Climate change

Published on December 18th, 2014 | by Robyn Purchia

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Catholic Bishops Call for an End to Fossil Fuel Era

December 18th, 2014 by  
 

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Originally posted on EdenKeeper

Last week, Catholic bishops from around the world added their voice to other faith groups urging climate action and issued a call to the negotiators at the United Nations climate talks in Lima. Their call: protect the poor by putting an end to the fossil fuel era. According to the BBC News, the bishops’ statement is the first time that senior church figures from every continent have issued such a call.

“We recognize that much good has happened on Earth through the rightful and responsibile intelligence, technology and industry of humankind under God’s loving care,” wrote the bishops. “And yet in recent decades many grave adversities such as climate change, with its devastating impact on Nature itself, on food security, health and migration, led to a great number of suffering people worldwide.”

The fault, they say, lies with our global economic system — a human creation. Our economy’s focus on profit and the primacy of the market fails to put human beings and the common good at the center of the world’s concerns. When faced with a moral and ethical dilemma, like climate change, it becomes even more evident that we must all recognize the “systemic failures of this order and the need for a new financial and economic order.”

The bishops didn’t just ask UN negotiators to adopt a global agreement in Paris in 2015, they challenged world leaders to really do something for the planet by keeping the global temperature increase below 1.5 degrees Celsius relative to pre-industrial levels. This is a considerably more ambitious goal than the 2 degrees Celsius ceiling that most agree is the threshold beyond which climate change becomes truly dangerous. But the stricter standard is necessary to “protect frontline communities suffering from the impacts of climate change, such as those in the Pacific Islands and in the coastal regions.”

To create a new economic order and meet global temperature increase goals, the bishops call for “an end to the fossil fuel era, phasing out fossil fuel emissions and phasing in 100% renewables with sustainable energy access for all.” Yes, the bishops are calling for a war on coal.

While phase out of fossil fuel emissions may seem like a tall order, the goal of reducing carbon emissions to zero is already making the rounds in Lima, with dozens of governments voicing their support according to the Associate Press. Religious groups have also made the push towards carbon neutrality. And divesting from fossil fuels, a means of shifting the financial and economic order, is becoming an increasingly popular move among faith organizations, seminariesschools, and big investors.

With 1.2 billion people worldwide calling themselves Catholic, the bishops’ statement has the potential to further influence public debate, if not actual action, on the issue.

It would be nice to see the Catholic church walking the walk though too. Despite letters and petitions to Pope Francis to divest, the Catholic church still has yet to make a formal announcement regarding its investment in fossil fuel companies. If the bishops are serious about changing the financial order and protecting the poor, leading by example is always a great first step.

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Image: Doug88888 / Flickr





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About the Author

I'm an organic-eating, energy-saving naturalist who composts and tree hugs in her spare time. I have a background in environmental law, lobbying, field work, and most recently writing. Be inspired to connect your spirit to environmentalism on my site Eden Keeper. You can also find me on Twitter, Facebook, and .



  • AaronD12

    If we can get the Pope to use a LEAF as a daily driver, many more people — especially Catholics — will follow his lead.

  • UncleB

    Science and technology advances, hidden and revealed, American and Asian, hove moved mankind into a new reality. The transistor was the “spark” for a remarkable electronics supported age. An electricity storage system, or many variations of them are about to make fossil fuels less required for life’s comforts, and more a convenient fast solution. We see now Germany taking the lead in renewables and winning this race as the U.S. reaches deep to keep up. China’s mad thirst for all forms of energy is relentless and very diverse, while the few Oil interests battle against Science and progress to maintain market share on a diminishing resource.

  • It is the height of error to state that the market economy “fails to put human beings and the common good at the center of the world’s concerns.” The market economy with reasonabe regulation by the state, produces wealth unknown to the poor and hungary in former centuries and provides wealth to families.
    The systemic failures of economies over the past 100 years have been socialistic and planned economies that fail to provide for the poor. This discussion must move beyond the rhetorical of providing a “new financial and economic order” which almost always means more government–which is not for the common good. When it comes to faith and morals, the bishops must teach correctly; but when it comes to economics, their prudent judgment is sadly and deeply mistaken.

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