In October 2023 a new letter was added to the discussion around what we should be doing to protect the environment. The author had spoken on the topic before so in many ways it wasn’t a surprise. Still, the text is very useful and has potential to reach people who don’t always pay attention to the issue. So what is the story of the Pope and the Climate Crisis?
Laudate Deum And Laudate Si
The Laudate Deum is about the climate crisis. The letter covers a lot of key environmental issues and is clearly communicated and is entitled, literally, “Praise God”. (The Pope helpfully tells us what the term means in the text as, for some reason, my Latin studies forty years ago aren’t fresh in my mind and I don’t use them in everyday life). This is not his first comment on the topic. The Laudate Si (Praise Be) covered similar ground in 2015. Obviously, a refresher was needed.
Francis took his papal name from St. Francis of Assisi. St. Francis comes across as arguably the most approachable of the saints. This saint was known for his care for animals and the poor. This focus fits well with the topic of Laudate Deum. This letter covers how we need to care better for the environment. Not least because the less fortunate are most likely to be harmed by climate change.
A History Of International Environmental Agreements
He outlines what has happened in respect of international agreements. The Pope provides a useful summary of actions taken and agreements made. He talks of progress and failures which seems like a reasonable summary. There have been achievements. Sadly, there has also been a fair amount of lack of activity and delay.
Yet, the necessary transition towards clean energy sources such as wind and solar energy, and the abandonment of fossil fuels, is not progressing at the necessary speed.Pope Francis, 2023, section 55
The Pope And The Climate Crisis
The Pope is very clear on what he says, and he uses proper citations — which is a definitely plus when trying to communicate credibly (and appeal to academics). He tells us that humanity is causing the problem and:
We will feel its effects in the areas of healthcare, sources of employment, access to resources, housing, forced migrations, etc.Pope Francis, 2023, section 2
He does finish by discussing spiritual motivations which didn’t really do that much for me. Still, I guess people expect that sort of thing when you are Pope.
I appreciated some of the nuanced thinking on show. In this area, we need to adopt more probabilistic thinking. A freak weather event cannot, by itself, show the impact of climate change, any more than a cold day can tell us that the planet isn’t warming. Instead, it is better to think in terms of there being more likely to be freak weather events with climate change. No single event can be definitive proof but when you see more common occurrences, freak events seem to be becoming more probable, then it is safe to conclude that it is time to address the problem.
Admittedly, not every concrete catastrophe ought to be attributed to global climate change. Nonetheless, it is verifiable that specific climate changes provoked by humanity are notably heightening the probability of extreme phenomena that are increasingly frequent and intense. For this reason, we know that every time the global temperature increases by 0.5° C, the intensity and frequency of great rains and floods increase in some areas and severe droughts in others, extreme heat waves in some places and heavy snowfall in others.Pope Francis, 2023, section 5
Whether you are religious or not (and I’m not) there is much to learn from the Pope on the topic of climate change.
For more on sustainability see here
Read: Pope Francis (2023) Apostolic Exhortation Laudate Deum Of The Holy Father Francis To All People Of Good Will On The Climate Crisis October 4th