People, Environment

Pope to Publish 1st Encyclical on Climate Change

Pope to Publish 1st Encyclical on Climate ChangePope to Publish 1st Encyclical on Climate Change

In anticipation of the upcoming UN summit on climate change this year, Pope Francis will release an encyclical on Thursday urging people to act.

The document, called “Laudato Si (Be Praised), On the Care of Our Common Home,” will paint climate change as a moral, rather than a political, issue, focusing on how poor communities are affected, Reuters reports. Those familiar with the encyclical have said it will censure the “throwaway” lifestyles of wealthy nations.

This will be the first papal encyclical to focus exclusively on protecting the environment. Some have criticized the pope for getting involved in climate change discussions; US Republican 2016 presidential candidate Rick Santorum recently advised him to “leave science to the scientists.” But examining the moral side of a political or scientific issue, others argue, is part of the papal territory.

“It is within the pope’s competence and authority to call attention to our moral responsibilities and duties in the face of the best scientific theory out there,” John Cavadini, University of Notre Dame professor of theology and director of the Institute for Church Life said, “especially when the consequences of not doing so are serious.”

Researchers have extensively studied the impact of climate change on the poor. Results have generally shown that global warming does not affect everyone equally; its impacts are likely to be felt more acutely by the developing than by the developed, a 2012 World Bank report found.

Poor communities’ vulnerabilities to climate change, the study suggested, stem from several disadvantages, including geographic location and inadequate infrastructure.

“No nation will be immune to the impacts of climate change,” the report said. “However, the distribution of impacts is likely to be inherently unequal and tilted against many of the world’s poorest regions, which have the least economic, institutional, scientific, and technical capacity to cope and adapt.”

  Ruffling Feathers on the Right

But not everyone in the Catholic Church is looking forward to the document. Some conservative commentators have accused the pope of jumping on the “bandwagon” of the global environmental movement, or of straying from his area of expertise, Deutsche Welle reported.

The document will be released in various languages, and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon along with climate change campaigners around the world have already welcomed it as an important signal ahead of UN climate talks in Paris later this year.

When the pope’s encyclical is released Thursday, a private debriefing will be held between the Vatican and ambassadors from 170 countries. Pope Francis announced in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, though, that the message is “addressed to everyone” and that he hopes to inspire people to take “greater responsibility for the common home that God has entrusted to us.”