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"A Letter To All People of Good Will on the Climate Crisis"

From St. Francis of Assisi's Laudate Deum, Oct 4th, 2023


Reflections by Ruth Marchetti, Oct 16th, 2023


For Catholics and many other Christians, St. Francis of Assisi is the beloved patron saint of the environment, so it’s very fitting that on October 4 of this year, the feast day of St. Francis, Pope Francis released Laudate Deum (Praise God), “a letter to all people of good will on the climate crisis”. This letter might be seen as a brief sequel to Laudate Si’, his encyclical on the environment, released just 8 years earlier. Pope Francis is clearly disappointed in the lack of progress we’ve made in those eight years, and increasingly concerned about where we’re heading. He doesn’t mince words about those who belittle, ignore or ridicule the reality of climate change.


You can find the entire letter here. Here are some excerpts.


“Eight years have passed since I published the Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ , when I wanted to share with all of you, my brothers and sisters of our suffering planet, my heartfelt concerns about the care of our common home. Yet, with the passage of time, I have realized that our responses have not been adequate, while the world in which we live is collapsing and may be nearing the breaking point. In addition to this possibility, it is indubitable that the impact of climate change will increasingly prejudice the lives and families of many persons. We will feel its effects in the areas of healthcare, sources of employment, access to resources, housing, forced migrations, etc.


3. This is a global social issue and one intimately related to the dignity of human life…. because “our care for one another and our care for the earth are intimately bound together. Climate change is one of the principal challenges facing society and the global community.”


After laying out recent disasters and real data about climate change, he says, “In recent years, some have chosen to deride these facts. They bring up allegedly solid scientific data, like the fact that the planet has always had, and will have, periods of cooling and warming. They forget to mention another relevant datum: that what we are presently experiencing is an unusual acceleration of warming, at such a speed that it will take only one generation – not centuries or millennia – in order to verify it. The rise in the sea level and the melting of glaciers can be easily perceived by an individual in his or her lifetime, and probably in a few years many populations will have to move their homes because of these facts.”


On the economics of energy transitions, “It is often heard also that efforts to mitigate climate change by reducing the use of fossil fuels and developing cleaner energy sources will lead to a reduction in the number of jobs. What is happening is that millions of people are losing their jobs due to different effects of climate change: rising sea levels, droughts and other phenomena affecting the planet have left many people adrift. Conversely, the transition to renewable forms of energy, properly managed, as well as efforts to adapt to the damage caused by climate change, are capable of generating countless jobs in different sectors. This demands that politicians and business leaders should even now be concerning themselves with it.”


I feel obliged to make these clarifications, which may appear obvious, because of certain dismissive and scarcely reasonable opinions that I encounter, even within the Catholic Church. Yet we can no longer doubt that the reason for the unusual rapidity of these dangerous changes is a fact that cannot be concealed: the enormous novelties that have to do with unchecked human intervention on nature in the past two centuries. Events of natural origin that usually cause

warming, such as volcanic eruptions and others, are insufficient to explain the proportion and speed of the changes of recent decades. [11] The change in average surface temperatures cannot be explained except as the result of the increase of greenhouse gases.


“Some effects of the climate crisis are already irreversible….”


“What is being asked of us is nothing other than a certain responsibility for the legacy we will leave behind, once we pass from this world.”


“ …human life is incomprehensible and unsustainable without other creatures. For “as part of the universe… all of us are linked by unseen bonds and together form a kind of universal family, a sublime communion which fills us with a sacred, affectionate and humble respect.”

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