Sunday, 21 June 2015

Pope Francis calls for action on climate change

Last week, in the first papal document, or encyclical, dedicated to the environment, Pope Francis demanded swift action to halt impending environmental ruin, and urged world leaders to hear 'the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor' and halt the 'unprecedented destruction of ecosystems'.

said the time had come for parts of the world to accept decreased growth. He advocated a change of lifestyle in rich countries steeped in a 'throwaway' consumer culture and an end to an 'obstructionist attitudes' that put profit before the common good.

He took on big business, appearing to back 'what consumer movements accomplish by boycotting certain products' in order to force companies to respect the environment.

Noting also the 'remarkable' weakness of political responses to climate change, Pope Francis accused sceptics of cynically ignoring or manipulating the scientific evidence:

There are too many special interests, and economic interests easily end up trumping the common good and manipulating information so that their own plans will not be affected.
We know how unsustainable is the behaviour of those who constantly consume and destroy, while others are not yet able to live in a way worthy of their human dignity.
On the subject of fossil fuels, he wrote:
There is an urgent need to develop policies so that, in the next few years, the emission of carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gases can be drastically reduced – for example, substituting for fossil fuels and developing sources of renewable energy. Worldwide there is minimal access to clean and renewable energy. There is still a need to develop adequate storage technologies.
We know that technology based on the use of highly-polluting fossil fuels – especially coal, but also oil and, to a lesser degree, gas – needs to be progressively replaced without delay. Until greater progress is made in developing widely accessible sources of renewable energy, it is legitimate to choose the lesser of two evils or to find short-term solutions. But the international community has still not reached adequate agreements about the responsibility for paying the costs of this energy transition.
On the subject of water, he wrote:
Underground water sources in many places are threatened by the pollution produced in certain mining, farming and industrial activities, especially in countries lacking adequate regulation or controls...
Even as the quality of available water is constantly diminishing, in some places there is a growing tendency, despite its scarcity, to privatize this resource, turning it into a commodity subject to the laws of the market. Yet access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights.

Greater scarcity of water will lead to an increase in the cost of food and the various products which depend on its use. Some studies warn that an acute water shortage may occur within a few decades unless urgent action is taken. The environmental repercussions could affect billions of people; it is also conceivable that the control of water by large multinational businesses may become a major source of conflict in this century.