In a lengthy and moving letter to Roman Catholic bishops leaked on Monday, Pope Francis unequivocally asserts that "human activity" is to blame for our planet's destruction, and the only solution is for humanity to change its "lifestyle" and "consumption."
The draft encyclical, published by Italian newspaper L'Espresso on Monday, three days before its intended release, is making waves among the international community as it boldly condemns both climate-deniers and carbon credit speculation, and upholds the growing climate movement and push to divest from fossil fuels.
"Humanity is called to take note of the need for changes in lifestyle and changes in methods of production and consumption to combat this warming, or at least the human causes that produce and accentuate it," he wrote in the draft. "Numerous scientific studies indicate that the greater part of the global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases … given off above all because of human activity."
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The letter was intended for release on Thursday, ahead of the pope's scheduled address to the United Nations in September and less than six months before the upcoming UN climate change summit in Paris. On Monday evening, the Vatican condemned the early release, and reportedly asked journalists not to publish details of the draft, saying it was not the final text.
The draft letter, addressed to bishops but intended as a wider statement on Catholic doctrine, takes aim at those who remain skeptical over the man-made causes of climate change, or those who believe that geo-engineering schemes and other technical advances will permit industrialized nations to continue business-as-usual.
"The attitudes that stand in the way of a solution, even among believers, range from negation of the problem, to indifference, to convenient resignation or blind faith in technical solutions," reads the text.
Translating the leaked encyclical, the Guardian reports:
At the start of the draft essay, the pope wrote, the Earth “is protesting for the wrong that we are doing to her, because of the irresponsible use and abuse of the goods that God has placed on her. We have grown up thinking that we were her owners and dominators, authorised to loot her. The violence that exists in the human heart, wounded by sin, is also manifest in the symptoms of illness that we see in the Earth, the water, the air and in living things.”
He immediately makes clear, moreover, that unlike previous encyclicals, this one is directed to everyone, regardless of religion. “Faced with the global deterioration of the environment, I want to address every person who inhabits this planet,” the pope wrote. “In this encyclical, I especially propose to enter into discussion with everyone regarding our common home.”
According to the leaked document, the pope will praise the global ecological movement, which has “already travelled a long, rich road and has given rise to numerous groups of ordinary people that have inspired reflection”.
In a surprisingly specific and unambiguous passage, the draft rejects outright “carbon credits” as a solution to the problem. It says they “could give rise to a new form of speculation and would not help to reduce the overall emission of polluting gases”. On the contrary, the pope wrote, it could help “support the super-consumption of certain countries and sectors”.
The encyclical is not Pope Francis's first foray into the climate debate. In a message sent to the UN Climate Convention in Peru last December, he stated that addressing climate change is a "grave ethical and moral responsibility" and warned that "the time to find global solutions is running out."
Though the climate community had expected a call to action from the pope, in addition to statement on the connection between global inequality and climate change, the draft text was seen as a very significant contribution to the climate debate.
Wow: the Pope comes out against carbon credits because they encourage speculation and over-consumption. hard core! http://t.co/YE46weCzfV— Naomi Klein (@NaomiAKlein) June 15, 2015
Even in various goofy translations, it's clear that the Pope's letter will be deep and powerful. Can't wait to read the actual thing— Bill McKibben (@billmckibben) June 16, 2015
No one - religious or atheist - should be in any doubt that the Pope's encyclical on defending the natural world is a big deal.— GeorgeMonbiot (@GeorgeMonbiot) June 16, 2015