Pope Francis Says Impact of Climate Change Is ‘Catastrophic’

Pope Francis waves to worshippers upon his arrival for his weekly general audience in St. Peter's square in The Vatican on May 25, 2022. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP) (Photo by TIZIANA FABI/AFP via Getty Images)
TIZIANA FABI/AFP via Getty

ROME — Pope Francis returned to the topic of climate change Tuesday, lamenting the multiplication of environmental disasters generated by global warming.

“The climate changes of our time have multiplied extreme atmospheric events, with dramatic consequences for civilian populations,” the pontiff told a group of volunteers of the Italian National Civil Protection Service. “The impact is catastrophic for people who lose their homes due to flooding of waterways, tornadoes and hydrogeological disruptions.”

“The earth cries out! The earth cries out!” he exclaimed. “When we force our hand, nature shows her cruel face and man is crushed, forced to cry out in fear.”

Francis told the volunteers that their work has been fundamental in defending against “environmental disasters,” underscoring their work in the case of earthquakes.

“Protection is a sign of care for the territory you inhabit: you keep watch in order to save human lives and to promote communities. We are called upon to protect the world, not to despoil it,” he asserted.

“The emergencies of these years, linked to the reception of refugees fleeing from wars or climate change, remind us how important it is to encounter someone who extends a hand,” he said.

It is necessary to “form consciences so that common goods are not abandoned or benefit only the few. And to keep watch so that adverse events do not unleash irreparable disasters on the people,” he insisted.

In 2015 Francis became the first pope in history to publish an encyclical letter on the environment, in which he declared that the earth “is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth” as “once beautiful landscapes are now covered with rubbish.”

He denounced a failure to recycle paper and other resources, while calling climate change “a global problem with grave implications” and “one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day.”

Citing “scientific studies,” the pontiff said that “most global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxides and others) released mainly as a result of human activity.”

Pope Francis has often spoken out on the environment and in 2018 called on humanity to hear “the increasingly desperate cries of the earth,” insisting that immediate action is needed to save the planet from being reduced to “rubble.”

Speaking to participants at the international conference “Saving our Common Home and the Future of Life on Earth,” the pope stressed the “urgent need” for an “ecological conversion” as well as “concrete steps to save the planet.”

Our planet “needs urgently to be repaired and secured for a sustainable future,” the pontiff warned.

Reiterating previous calls to action, Francis asserted that “the pace of consumption, waste and environmental change has so stretched the planet’s capacity that our contemporary lifestyle, unsustainable as it is, can only precipitate catastrophes, such as those which even now periodically occur in different areas of the world.”

“There is a real danger that we will leave future generations only rubble, deserts and refuse,” he said, and “the effects of the present imbalance can only be reduced by our decisive action, here and now.”

Present circumstances require “radical change,” the pontiff said, if humanity is to win the battle for the planet.

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