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The Pope Leads 1.4 billion Catholics: But Do They Care About Climate Change?
It has been said that good work is worth doing, whether the outcome is promised or not.
If there's one person in the Catholic Church who ought to have the ability to influence climate action on a global scale, it's the pope. And yet as Laudate Deum, his most recent exhortation on climate, demonstrates, even Pope Francis seems frustrated by how little has changed despite his best efforts.
The pontiff didn't shy away from calling out those he sees as responsible, and after outlining the science proving that climate change is human-caused, he made clear that developing nations contribute little to the problem but bear the brunt of its impacts. He rejected the idea that technology alone will avert disaster and lamented the failure of repeated meetings of the Conference of the Parties to hasten the abandonment of fossil fuels. In drawing from scientific studies, governmental reports, and the works of authors like feminist tech scholar Donna J. Haraway, Francis showed a firm grasp of both the science and politics of climate change while conveying the moral and spiritual implications of the crisis, with the goal of urging "all people of good will" to act.
"Our responses have not been adequate while the world in which we live is collapsing and may be nearing the breaking point," the Holy Father wrote in the document released October 4.
As the leader of a hierarchical institution with 1.36 billion adherents worldwide, the pope has authority over more people than all but two heads of state. From the first day of his papacy in 2013, Francis made clear that he would leverage his position for the sake of the planet. He took the name of the patron saint of ecology, and in 2015 released a landmark encyclical — the highest form of papal teaching on Catholic doctrine — on the environment, Laudato Si', which some environmentalists have heralded as the most important climate document of the decade.
It's not hard to see why. For all of Francis' focus on the crisis — and the response from Catholics in much of the Global South — emissions have continued to rise.
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