How Pope Francis Can Use His U.S. Visit to Promote Climate Action
In his June encyclical, Pope Francis made it clear that he believes climate change is a serious social and environmental crisis. As a trained scientist, he is fully aware that climate change is caused by human activity, and as a faith leader, he emphasizes that it is our moral obligation to fight it.
On his visit to the United States next week, the Pope will have multiple opportunities to expand on this message. He will be addressing Congress on September 24, and the U.N. on September 25. With the world listening, what will he say to inspire us to action?
In this Yale Environment 360 forum, several prominent academic and climate leaders share their thoughts on what his message should be. Climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe, who is on our MomentUs Leadership Council, reminds us what the pope has already said: climate change impacts the most vulnerable among us, and we must act according to our human values of justice and compassion. She hopes he’ll call out those who resist action out of self-interest. Yale research scholar Mary Evelyn Tucker hopes the pope will continue to express the interconnectedness of the world’s people and nations, and that we all must act to protect our shared future. Read on for more opinions.
To celebrate and support Pope Francis’ visit, our faith initiative Blessed Tomorrow will be co-hosting a series of events in Washington, DC. Learn more and RSVP here.
Pope Francis will speak to the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 25 about poverty, the environment, and sustainable development. In a Yale Environment 360 forum, seven leading thinkers on the environment and religion describe what they would like to hear the pope say.
In his groundbreaking June encyclical, Pope Francis issued a call for robust individual action and a sweeping transformation of global economic and political systems to deal with the dual threats of climate change and environmental degradation. On Sept. 25, he will bring aspects of that message to the United Nations. Yale Environment 360 asked experts on the environment and religion what they would like the pope to say before the U.N. While many said the pope’s encyclical was a potentially transformative moment for stewardship of the planet, others would like Pope Francis to speak out about issues he overlooked or dismissed, including the role of population growth in environmental problems and the vital part that the private sector must play in combating global warming.
Katharine Hayhoe is an atmospheric scientist and associate professor of political science at Texas Tech University, where she is director of the Climate Science Center. She has worked at Texas Tech since 2005.
The pope gets what we scientists have known for a long time: Science doesn’t hold all the answers. Not for life, and certainly not for such a difficult and polarized issue as climate change.
There is a lot science can tell us. It can tell us that climate is changing; that — for the first time in the history of this planet — humans are responsible; and that our choices matter. The more carbon we produce today, the greater the risks and even the dangers we will face tomorrow.
But science can’t tell us what to do; that’s where our values come in. And for more than 80 percent of Americans, at least some of their values come from their faith. That’s why it’s so important that the pope gets it.
The pope is crystal clear on the connection between Christian values and climate change. He’s laid out in detail the relationship between God, people, and the planet. He’s connected the dots between poverty, vulnerability, and climate impacts. He’s left nothing to the imagination when describing the challenge we face today, and the attitudes we’ll need to conquer this challenge in the future.
There’s just one thing he hasn’t said — yet. He hasn’t called out those who are using God’s name as a cover for greedy, short-term thinking, for actions and attitudes that reflect love of self more than love of others.
Will he do it? I don’t know. But I do know this: He’s the right person to make that call.
Image credit: Jeffrey Bruno/Aleteia