Pope’s visit to stormy Philippines highlights moral imperative for climate action

Intro

With his Encyclical letter on climate change expected in June, Pope Francis visited the Philippines over the weekend to kick-start what is expected to be a key year in cementing the moral case for climate action. On Saturday he visited Tacloban, where typhoon Haiyan – the strongest storm ever recorded on land – killed more than 7,350 in November, 2013, right before the UN climate conference in Warsaw. The situation was almost mirrored last year, when typhoon Hagupit again demonstrated the growing impact of climate change on the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, right as the Lima UN climate talks got underway. Ironically, Pope Francis’ visit to Tacloban was cut short by a looming tropical storm, but a record six million people still braved wet weather in Manila to see him on Sunday. On Friday the Pontiff warned that man has “gone too far” and has “slapped nature in the face”, statements simultaneously echoed by scientists who have found human activity has pushed Earth beyond four of nine ‘planetary boundaries’, compromising the ability of the planet to sustain human life as we know it. Pope Francis is increasingly speaking out on the impacts of climate change in order to mobilise not just Christians, but people of faith everywhere ahead of the 2015 UN climate conference in Paris, and given his strong words on climate action, some are asking whether it is time for the Vatican to also put its money where its mouth is and divest itself of fossil fuel assets. Catholic Bishops have urged the Pope to support divestment, and assuming he gets his Prefect in charge of the Secretariat for Economy, former Archbishop of Australia and climate change denier Cardinal George Pell, to continue shaking up Vatican finances, there is hope the he will lead the moral case for climate action.

 

Tweet

  • RT @MotherJones: Pope Francis: Climate change is real and humans are causing it http://t.co/N8xpyBJnNU http://t.co/38ethzklzG

Key Points

  • Pope Francis has kicked off a new push for moral leadership on climate action, with a record-breaking mass in the storm-ravaged Philippines, and a groundbreaking Encyclical letter on climate change expected in June. Encyclicals are essentially a papal “state of the nation” address, and the most authoritative form of teaching for Catholics. Pope Francis’ strong comments on climate change are aimed at galvanising and mobilising Catholics and people of all faiths behind the moral imperative for climate action.

Background

The moral imperative for climate action was a major theme coming out of Pope Francis’ visit to the Philippines over the weekend, when he used his trip to highlight the increasingly dire influence man is having on the global climate, and the heavy toll this is taking on the vulnerable.

The Pope is expected to release an Encyclical letter – a papal “state of the nation” address, and the most authoritative form of teaching for Catholics – on climate change in June, and has used this trip to kick start his message to people of faith worldwide.

On Saturday Pope Francis visited Tacloban, where in 2013 typhoon Haiyan – the strongest storm ever recorded on land – killed more than 7,350. The terrible storm highlighted growing weather extremes and the impact on the world’s most vulnerable just as world leaders sat down at the UN climate conference in Warsaw, and the situation was almost mirrored last year, when typhoon Hagupit underscored the changing climate’s impact on the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events.

Ironically, Pope Francis’ visit over the weekend was also cut short by a looming tropical storm, a day after he warned that man has “gone too far” and has “slapped nature in the face” by putting money ahead of planetary stewardship.

His statements were simultaneously echoed by scientists who have found human activity has pushed Earth beyond four of nine ‘planetary boundaries’, compromising the ability of the planet to sustain human life as we know it.

Given the Pope’s strong words on climate action, some are asking whether it is time for the Vatican to also put its money where its mouth is and divest itself of fossil fuel assets.

Catholic Bishops have urged the Pope to support divestment, and many groups including universities, super funds, philanthropic organisations, religious groups such as the Quakers, and even oil barons the Rockefellers have taken the lead to clean up their investment portfolios.

The Vatican divesting its US$8 billion investment portfolio from fossil fuels would be a rebuke for the Pope’s Prefect in charge of the Secretariat for Economy, former Archbishop of Australia Cardinal George Pell, who is a climate change denier.  Pell would be forced to go against his own statements that global warming had stopped, and that it was “good for plants” and would have to implement the move.

More importantly, however, a divestment decision from the Vatican would serve as a momentous moment of global leadership, as it would mean the unknowably vast fortune of the Catholic church globally would then be under strong pressure to follow its lead.

Resources

Coverage

Tools and resources

Images and video

Key quotes

  • “[I]t is man who continuously slaps down nature. We have in a sense taken over nature. I think we have exploited nature too much. I think man has gone too far.” Pope Francis.
  • “The meetings in Peru were nothing much, I was disappointed. There was a lack of courage. We hope that in Paris the representatives have more courage to go forward.” Pope Francis.
  • “An economic system centered on the god of money needs to plunder nature to sustain the frenetic rhythm of consumption that is inherent to it. The system continues unchanged, since what dominates are the dynamics of an economy and a finance that are lacking in ethics. It is no longer man who commands, but money. Cash commands. The monopolizing of lands, deforestation, the appropriation of water, inadequate agro-toxics are some of the evils that tear man from the land of his birth. Climate change, the loss of biodiversity and deforestation are already showing their devastating effects in the great cataclysms we witness.” Pope Francis in October, 2014.
  • “Drawing attention to the impact a changing climate is having on poor communities in the Philippines couldn’t be better timed, given the crucial decisions world leaders must take this year to tackle the issue. Vulnerable communities like those in the Philippines — and indeed all of us — need political leaders to rise to that challenge and go further than they did in Lima.” Director of advocacy at CAFOD, Neil Thorns.
  • “The global call  for moving investments out of fossil fuels will get an extraordinary boost if Francis includes this in his coming encyclical on the environment. Francis is making it clear he wants the encyclical to influence the international community to agree on a strong climate treaty in Paris later in 2015.” President of the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change, Thea Ormerod.
  • “We accept the findings of scientific leaders, such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), that humanity’s greenhouse gas emissions are contributing to widespread and mostly harmful changes to planetary systems. We are certain that anthropogenic [human-made] climate change endangers God’s creation and us all, particularly the poor, whose voices have already spoken of the impacts of an altered climate.” Statement from The Global Catholic Climate Change Movement.

Related Tree Alerts

More tweets

  • The @CathClimateMvmt launched today, work with the #ClimateMovement and mobilize Catholics for #ClimateJustice: www.CatholicClimateMovement.global
  • The @CathClimateMvmt was launched ahead of Pope Francis’ trip to the Philippines, to mobilize Catholics for climate: www.CatholicClimateMovement.global
  • Check the beautiful statement of the @CathClimateMvmt, inviting Catholics to step up to #ClimateChange: www.CatholicClimateMovement.global/our-statement/
  • RT @unfoundation: We are the last generation that can take steps to avoid worst impacts of climate change #action2015 http://t.co/8FgsAtKeIv
  • RT @Sustainabhub: Catholics in Australia join global movement to curb climate change http://t.co/EmjCeTSVNd via @smh #climate