Pope advocates for environmental reform

by Anant Naik

Pope Francis argued in his encyclical a few weeks ago, “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.” 
Pope Francis’ encyclical, a letter to Roman Catholic Christians, emphasizes the importance of protecting our environment. The response to this document has been mixed, as are most responses to the climate change debate; however, the pope’s affirmation of scientific beliefs has some significant implications. 
First, it empowers the liberal ideology some members of the Roman Catholic Church possess. Over the past several years, the pope has taken some increasingly liberal stances on things like gay rights. By confirming the international consensus of most scientists regarding climate change, he’s legitimized utilizing a scientific platform for making moral decisions. 
Second, the pope has shifted the focus of climate change from a politically charged debate to the tangible and significant harms it causes in the world. The scientific discussion aside, Pope Francis brought forth arguments about how climate change is most affecting the world’s poor. Food waste, the lack of access to clean water and garbage in our oceans are just some of the social issues that the pope touched on. 
“Both everyday experience and scientific research,” he argued, “show that the gravest effects of all attacks on the environment are suffered by the poorest.”
Most importantly, I think his declaration demonstrates unity between scientific consensus and Catholic teachings. We may not agree completely on who is to blame for a warming planet, but we can agree that helping to prevent further damage is in all of our best interests. This message is a positive step, whether it comes from prominent scientists or the pope.