Climate emergency

What is the climate emergency?

Human beings burn fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, and gas, for a variety of reasons. These fossil fuels produce heat-trapping greenhouse gases, including CO2, which warm our planet.
Scientists say that the burning of fossil fuels is the primary factor behind the climate emergency we’re experiencing.

The Earth is hotter

Global land-ocean temperature index, produced by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in the U.S.

Further evidence: “Nineteen of the warmest years have occurred since 2000, with the exception of 1998. The year 2020 tied with 2016 for the warmest year on record since record-keeping began in 1880.”

Do scientists agree?

Yes. There is overwhelming scientific consensus that human beings are causing the climate emergency. 

About 97 percent of climate scientists agree on the science of the climate emergency. From the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the U.S.:

“Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities. In addition, most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position.”

WATCH: 97% of Climate Scientists Really Do Agree

So what? What’s the big deal about a warmer planet because of the climate emergency?

A warmer planet makes the following more likely: glaciers melting, rising sea levels, stronger hurricanes, longer and more intense droughts, ocean warming and acidification, biodiversity loss, habitat loss, and more extreme weather patterns, such as heat waves and/or heavy rainfall.

Watch: Climate Change: It Changes Everything

We’re already seeing such effects all over the world, and the longer we wait to address the climate crisis, the worse it will get. This is a climate emergency!

Why are Catholics called to act against the climate emergency?

In Laudato Si’, Pope Francis makes clear over and over again that we are experiencing a climate emergency and that we must act.

Watch: Pope Francis leads Laudato Si’ Week

“We need only take a frank look at the facts to see that our common home is falling into serious disrepair” (LS 61).

“Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain” (LS 161).

Pope Francis points out that the climate emergency is a moral issue and that the least among these will be affected the most, despite having little to do with the greenhouse gas emissions causing the emergency.

“Both everyday experience and scientific research show that the gravest effects of all attacks on the environment are suffered by the poorest. For example, the depletion of fishing reserves especially hurts small fishing communities without the means to replace those resources; water pollution particularly affects the poor who cannot buy bottled water; and rises in the sea level mainly affect impoverished coastal populations who have nowhere else to go. The impact of present imbalances is also seen in the premature death of many of the poor, in conflicts sparked by the shortage of resources, and in any number of other problems which are insufficiently represented on global agendas” (LS 48).

His Holiness invites us to “hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor” (LS 49). And despite the “doomsday” scenario playing out, he invites us to “sing as we go. May our struggles and our concern for this planet never take away the joy of our hope” (LS 244).

“We know that things can change” (LS 13).