Statements on Climate Change from other Catholic Institutions and Voices

June 10, 2015

In recent years we have seen a sharp increase in the amount of statements about climate change coming from the Vatican and other Catholic institutions. The following are some of the most relevant ones.

  • Pontifical Academies of Sciences and Social Sciences, 2015 joint statement (see also the longer version of the statement):
    Human-induced climate change is a scientific reality, and its decisive mitigation is a moral and religious imperative for humanity; In this core moral space, the world’s religions play a very vital role. These traditions all affirm the inherent dignity of every individual linked to the common good of all humanity. They affirm the beauty, wonder, and inherent goodness of the natural world, and appreciate that it is a precious gift entrusted to our common care, making it our moral duty to respect rather than ravage the garden that is our home; The poor and excluded face dire threats from climate disruptions, including the increased frequency of droughts, extreme storms, heat waves, and rising sea levels.
  • Cardinal Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, 2015 lecture:
    “Compelled by the scientific evidence for climate change, we are called to care for humanity and to respect the grammar of nature as virtues in their own right. (…) The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has undertaken the most comprehensive assessment of climate change. (…) To care for creation, to develop and live an integral ecology as the basis for development and peace in the world, is a fundamental Christian duty.  As Pope Francis put it in his morning homily at Santa Marta on 9 February, it is wrong and a distraction to contrast “green” and “Christian.”  (…) Binding regulations, policies, and targets are necessary tools for addressing poverty and climate change, but they are unlikely to prove effective without moral conversion and a change of heart. (…) Despite the UN Framework Convention of Climate Change signed in Rio in 1992 and subsequent agreements, global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) continue their upward trend, almost 50 per cent above 1990 levels.  The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has reached a level last seen 3 million years ago – when the planet was significantly warmer than it is today.  Millions of hectares of forest are lost every year, many species are being driven closer to extinction, and renewable water resources are becoming scarcer. The list could go on.  Certainly international agreements are important, they can help.  But they are not enough in themselves to sustain change in human behaviour. As Saint John Paul II put it, we require an “ecological conversion”, a radical and fundamental change in our attitudes to creation, to the poor and to the priorities of the global economy.”
  • Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, 2014 joint statement:
    If current trends continue, this century will witness unprecedented climate changes and ecosystem destruction that will severely impact us all. (…) The massive fossil fuel use at the heart of the global energy system deeply disrupts the Earth’s climate and acidifies the world’s oceans. The warming and associated extreme weather will reach unprecedented levels in our children’s life times and 40% of the world’s poor, who have a minimal role in generating global pollution, are likely to suffer the most.. (…) Our message is one of urgent warning, for the dangers of the Anthropocene are real and the injustice of globalization of indifference is serious. Yet our message is also one of hope and joy. A healthier, safer, more just, more prosperous, and sustainable world is within reach.”
  • Cardinal Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, 2014 statement:
    “It is well known that climate change raises not only scientific, environmental and socio-economic considerations, but also and above all ethical and moral ones, because it affects everyone, in particular the poorest among us, those who are most exposed to its effects. For this reason, 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 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.”
  • Bishop Sánchez Sorondo, Chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and Social Sciences, 2014 lecture:
    “Today solid scientific evidence exists that global climate is changing and that human activity based on the use of fossil materials contributes decisively to this trend. (…) Therefore, a programme in the light of the Populorum progressio and Pope Montini’s further interpretations must include climate stabilization, the sustainable development of the natural environment and social inclusion focused on the centrality of the human being and the common good. (…) If current trends continue, this century will witness unprecedented climate change and the destruction of the ecosystem, with tragic consequences for us all. (…) The problem of climate change has become a major social and moral problem, and mentalities can only be changed on moral and religious grounds.”
  • Holy See delegation at the UNFCCC, 2014 statement:
    At this very decisive moment in the history of climate negotiations we have to come to the point where we must overcome inaction. (…) The longer we wait, the more it will cost; more victims will suffer from our inaction and the greatest weight will fall on the most vulnerable, the poorest peoples and future generations: what is at issue here is respect for their fundamental human rights. (…) Technical solutions are necessary, but not sufficient. We must also consider the central factor of education: education aimed at fostering a sense of responsibility in children and adults towards environmentally sound patterns of development, the stewardship of creation, and solidarity among people. The current lifestyle with its throwaway culture is unsustainable and should have no place in our lives.”
  • Catholic Bishops’ 2014 Lima statement:
    We Catholic Bishops from all continents have come together in Lima on the occasion of COP20 to join the efforts of world leaders as they work towards signing a just and legally binding climate agreement in Paris in 2015. (…) We recognize that much good has happened on Earth through the rightful and responsible intelligence, technology and industry of humankind under God’s loving care. And yet in recent decades many grave adversities such as climate change, with its devastating impact on Nature itself, on food security, health and migration, led to a great number of suffering people worldwide. We express an answer to what is considered God’s appeal to take action on the urgent and damaging situation of global climate warming.”
  • Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga, President of Caritas Internationalis, 2014 statement:
    “When hunger and poverty turn every day into a battle for survival, climate change loads the dice against the poor… Through our model of progressing and growing – especially the use of fossil fuels – we have had a decisive impact on the natural world. Lands, forests, deserts, glaciers, rivers and seas are changing. Whether through poor harvests, arid land, acidic oceans or more extreme and unpredictable weather events (often, disastrous), the impact of the changing climate is unmistakable, is scientifically proven beyond doubt and affects us all.”
    “In a world with enough food for everyone but close to one billion people going hungry, climate change threatens to put an extra 20% of the world’s population at risk of hunger by 2050 … We have become indifferent to the damage we are doing, both to the natural world and to our poorest brothers and sisters.”
  • Pontifical Academy of Sciences, 2011 report:
    “We call on all people and nations to recognise the serious and potentially irreversible impacts of global warming caused by the anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants, and by changes in forests, wetlands, grasslands, and other land uses. We appeal to all nations to develop and implement, without delay, effective and fair policies to reduce the causes and impacts of climate change on communities and ecosystems. (…) We are aware that, if we want justice and peace, we must protect the habitat that sustains us.
  • Catholic Bishops’ 2008 statement:
    We, Catholic Bishops from the south and the north, (…) are deeply concerned by the disproportionate impact human induced climate change is having on poor and vulnerable people living in developing countries. Poor communities in developing countries are subject to the harshest effects of climate change, though they have done least to cause it. (…) It is our moral obligation to take urgent action to tackle climate change and to do so in support of those most affected.

For a more comprehensive compilation of all relevant Catholic teachings and statements, check these resources of our friends from the US-based Catholic Climate Covenant. See also: Climate Change Facts.