A guide to Laudate Deum – the latest papal document on the environment

Pope Francis has issued a new document, Laudate Deum (‘Praise God’), further outlining his response to climate change and the environment.

In this paper, released on the feast day of St Francis of Assisi, the Pope warns of the “disastrous consequences” if swift and meaningful action is not taken to combat global warming.

He says the world is at risk of reaching “the point of no return” if things continue as they are, with temperatures on the rise and extreme weather occurrences becoming more commonplace.   

What is it?

Laudate Deum is a sequel to Pope Francis’s 2015 encyclical Laudato Si’, where he wrote of the need to take greater care of our common home.

This addendum, known as an apostolic exhortation, is around 8,000 words long – Laudato Si’, by comparison, was 60,000 words.

It covers a number of subjects, from the use of technology to the role of international politicians, but the overarching theme is one of urgency, with the Pope suggesting more needs to be done, and quickly, to tackle climate change.

Why has it been issued?

The date of the release, October 4, is significant. It falls on the feast day of St Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of ecology, and the end of Season of Creation, an ecumenical celebration based around protecting the natural world.

Pope Francis has called on world leaders to step up when it comes to fighting environmental degradation. Many of these leaders will be delegates at the upcoming climate conference COP28 in Dubai (November 30 – December 12), where the issues raised in Laudate Deum will be at the forefront of discussions.

What are some of the main points?

Climate change is real

The Pope is quick to challenge sceptics on climate change and global warming, pointing out that “the overwhelming majority of scientists specialising in climate” acknowledge the phenomenon, while “only a very small percentage seek to deny the evidence”.

Humanity hasn’t done enough

Francis bluntly states that “our responses have not been adequate” when referring to climate change. He says “unchecked human intervention on nature” over the past 200 years has led to irreversible damage such as higher ocean temperatures and decreased continental ice sheets.

We’re running out of time

Laudate Deum stresses the need for us to act quickly or face “immensely grave consequences”. The Pope explains that the planet is warming at an unusually quick rate and that rising sea levels will mean “probably in a few years many populations will have to move their homes”.

Certain countries need to be held accountable

Francis notes that Western nations have a responsibility to lead the way on climate change, given that “emissions per individual in the United States are about two times greater than those of individuals living in China, and about seven times greater than the average of the poorest countries”.

Technology needs to be used appropriately

While acknowledging the need to embrace technology, the Pope suggests it should not be the immediate answer when it comes to protecting the environment. He writes: “We have made impressive and awesome technological advances, and we have not realised that at the same time we have turned into highly dangerous beings.”

How do we feel about it?

Jesuit Missions’ director, Paul Chitnis, says: “The climate crisis is not a distant threat; it is a reality now, especially for the poorest people on earth who have done the least to cause it.

“The science unequivocally points to human-caused climate change as a major contributor to rising global temperatures, extreme weather events, and biodiversity loss.

“How many more people need to lose their lives and livelihoods in droughts, floods and fires before we act? Laudate Deum is a call to politicians, business leaders and all of us for immediate and urgent action.”

You can read the full text of Laudate Deum here.

Images: Unsplash/William Gibson, Markus Spiske, Ashwin Vaswani

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