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Pope Francis: ‘Developing countries … continue to fuel the development of richer countries at the cost of their own present and future.’ (Photo: NurPhoto/Rex Shutterstock)

Pope Francis Highlights the Moral Imperative of Climate Action

Bob Perciasepe

Pope Francis brings a clear and powerful moral voice to a climate change debate too often clouded by competing ideologies. He reminds us of our responsibilities to the planet and to one another, and makes plain the stakes and the urgency of stronger action.

Pope Francis’ encyclical, a top-level teaching document to more than 1 billion Roman Catholics worldwide, builds on a foundation of accepted science that tells us the Earth is warming and that human activity is the primary cause.

But he is speaking to all of us, not only the Catholic faithful, about our core values – especially our duty to care for the Earth and all those who live on it.

Scientists, environmentalists, politicians, business executives, and military leaders have all raised concerns for years about the real risks of climate change.


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But few individuals are as influential as the pope. By calling on people to act on their conscience, Pope Francis provides a powerful counterpoint to what has become a largely ideologically driven debate, especially here in the United States.

The pope’s timing is not happenstance. With nations gathering in Paris later this year to build a new global climate agreement, this is a crucial time to advance a strong case for climate action that transcends politics.

Drawing on deep moral traditions, the encyclical casts humans not as lords of the planet, but as its trustees, responsible for keeping “our common home” in good condition for future generations.

The pope also emphasizes our moral duty to care for the sick, weak and poor. Many of the nations most at risk from climate impacts are also among the world’s poorest. Small-island and low-lying nations are losing ground to rising seas, and poor African countries face greater risk of drought, disease and famine. Even within affluent countries, climate change disproportionately harms the poor, who lack access to air conditioning, medical care, or the resources to cope with more frequent flooding or drought.

Individuals, businesses and governments must all play a role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and building resilience to climate impacts. In our view, carbon pricing is a proven tool, one of the most efficient ways we know to reduce emissions and advance low-carbon alternatives. More than 1,000 businesses, 73 countries and 22 states, provinces and cities voiced their support for carbon pricing at last fall’s United Nations Climate Summit in New York.

The pope makes an impassioned case for urgent climate action based on both fact and moral imperative. Lending his voice at a critical moment, Pope Francis makes plain the stakes and the urgency. Hopefully his voice helps stir our conscience and strengthen common ground for climate action.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

Bob Perciasepe

Bob Perciasepe is president of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.



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