Pope Francis TED Talk on Climate Change: We Are ‘Squeezing the Earth like an Orange’

Pope Francis speaks to reporters during a news conference onboard the papal plane on his flight back from a week-long trip to Thailand and Japan, on November 26, 2019. (Photo by REMO CASILLI / POOL / AFP) (Photo by REMO CASILLI/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
REMO CASILLI/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

ROME — Pope Francis video-streamed a TED talk on climate change Saturday, urging an end to the production of fossil fuels and a transition to clean energy.

In his papal TED talk titled “Our moral imperative to act on climate change — and 3 steps we can take,” the pontiff reiterated his belief that climate change poses “an even bigger challenge” than the coronavirus pandemic.

All of us stand face to face with a choice, the pope said, the choice between continuing “to mistreat our common home, the earth, or to commit ourselves at every level to transform our way of acting.”

“Science tells us each day with greater precision that urgent action is needed — I am not exaggerating, this is what the science tells us! — if we want to have the hope of avoiding radical and catastrophic climate change,” Francis said.

“And for this we need to act urgently,” he declared. “This is a scientific fact.”

As his talk title indicated, the pope offered three proposals to deal with the present historical juncture on the basis of an “integral ecology”: 1) environmental education at every level, 2) greater emphasis on food and water, and 3) immediate transition from fossil fuels to clean energy.

Regarding energy transition, the pope called for “a continuous replacement — without delay — of fossil fuels with clean energy sources.”

“We have few years,” he added. “Scientists calculate fewer than 30 years to drastically reduce the emission of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere.”

“This transition should not only be swift and capable of meeting present and future energy needs,” Francis said, “but it must also be attentive to the impact on the poor, on local populations, and on those who work in the energy production sector.”

Concretely, the pope called for ethical investing that withdraws funds from companies that are not environmentally friendly while favoring those that promote social justice. The pope’s brother Jesuits in the UK have done just that, divesting themselves of all holdings in fossil fuel companies as a witness to ecology, which the Vatican praised as an example of an effective commitment to fighting climate change.

One way to bring about this change is to help businesses commit themselves to the integral care of our common home, Francis said in Saturday’s address, “excluding from their investments companies that do not satisfy the demands of integral ecology, while rewarding those who act concretely during this transitional phase to put at the center of their activities values such as sustainability, social justice, and the promotion of the common good.”

In the past, the pope has also called for a carbon tax as a means of averting a climate “catastrophe,” declaring that today’s ecological crisis “threatens the very future of the human family.”

“In fact, the earth must be worked and cared for, cultivated and protected,” the pope said Saturday. “We cannot continue squeezing it like an orange.”

“We can say that this — caring for the earth — is a human right,” he said.

“As the word ‘countdown’ suggests, we need to act with urgency,” Francis concluded. “Each of us can play a precious role if we all begin the journey today — not tomorrow, today. Because the future is built today and it is built not by ourselves individually but in community and in harmony.”

Oddly, in his nearly 13-minute address, the pope never uttered the word “God,” let alone the name of “Jesus.”

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