PM ET USA

    The problem with this commentary from the Vatican is that the political agenda behind those who seek absolute control is not in the best interests of human freedom. There are reputable scientists, like the author of the WSJ article, who insist that the evidence in this area to date actually suggests that man has had a very small impact. Further, while we might not like it (rising oceans etc) global warming is entirely normal. Capitulation to those who lust for power and control is not wise.

  • Posted by: shrink - Sep. 24, 2014 5:28 PM ET USA

    The Vatican is being played for a patsies. "Global warming" didn't happen, (there has been no warming for 17 years) so the socialists rebranded it "climate change" The only scientific consensus is in climate scientists lust for big government funding, and socialists lust for big government POWER.

  • Posted by: bruno - Sep. 24, 2014 3:49 PM ET USA

    I embrace the notion of responsibility of us all for our environment. Whatever me may conclude about climate change, there is good that can be done and evil that can be prevented. Doubtless all us will agree that having unbreathable air in Bejing is a bad thing. As for the whole climatic system, even heat, a by-product of virtually all human activity, can be considered a contributing factor. It may be time to discuss methods for jettisoning heat back into space.

  • Posted by: 1Jn416 - Sep. 24, 2014 1:41 PM ET USA

    The Wall Street Journal recently published a lengthy, informative and balanced article on the state of our knowledge on climate change. It is worth reading, and is available even without a subscription to the Journal.

  • Posted by: claude-ccc2991 - Sep. 24, 2014 1:02 PM ET USA

    Interesting choice of words, "since the 2nd half of the last century, warming of the climate system is unequivocal" (as if that proves a manmade cause). The truth is that warming is unequivocal since the BEGINNING of the 20th century, when natural climate forces were in control. Pity that they are oblivious to the benefits of CO2, which have increased farm yields by as much as 20%. I'd be willing to bet that these bureaucrats don't even know that all plants use CO2 to synthesize their tissues.

  • Posted by: 1Jn416 - Sep. 24, 2014 12:16 PM ET USA

    JG - I've never been comfortable with this idea that churchmen cannot comment on topics they hold not doctorates in. The comments have been on the moral responsibility of people in light of climate change, and morality is certainly within their sphere of expertise, and climate change -- whether you accept it you not -- is accepted by most scientists. The comments are not inappropriate. And whether anthropogenic or not, it will impact the poor to a greater extent than others.

  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Sep. 24, 2014 11:42 AM ET USA

    The real problem lies in the claim that recent human activities have, to the exclusion of virtually every natural process, induced a sharply discernable increase in global surface temperature. This claim may or may not be true, but it is defensible among academics and politicians based on a modern phenomenon called "consensus." Last year I became interested in the politics of "consensus" and gave a couple of talks about the observational (i.e., scientific) support (or lack thereof) for the claim

  • Posted by: jg23753479 - Sep. 24, 2014 8:05 AM ET USA

    I am no more comfortable with this than with the recent statements in the same vein made independently by two cardinals. It's an opinion, nothing more, nothing less, issued by men whose expertise is not in science but in religion.