Climate Change, a Pro-Life Issue

June 10, 2015

St. John Paul II, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and many others have accepted the reality of human-forced climate change and affirmed that care of God’s creation is a pro-life issue. The harmful effects of climate change — food and water stresses, more frequent severe weather events and disease — directly threaten the Church’s commitment to protect and defend human life and dignity.

The Catholic Church is consistently pro-life and Catholics want to apply our pro-life ethic consistently, so that our Catholic identity and our actions preserving life are firmly aligned.  We reject that which deals death, illness, or destruction.  In this way we live out our Christian identities more fully and deeply.

Our pro-life stance calls us to ensure that every child reaches the fullness of their God-given physical health and intellectual abilities. Yet today, nearly one out of every six babies born in the U.S. has harmful mercury levels in his or her blood, which affects developing children’s brains, with the potential to cause brain damage, developmental disabilities, neurological disorders, lower intelligence, and learning difficulties.  Coal-burning power plants are the largest human-caused source of mercury emissions to the air in the United States, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Addressing climate change by transitioning from dangerous and polluting fossil fuels to cleaner renewable energy will greatly reduce these risks, fundamental to life. The transition to clean, affordable, reliable fuels will turn energy poverty into energy prosperity, and employ many more people, supporting more families.  Such a shift is integral to the health and future of future generations, as well as our own lives and well-being.

Carbon pollution threatens our ability to breathe too.  Scientists have shown that air pollution from cars, factories and power plants is a major cause of asthma, which has dramatically increased in inner cities, and disproportionately strikes the elderly, children, and the poor, who are “at least 50 percent more likely to have the disease than those not living in poverty,” according to the America Asthma Association.  The American Lung Association said meeting the carbon emission targets set by the Clean Power Plan “will prevent up to 4,000 premature deaths and 100,000 asthma attacks during the first year implemented (2020), and prevent up to 6,600 premature deaths and 150,000 asthma attacks in 2030, when fully implemented.” The US Catholic Conference of Bishops supports this regulation.

We must ensure that our children grow up in healthy environments and that we care for our common home, leaving it clean and healthy for the next generation.  Clean, affordable renewable energy can replace polluting fossil fuels.  Sustainable clean energy already makes economic sense and is helping billions of people light their homes, study longer, and cook for their families while providing cleaner air, cleaner water, and healthier kids, with no emissions or cost for fuel.

Shifting to cleaner, renewable energy for the health and safety – and very lives — of current and future generations isn’t just a critical pro-life issue, it’s also practical and doable.  The developing world is leap-frogging over old-fashioned fossil-fuel power in favor of renewables. Solar installations are doubling every two years, with developing countries installing renewable energy projects at nearly double the rate of developed nations. The energy transition has begun, but we all have an obligation to ensure to ensure that it moves forward, with commitment and purpose. We are called to live life and live it abundantly!

Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach…See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction.  For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you…But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them,  I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long.. This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life Deuteronomy 20: 11-20