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Climate as a Common Good

By Karen Bowley, Wodonga Albury Towards Climate Health (WATCH) and Wooragee Landcare

While the Catholic Church has been in the news recently for all the wrong reasons, the Pope has outlined a clear understanding of climate change in his Encyclical Letter “Laudato si” written in May 2015.

In part of that letter the Pope quite rightly stated that “The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all. At the global level, it is a complex system linked to many of the essential conditions for human life”. The Pope also agreed that there was “a very solid scientific consensus (that) indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system”.

Because of the effects of this warming such as rises in the sea level and an increase in extreme weather events the Pope has come to the realisation that “Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it”.  While the Pope does admit that there are other factors involved in this warming such as volcanic activity, he has respect for the scientific studies that indicate that “most global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxides and others) released mainly as a result of human activity”.   Most people, including the Pope, but excluding many Australian politicians, have come to the realisation that “the problem is aggravated by a model of development based on the intensive use of fossil fuels and … an increase in changed uses of the soil, principally deforestation for agricultural purposes”.

The Pope states that: “If present trends continue, this century may well witness extraordinary climate change and an unprecedented destruction of ecosystems, with serious consequences for all of us. A rise in the sea level, for example, can create extremely serious situations, if we consider that a quarter of the world’s population lives on the coast or nearby, and that the majority of our megacities are situated in coastal areas”.

In his Encyclical the Pope also deals with the issues of loss of biodiversity and the issue of water.  These are all important issues that should concern us all as they will have an effect on the future quality of our life on this planet.  Let’s hope all Catholics, who comprise about 50% of Christians worldwide, are listening to their pontiff on this vital issue.