Pope Francis And Other Christian Leaders Are Calling For Bold Climate Action

Pope Francis and other Christian leaders call for bold climate action
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Leaders of three major Christian denominations issued a rare joint statement urging people of all faiths and beliefs to act to stop the disastrous effects of climate change.

As the world's political leaders prepare for COP26 (a major United Nations conference on global climate change), the statement by Pope Francis, Archbishop Justin Welby, and Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who together minister to over a billion-and a half Christians, comes at a time when more than a quarter of a billion Christian faithful.

The letter stated that September is celebrated by many Christians in the Season of Creation. It offers an opportunity to pray for and care for God’s creation. "As world leaders gather in Glasgow in November to discuss the future of the planet, we pray for them. We also consider what choices they must make."

This statement from the clerics comes on the heels a major UN climate science report that warned that climate change is increasing and almost entirely caused by human activity. This statement also joins a growing chorus of voices calling for bolder climate action at a time in which research has shown that fossil fuel use must be reduced to prevent the worst effects of climate changes.

More than 200 leading journals in medicine and health around the globe issued a rare joint statement on Monday calling climate change the greatest threat to public health.

In their last week's statement, the clergy stated that widespread floods, fires, and droughts could threaten entire continents. "Sea level rises, forcing entire communities to relocate; cyclones destroy entire regions, destroying lives and livelihoods. Millions of people have been forced to flee because water is scarce and food supplies are insecure.

In the statement, the religious leaders pay special attention to the poor because they have contributed the least to climate change and are still suffering the most devastating consequences.

The message stated that everyone was invited to listen to the cry for help from the earth, regardless of their worldview or belief, and to examine their behavior and make meaningful sacrifices to save the earth God has given them.

Climate action is uncertain, despite the pleas of religious leaders

The United States is the largest historical emitter of carbon dioxide and Congress is currently considering its most ambitious climate proposal: a $3.5 trillion plan by Senator Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). This plan, which Chuck Schumer, D.N.Y., claims would bring the U.S. close to meeting its goal of reducing emissions by 50% by 2030, puts the country on track.

The compromise reached by two prominent Catholic politicians could determine whether the legislation passes. It was reached between President Biden, who sees the plan as a centerpiece in his political legacy, along with Sen. Joe Manchin (a conservative Democrat from West Virginia, who called last week for a "strategic pause” on the legislation in an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal.

Manchin opposes eliminating fossil fuels

Manchin said he was concerned by the recent government spending and told CNN this summer that the climate measures in the bill, which he fears will eliminate fossil fuels, have "very, very disturbed".

He said that if they were eliminating fossils and I'm discovering there's a lot language in places where they're eliminating them, which is very, very troubling."

Manchin stated, "If anything it would be worse."

Climate change science is contradictory. Researchers warn that fossil fuel producers must avoid extracting more than 90% of coal and 60% of oil and natural gas reserves by 2050 to reduce global temperature rise to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, according to a Nature study.

The planet still has a 50% chance to exceed that level of temperature. Since the mid-1800s when industrialization and the use fossil fuels boomed, the Earth has warmed by about 2 degrees Fahrenheit.

West Virginia is America's second largest coal producer. It rely on coal for 91% its energy needs. The state's energy sector employs 6%, while the national average is about 2%.

toggle caption Demetrius Freiman/The Washington Post via Getty Images

NPR previously reported that the best way to reduce U.S. carbon emissions is to change the way the country generates power. This involves moving away from fossil fuels like coal, natural gas, and other petroleum products, and towards renewable, zero-emissions sources.

The blueprint was released Wednesday by the Biden administration to generate 40% of the nation's electricity through solar energy by 2040. This is an increase from the current 3%. This dramatic change would require government action, such as the $3.5 trillion proposal by President Obama.

Biden looks for allies in climate change among faith leaders

The joint letter concludes with religious leaders repeating their appeal to government and business leaders. They quote scripture: "To whom much has been given, much will be required."

Biden, who has been a practicing Catholic for his entire life, readily acknowledges the role of religious leaders in promoting climate action.

John Kerry, the administration’s climate envoy, visited the Vatican in May to meet Pope Francis. He called Pope Francis a "compelling spiritual authority" on the topic of the climate crisis.

Kerry, who is Catholic, expressed hope that the pontiff's advocacy would "push people towards greater ambition to get it done."

To get Biden's climate plan approved, however, all 50 Democratic senators must support it, including fellow Catholic Manchin.

Multiple inquiries from NPR regarding Manchin's response to Pope Francis' call for climate action were not answered by his office.

Kyrsten Sinema, another Democratic senator from Arizona, has indicated that she will not be supporting the package. Sinema is the only member in Congress who has declared herself "religiously nonaffiliated."