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Pope, UN secretary general push for worldwide action on climate change

April 28, 2015

Pope Francis welcomed Ban Ki-moon to the Vatican on April 28, as the UN secretary general arrived to address an interfaith conference on climate change.

Participants in the conference-- ranging from scientists to political and religious leaders-- issued a statement expressing their conviction that the world's climate is changing because of human activities. They suggested that talks in Paris late this year, scheduled to produce agreements on addressing global warming, "may be the last effective opportunity" to avoid disasters.

Ban Ki-moon told the Vatican audience that "climate change is the defining issue of our time." He said that he is looking forward to the release of an encyclical on the topic by Pope Francis. That encyclical, which is scheduled for publication in June, could be an "unprecedented opportunity" for cooperation between religious and political leaders in addressing climate change, the UN official said.

The purpose of the Vatican conference, which was sponsored by the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, was “to help build a global movement across all religions for sustainable development and climate change throughout 2015 and beyond." The conference did not hear arguments from scientists who dispute the evidence of human-induced climate change.

“Climate change is intrinsically linked to public health, food and water security, migration, peace and security,” said the UN secretary general in his address. “It is a moral issue. It is an issue of social justice, human rights and fundamental ethics.”

“Science and religion are not at odds on climate change,” he added. “Indeed, they are fully aligned. Together, we must clearly communicate that the science of climate change is deep, sound and not in doubt.”

The Vatican conference also heard an address by Cardinal Peter Turkson, the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, who has emerged as the Vatican's leading spokesman on the topic of climate change. Cardinal Turkson, too, insisted on the "moral imperative" of addressing ecological concerns.

Decrying the “throwaway culture” the Pope Francis has often criticized, Cardinal Turkson said that global inequalities illustrate the same fundamental problem that causes environmental damage. He reported that over 800 million people—over 11% of the world’s population—are hungry, while roughly one-third of all food goes to waste.

Similarly, the African cardinal continued, developed nations continue to consume fossil fuels at an increasing rate, causing “almost unfathomable” damage to the environment. He suggested that the wealthiest nations “are morally obligated to push forward and find solutions to climate-related change and so protect the environment and human life.”

Climate-related environmental disasters are already occurring, Cardinal Turkson said, pointing to droughts in Syria, Africa, and California. He concluded that “the current economic-developmental model is out of balance.”

Safeguarding the environment will require a systemic change in the world’s approach to economic development and consumption, the cardinal said. “Without moral conversion and change of hearts, even good regulations, policies, and targets in the world are unlikely to prove effective.”

Cardinal Turkson argued that today “the Church must speak forcefully on the great challenge of our time: the challenge of sustainable development.”

 


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Show 4 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: nix898049 - May. 06, 2015 10:03 PM ET USA

    I'll believe they're serious when St. Peter's is once again lit by candle light.

  • Posted by: kathimcnamee11450 - Apr. 29, 2015 3:48 PM ET USA

    Who would ever have believed that the "politically made-up" Climate change would have caused a schism in the Catholic Church. God, have mercy on your church!!!

  • Posted by: Gregory108 - Apr. 29, 2015 4:29 AM ET USA

    How about all the droughts in the Bible? Those used to be attributed to God's actions, often punishing the sinful. Was it man-made climate change that caused those? Famines, droughts, floods and other natural disasters sprinkle the pages of Scripture! They're nothing new! There's nothing worse than poorly-informed,poorly-educated clerics trying to push bad science as the word and will of God! Aren't there penalties prescribed for prophets who speak falsely in God's name? They'd better watch out!

  • Posted by: shrink - Apr. 28, 2015 1:07 PM ET USA

    “Climate change is intrinsically linked to public health, food and water security, migration, peace and security,” … covers just about everything, doesn't it. And we thought that Communism collapsed with the fall of the iron curtain, but it's now into growing watermelon--green on the outside, and red on the inside—and Francis seems to have taken up gardening.