Pope Francis: Climate Crisis ‘Has Been Unfolding Since the Industrial Revolution’

Pope Francis speaks to engaged couples during a Valentine's Day celebration in St Peter's square at the Vatican on February 14, 2014. The Vatican said there were around 20,000 future brides and grooms attending from 25 countries, all of them enrolled on Catholic marriage preparation courses. The celebration was not …
GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP via Getty Images

ROME — Pope Francis said this week the “climate crisis” has its roots in the Industrial Revolution but for many years “it remained imperceptible except to a very few clairvoyants.”

In the preface to a Vatican booklet titled “Pastoral Orientations on Climate Displaced People,” the pope argues that the disastrous effects of climate change are evident to everyone.

“We are engulfed by news and images of whole peoples uprooted by cataclysmic changes in our climate, forced to migrate,” he asserts.

“When people are driven out because their local environment has become uninhabitable, it might look like a process of nature, something inevitable,” Francis states. “Yet the deteriorating climate is very often the result of poor choices and destructive activity, of selfishness and neglect, that set humankind at odds with creation, our common home.”

As he has done on other occasions, the pope compares global warming to the coronavirus pandemic, insisting, however, that humanity should have seen the climate crisis brewing.

“Unlike the pandemic, which came on us suddenly, without warning, almost everywhere, and impacting everyone at once, the climate crisis has been unfolding since the Industrial Revolution,” he declares. “For a long time it developed so slowly that it remained imperceptible except to a very few clairvoyants.”

“Even now it is uneven in its impact: climate change happens everywhere, but the greatest pain is felt by those who have contributed the least to it,” he asserts.

The “huge and increasing numbers displaced by climate crises” are fast becoming “a great emergency of our age, visible almost nightly on our screens, and demanding global responses,” Francis insists.

Boldly paraphrasing God, as recounted by the prophet Isaiah, the pope warns of future disasters if humanity fails to act.

“If you are ready to listen, we can still have a great future. But if you refuse to listen and to act, you will be devoured by the heat and the pollution, by droughts here and rising waters there,” he states, referencing God’s warning in Isaiah 1:18-20.

Along with his dire climate predictions, the pope turns to another favorite topic of his: immigration.

“Those driven from their homes by the climate crisis need to be welcomed, protected, promoted and integrated,” he argues. “They want to start over. To create a new future for their children, they need to be allowed to do so, and to be helped.”

“This is the work the Lord asks now of us,” the pontiff declares. “We are not going to get out of crises like climate or COVID-19 by hunkering down in individualism but only by ‘being many together,’ by encounter and dialogue and cooperation.”


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