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On Thursday (June 18th) Pope Francis will release Laudato Si, his highly anticipated Encyclical on climate change. The document will mark the Pope’s most significant intervention in the climate debate to date, clearly aligning the global Catholic Church with calls for greater political action to save the planet from climate chaos.
Pope Francis has already clearly demonstrated his commitment to environmental care through many of his public statements. Last year, he warned, “if we destroy it [nature], it will destroy us”. However, this week’s encyclical will be his most unprecedented intervention on the topic of protecting our planet.
Laudato Si is expected to make the moral argument for taking political action to reduce carbon emissions. It is also expected to make the link between environmental destruction, poverty and inequality by criticising an economic system that benefits a small elite while at the same time causing environmental destruction that harms us all. It is expected that the Pope will deeply question how we run our economy and our lifestyles and how we value our relationship with nature.
Dry landscape in Tigray, Ethiopia, where once-reliable rains have become infrequent and unpredictable. Photo: Jeannie O’Brien, 2014
The timing of this encyclical is extremely important. There are a number of international processes taking place this year relating to climate change, culminating in the vital UN Climate Summit in Paris this December.
Pope Francis’s intervention at such a crucial time will clearly place the Catholic Church on the side of those demanding political action. Laudato Si will be distributed to Bishops around the world, who will then filter it down through the parish network.
At Trócaire, we have made climate change our number one priority. Increasingly our programmes are focused on tackling the impacts of climate change – be it drought in southern Africa, storms in Latin America or flooding in Asia.
Climate change is having a severe impact on the ability of already struggling communities to survive and grow food, and the experts warn that this will only intensify over the coming years unless action is taken immediately to reduce the amount of carbon in our atmosphere.
For example, it is predicted that yields from ‘rain-fed’ agriculture will drop by 50 per cent by 2020 to due drought.
The great injustice of this is that it is the people who are suffering most who have done the least to contribute to climate change. Developing countries are much more dependent on subsistence agriculture and have far fewer resources with which to cope with the changing climate.
Pope Francis’s encyclical will offer timely guidance on how we should tackle the most pressing issue of our time.
Access Trócaire’s schools, parish and policy resources on climate change.
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