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IN QUOTES: What Pope Francis says about climate change

Pia Ranada
IN QUOTES: What Pope Francis says about climate change
The Pope, in his latest encyclical, calls for a change in lifestyle and appeals to nations and corporations to prioritize the global common good

MANILA, Philippines – Pope Francis has a lot to say about climate change, which he calls “one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day.”

His stance on what mankind should do about this phenomenon is articulated clearly and comprehensively in his second encyclical, Laudato Si, released on June 18.

World leaders, climate activists, and scientists believe his encyclical is powerful enough to influence the international climate conference to be held in Paris, France, in December. (READ: Pope Francis’ encyclical stands up for climate victims)

In the encyclical, he talks about climate change as part of the greater destruction of “sister Earth,” our “common home.”

What does Pope Francis have to say climate change?

Rappler picks some of the most telling quotes from the encyclical:

Climate change is partly caused by natural phenomena but, largely, it’s due to mankind’s activities.

It is true that there are other factors (such as volcanic activity, variations in the earth’s orbit and axis, the solar cycle), yet a number of scientific studies indicate that most global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxides and others) released mainly as a result of human activity.

Mankind’s “model of development” is to blame for climate change.

The problem is aggravated by a model of development based on the intensive use of fossil fuels, which is at the heart of the worldwide energy system. Another determining factor has been an increase in changed uses of the soil, principally deforestation for agricultural purposes.

MASS BURIAL. Bodies of victims of Super Typhoon Yolanda are lifted to a mass burial site in Tacloban City, Eastern Visayas two weeks after the storm made landfall. File photo by Jake Verzosa/Rappler

Developing countries and the poor will suffer the most from climate change.

Its worst impact will probably be felt by developing countries in coming decades. Many of the poor live in areas particularly affected by phenomena related to warming, and their means of subsistence are largely dependent on natural reserves and ecosystemic services such as agriculture, fishing, and forestry.

Sadly, there is widespread indifference to such suffering, which is even now taking place throughout our world. Our lack of response to these tragedies involving our brothers and sisters points to the loss of that sense of responsibility for our fellow men and women upon which all civil society is founded.

The rich and powerful aren’t doing enough about climate change.

Many of those who possess more resources and economic or political power seem mostly to be concerned with masking the problems or concealing their symptoms, simply making efforts to reduce some of the negative impacts of climate change.

SOLAR PLANE. Advances in renewable energy technology make possible a solar-powered plane that can travel day and night. Photo by Beck Diefenbach/Getty Images/AFP

Humanity needs to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy. Progress has been made in some countries, but it’s far from enough.

Worldwide there is minimal access to clean and renewable energy. There is still a need to develop adequate storage technologies. Some countries have made considerable progress, although it is far from constituting a significant proportion. Investments have also been made in means of production and transportation which consume less energy and require fewer raw materials, as well as in methods of construction and renovating buildings which improve their energy efficiency. But these good practices are still far from widespread.

Rich countries have a “debt” to pay. They should help poor countries adopt cleaner models of development. They should lessen their consumption of fossil fuel energy.

The developed countries ought to help pay this debt by significantly limiting their consumption of non-renewable energy and by assisting poorer countries to support policies and programs of sustainable development.

International climate conferences have failed.

The failure of global summits on the environment make it plain that our politics are subject to technology and finance. There are too many special interests, and economic interests easily end up trumping the common good and manipulating information so that their own plans will not be affected.

CLIMATE SUMMITS. World leaders gather at the 19th UNFCCC Conference of Parties in Warsaw, Poland in November 2013. UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Climate disruption will persist as long as mankind focuses on economic gain and endless consumption of goods.

People may well have a growing ecological sensitivity but it has not succeeded in changing their harmful habits of consumption which, rather than decreasing, appear to be growing all the more. A simple example is the increasing use and power of air-conditioning. The markets, which immediately benefit from sales, stimulate ever greater demand. An outsider looking at our world would be amazed at such behavior, which at times appears self-destructive.

Humanity is in denial that climate change is happening.

As often occurs in periods of deep crisis which require bold decisions, we are tempted to think that what is happening is not entirely clear. Superficially, apart from a few obvious signs of pollution and deterioration, things do not look that serious, and the planet could continue as it is for some time. Such evasiveness serves as a licence to carrying on with our present lifestyles and models of production and consumption. This is the way human beings contrive to feed their self-destructive vices: trying not to see them, trying not to acknowledge them, delaying the important decisions and pretending that nothing will happen.

Mankind is not separate from nature, therefore all our actions have an impact on it as a whole.

Nature cannot be regarded as something separate from ourselves or as a mere setting in which we live. We are part of nature, included in it, and thus in constant interaction with it.

The climate change issue is not just about the future of our children, it’s about our own dignity and integrity.

It is no longer enough, then, simply to state that we should be concerned for future generations. We need to see that what is at stake is our own dignity. Leaving an inhabitable planet to future generations is, first and foremost, up to us. The issue is one which dramatically affects us, for it has to do with the ultimate meaning of our earthly sojourn.

Climate change will only be averted by our decisive action.

DIRTY ENERGY. The combustion of fossil fuels like oil, gas, and coal by energy companies is largely responsible for climate change.

The effects of the present imbalance can only be reduced by our decisive action, here and now. We need to reflect on our accountability before those who will have to endure the dire consequences.

The world needs a global consensus on how to curb climate change, not just decisions by individual countries.

A global consensus is essential for confronting the deeper problems, which cannot be resolved by unilateral actions on the part of individual countries. Such a consensus could lead, for example, to planning a sustainable and diversified agriculture, developing renewable and less polluting forms of energy, encouraging a more efficient use of energy, promoting a better management of marine and forest resources, and ensuring universal access to drinking water.

The carbon trade, in which rich countries buy carbon credits from poor countries instead of reducing its own carbon emissions, won’t be effective.

The strategy of buying and selling “carbon credits” can lead to a new form of speculation which would not help reduce the emission of polluting gases worldwide. This system seems to provide a quick and easy solution under the guise of a certain commitment to the environment, but in no way does it allow for the radical change which present circumstances require. Rather, it may simply become a ploy which permits maintaining the excessive consumption of some countries and sectors.

But human beings can rise to the challenge.

Yet all is not lost. Human beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good, and making a new start, despite their mental and social conditioning….I appeal to everyone throughout the world not to forget this dignity which is ours. No one has the right to take it from us.

Changing our lifestyle can make businesses, government policies, and the global economy more sustainable.

FORESTS IN DANGER. Deforestation, one contributor to climate change, is driven by consumer demand for timber products or by conversion of forest lands to agricultural lands. File photo by Lunae Parracho/AFP

A change in lifestyle could bring healthy pressure to bear on those who wield political, economic and social power. This is what consumer movements accomplish by boycotting certain products. They prove successful in changing the way businesses operate, forcing them to consider their environmental footprint and their patterns of production. When social pressure affects their earnings, businesses clearly have to find ways to produce differently. This shows us the great need for a sense of social responsibility on the part of consumers.

Our daily actions can make a world of difference.

There is a nobility in the duty to care for creation through little daily actions….Education in environmental responsibility can encourage ways of acting which directly and significantly affect the world around us, such as avoiding the use of plastic and paper, reducing water consumption, separating refuse, cooking only what can reasonably be consumed, showing care for other living beings, using public transport or carpooling, planting trees, turning off unnecessary lights, or any number of other practices.

What do you think about the Pope’s climate message? Share your thoughts with us by commenting below.


 Cracked ground image via Shutterstock 

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at