In a searing message on Wednesday, Pope Francis delivered his sharpest declaration yet on the rising climate problem, blaming huge companies and international leaders as well as “irresponsible” Western lifestyles.
“Our responses have not been adequate, while the world in which we live is collapsing and may be nearing its breaking point,” the pontiff said in a 7,000-word encyclical titled Laudate Deum (“Praise God”).
“Some effects of the climate crisis are already irreversible, at least for several hundred years, such as the increase in the global temperature of the oceans, their acidification and the decrease of oxygen,” he stated.
The Pope slammed climate change doubters and procrastinators.
“Despite efforts to deny, conceal, gloss over, or relativize the issue, the signs of climate change are here and becoming more visible.” “No one can deny that we have witnessed extreme weather phenomena, frequent periods of unusual heat, drought, and other protests in recent years,” he wrote.
Climate change will almost certainly worsen, and ignoring it would increase “the probability of extreme phenomena that are increasingly frequent and intense,” he warned.
The pope emphasized the affluent countries’ disproportionate responsibility for climate change.
“If we consider that emissions per individual in the United States are about two times greater than those of individuals living in China, and about seven times greater than the average of the poorest countries, we can state that a broad change in the irresponsible lifestyle connected with the Western model would have a significant long-term impact,” he stated.
He also blamed authorities and corporations for prioritizing short-term profits and advantages above climate action. “Regrettably, the climate crisis is not exactly a matter that interests the great economic powers, whose concern is with the greatest profit possible at minimal cost and in the shortest amount of time.”
He went so far as to criticize his own religion, citing “certain dismissive and scarcely reasonable opinions that I encounter, even within the Catholic Church.”
The pope’s declaration follows his 2015 encyclical letter Laudato Si (“Praise Be To You”), which was the first pontifical work entirely dedicated to environmental challenges, which have been a cornerstone of his pontificate.
It comes ahead of the UN COP28 climate summit, which begins at the end of November in Dubai and will include a “global stocktake” of countries’ progress toward climate targets.