Pope Francis: People Have a ‘Moral Responsibility’ to Combat Climate Change

pope francis
AP/Andrew Medichini

“Whoever denies climate change should ask the scientists, who speak with great clarity and precision on this,” Francis told reporters during his flight back to Rome from Colombia.

Asked by a journalist whether there is “a moral responsibility for political leaders who deny that climate change is the work of man and refuse to cooperate with other nations” (in an evident reference to President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord), the Pope said that “climate change can be seen in its effects and we all have a moral responsibility in making decisions.”

“The other day came the news of that Russian ship that went from Norway to Japan and crossed the North Pole without finding ice,” Francis said. He was referring to reports in August that a Russian tanker had become the first merchant ship to sail across the Arctic without the help of an icebreaker, sailing from Norway to South Korea in 19 days.

It perhaps should be mentioned that the ship he was discussing, named the Christophe de Margerie, is a brand new design (2016) of icebreaking LNG carrier, which features an ice-strengthened hull structure using E-grade high-tensile special steel. Covered with 7cm of steel plates, the bow is able to break through ice up to 1.5 meters thick.

In other words, it’s not exactly that the ship saw no ice in the Arctic, but it was the first to break through it without the assistance of a separate icebreaker.

In his Q&A, the Pope went on to speak of a climate change report that asserted “we only have three years to turn back, or there will be terrible consequences.”

“I do not know if the three years are true or not, but if we do not go back, we are going down!” Francis said. “Climate change is seen in its effects, and we all have a moral responsibility in making decisions. I think it’s a very serious thing.”

In this case, Francis was referring to an article appearing in Nature magazine in June called “Three Years to Safeguard our Climate.” The essay was written by Christiana Figueres, vice-chair of the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, along with five other authors.

In their article, the authors cite an earlier report which asserted that if carbon dioxide emissions continue to rise beyond 2020, or even remain level, “the temperature goals set in Paris become almost unattainable” and the UN Sustainable Development Goals agreed upon in 2015 would also “be at grave risk.”

In his evaluation of climate change, Pope Francis said: “Each person has his own moral responsibility and the politicians have theirs. Let each one ask the scientists and then decide. History will judge their decisions.”

Pressed further by another journalist for his opinion on why governments are so slow to act on climate change, the Pope made reference to the Bible.

“A line from the Old Testament comes to my mind: man is stupid, a stubborn one who does not see. He is the only animal that falls into the same pit twice,” Francis said, although it was not immediately evident to what biblical passage he was referring.

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