Catholic Church

Pope Francis says climate change ‘a road to death,’ deniers ‘foolish’

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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Pope Francis says climate change ‘a road to death,’ deniers ‘foolish’

HOLY FATHER. Pope Francis holds a weekly general audience at the Vatican, January 17, 2024.

Vatican Media/­Handout via REUTERS

‘There are foolish people, and even if you show them the statistics, still the fool will not believe,’ says Pope Francis

MANILA, Philippines – Pope Francis warned that humanity has reached a point of no return in the climate crisis, and that climate change is “a road to death” denied only by the foolish.

“Global warming is a serious problem. Climate change at this moment is a road to death. A road to death, eh? And it is an artificial climate change – something provoked, not the normal climate change, right?” said the Pope in an interview with CBS News.

The Pope’s conversation with CBS News’ Norah O’Donnell, anchor and managing editor of CBS Evening News, was his first in-depth interview with an American broadcast network. The interview aired as a 1.5-hour special titled, “Pope Francis: The First,” late Tuesday afternoon, May 21, in Manila.

“You have placed the blame on wealthy countries,” O’Donnell told the Pope.

“In great measure, yes,” Francis responded. “Because they are the ones that have more of an economy and an energy based on fossil fuels that are creating the situation, right? They are the countries that can make the most difference, given their industry and all, aren’t they? 

“But it is very difficult to create an awareness of this. They hold a conference, everybody is in agreement, they all sign, and then bye-bye,” he said.

Francis then criticized people who deny climate change “either because they don’t understand the situation or out of a vested interest.”

“There are foolish people, and even if you show them the statistics, still the fool will not believe,” he said.

The Pope said that protecting the planet is the most pressing issue today “because it is the future.”

“How many young people today will not get to see so many things? It is a lack of conscience to use a plastic bottle and then throw it to the sea. This makes the sea unhealthy. We have to be conscientious about repurifying nature,” he said.

Francis, 87, the first pope from Latin America, was also the first leader of the Roman Catholic Church to issue a papal document on climate change, titled Laudato Si, in May 2015. He wrote a follow-up document eight years later, in October 2023, titled Laudate Deum.

In Laudato Si’, the Pope emphasized “the urgent challenge to protect our common home” by seeking “a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change.” In Laudate Deum, he warned that the world “may be nearing the breaking point” due to the climate crisis.

In Laudato Si’, he linked the effects of the climate crisis to “widespread indifference to such suffering.”

The Pope explained what he calls the “globalization of indifference” in his interview with CBS News. The interviewer was asking Francis about this “globalization of indifference” in the context of other global problems, such as the plight of migrants.

“People wash their hands. There are so many who see what is happening, the wars, the injustice. ‘That’s okay, that’s okay,’ and wash their hands. It’s indifference,” said Francis. “They make comments about such dramatic events that are going on, as though they were just at a sports match.”

“Please, we have to get our hearts to feel again. We cannot remain indifferent in the face of such human dramas. The globalization of indifference is a very ugly disease,” the Pope said. –

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email