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Vatican Climate Warning: "Humans Must Act Decisively Now to Avert a Coming Crisis"

There have been plenty of warnings from religious groups about climate change, but maybe none as dire and direct as these from Vatican.

Catholics, you better start taking climate change seriously. There have been plenty of warnings and pleas from religious and faith-based groups about climate change, but maybe none as dire and direct as these from Vatican.


Last Friday, the Pontifical Academy of Science, the Vatican's science panel, released a report call "Fate of Mountain Glaciers in the Anthropocene" (PDF), in which they call for urgent global action on climate change, saying that "humans must act decisively now to avert a coming crisis."

As its title would indicate, the actual report is specifically about the high-elevation glaciers, which are melting because of man-made global warming. Glaciers aren't just tourist attractions—they provide drinking water to billions.

It's particularly interesting that the group opted to use the term "Anthropocene," which they explain like this:

The climatic and ecological impacts of this human interference with the Earth System are expected to last for many millennia, warranting a new name,
The Anthropocene, for the new “man-made” geologic epoch we are living in.

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While geologists and others in the climate sciences have been using the term more frequently of late, it's powerful that a religious organization is recognizing that humans have so changed God's creation. Some kind of dominion we're keeping.

But besides the physical sciences in the report, the authors—a group of premier climatologists assembled by the Vatican—worked with the church to create a set of recommendations, and this strongly-worded declaration:

We call on all people and nations to recognise the serious and potentially irreversible impacts of global warming caused by the anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants, and by changes in forests, wetlands, grasslands, and other land uses. We appeal to all nations to develop and implement, without delay, effective and fair policies to reduce the causes and impacts of climate change on communities and ecosystems, including mountain glaciers and their watersheds, aware that we all live in the same home. By acting now, in the spirit of common but differentiated responsibility, we accept our duty to one another and to the stewardship of a planet blessed with the gift of life.

We are committed to ensuring that all inhabitants of this planet receive their daily bread, fresh air to breathe and clean water to drink as we are aware that, if we want justice and peace, we must protect the habitat that sustains us. The believers among us ask God to grant us this wish.

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The report makes three general recommendations: That we reduce worldwide carbon dioxide emissions without delay, reduce the concentrations of warming air pollutants (dark soot, methane, lower atmosphere ozone, and hydrofluorocarbons) by as much as 50 percent, and prepare to adapt to the climatic changes that society will be unable to mitigate.

The authors note that "The cost of the three recommended measures pales in comparison to the price the world will pay if we fail to act now." Amen to that.

Photo by DAVID ILIFF on Wikimedia Commons