Pope Francis has made his strongest statement yet on the accelerating climate crisis, pinning blame on big industries and world leaders as well as “irresponsible” Western lifestyles, in a blistering statement on Wednesday.
“Our responses have not been adequate, while the world in which we live is collapsing and may be nearing the breaking point,” the pontiff wrote in a 7,000 word encyclical called Laudate Deum (“Praise God”).
“Some effects of the climate crisis are already irreversible, at least for several hundred years, such as the increase in the global temperature of the oceans, their acidification and the decrease of oxygen,” he wrote.
The pope leveled heavy criticism at climate change deniers and delayers.
“Despite all attempts to deny, conceal, gloss over or relativize the issue, the signs of climate change are here and increasingly evident. No one can ignore the fact that in recent years we have witnessed extreme weather phenomena, frequent periods of unusual heat, drought and other cries of protest,” he wrote.
Climate change will likely only get worse and ignoring it will heighten “the probability of extreme phenomena that are increasingly frequent and intense,” he wrote.
The pope paid particular attention to the disproportionate responsibility of rich countries for climate change.
“If we consider that emissions per individual in the United States are about two times greater than those of individuals living in China, and about seven times greater than the average of the poorest countries, we can state that a broad change in the irresponsible lifestyle connected with the Western model would have a significant long-term impact,” he wrote.
He also leveled blame at leaders and businesses which he said prioritize short-term profits and gains over climate action. “Regrettably, the climate crisis is not exactly a matter that interests the great economic powers, whose concern is with the greatest profit possible at minimal cost and in the shortest amount of time.”
He even directed criticism at his own church, referring to “certain dismissive and scarcely reasonable opinions that I encounter, even within the Catholic Church.”
The pope’s statement is a follow-up to his 2015 encyclical letter Laudato Si (“Praised Be To You”), which was the first ever ponitifcal writing completely dedicated to ecological issues, which have been a cornerstone of his papacy.
It comes ahead of the UN COP28 climate conference, which starts at the end of November in Dubai, where countries will undergo “global stocktake” to assess how quickly they are progressing towards climate goals.