ROME—Two weeks away from the one-year anniversary of the signing of the Paris agreement to combat climate change, Pope Francis has denounced what he calls the “distraction” of politicians in implementing this and similar covenants.
As result of the so-called “COP21” agreement in December last year, most of the world’s nations agreed to curb global warming by cutting back on carbon emissions and other measures. Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Si’ was considered by many observers as the tipping point to move the scale in favor of the Paris deal.
The reason nations are “distracted” from implementing the agreements, the pope said Monday, was essentially the pursuit of profit, as well as war.
“The subjection of politics to a technology and an economy which seek profit above all else, is shown by the ‘distraction’ or delay in implementing global agreements on the environment, and the continued wars of domination camouflaged by righteous claims,” Francis told the members of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Science (PAS), who are currently meeting in Rome for their plenary session.
These wars, he added, inflict ever greater harm on the environment and the moral and cultural richness of peoples.
The academy holds a membership roster of the most respected names in 20th century science, such as late Ernst Rutherford, known as the father of nuclear physics and cosmologist Stephen Hawking, who has listed St. Pope John Paul II as one of the people who fueled his interest in the origin and fate of the universe.
The current president is Nobel laureate Werner Arber, making him the first Protestant to hold the position.
This year’s November 25-29 plenary session of the PAS is focused on the contributions science can bring to sustainability, meaning the impacts of scientific knowledge and technology on society and the environment.
On Monday, Francis said modern men and women have “grown up thinking ourselves owners and masters of nature,” with the right to plunder it “without any consideration of its hidden potential and laws of development, as if subjecting inanimate matter to our whims.” This mentality has led to many ills, he said, including “a grave loss to biodiversity.”
“We are not custodians of a museum or of its major artefacts to be dusted each day, but rather co-operators in protecting and developing the life and biodiversity of the planet and of human life present there,” the pope said.
Talking to a room full of scientists, Francis lamented “the ease with which well-founded scientific opinion about the state of our planet is disregarded” by international politics.
He also urged the Academy — which was created in 1847 to replace an earlier Vatican organization once headed by Galileo Galilei — to lead the path towards sustainable development, providing both general and specific solutions to issues such as water, renewable forms of energy and food security.
He said it was essential to create a system that ensures the protection of ecosystems before “new forms of power” deriving from the “technocratic model” cause “irreversible harm not only to the environment, but also to our societies, to democracy, to justice and freedom.”
He told the PAS members that the ecological conversion he wants to bring about includes “both the full assuming of our human responsibilities regarding creation and its resources, as well as the search for social justice and the overcoming of an immoral system that produces misery, inequality and exclusion.”
Hence scientists, who “work free of political, economic or ideological interests” are tasked with developing a cultural model capable of facing climate change and its social consequences, guaranteeing that “the vast potential of productivity will not be reserved only for the few,” he said.
Yet despite what Francis described as the politicians’ slowness to act and their disregard of scientific evidence of the dangers of climate change, he still sees encouraging signs of “a humanity that wants to respond, to choose the common good, and regenerate itself with responsibility and solidarity.”
The Argentine pope has made the fight against global warming one of the core social issues of his pontificate, preaching about the need to protect God’s creation in his very first homily in March 2013.
The goal of the Paris agreement, signed last December by 195 nations during what was known as the COP21 summit is to cut global greenhouse gas emissions by about half. This would stave off an increase in atmospheric temperatures of 2 degrees Celsius or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit.
Unless this is achieved, say scientists, the world will be locked into a future of devastating consequences, including rising sea levels, severe droughts and flooding, widespread food and water shortages, and more destructive storms.
The agreement is partly legally binding and partly voluntary, and will take effect in 2020.
United States President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to pull the country out of the deal.