Climate change: a pro-life issue

World leaders are gathered in Glasgow, Scotland, for a two-week conference on climate change. At this historic event, leaders from more than 120 countries are being asked to agree upon establishing targets to reduce carbon emissions. It is hoped that, by reducing emissions to net zero by 2030, the average global temperature increase will be limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.

Religious leaders are paying close attention to the conference goals, as its ramifications will continue to impact the world’s poor, who feel the brunt of climate change.

At his Sunday Angelus address at St. Peter’s Square on Oct. 31, Pope Francis called on Christians to pray for a successful outcome for the conference, known as COP26, “so that the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor might be heard.”

The Holy See sent a delegation to COP26, led by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state. He told Vatican News that the need to address climate change is a “challenge to promote the common good and … will set human dignity at the center of every action.”

Cardinal Parolin offered a clear description on what the world faces regarding climate change. “We have inherited a garden. We must not leave a desert to our children,” he said, quoting from a document religious leaders signed during a gathering with the pope in early October.

“COP26 represents an important occasion for affirming, concretely, how we intend to accomplish precisely that,” added Cardinal Parolin. 

On the first day of COP26, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres outlined the critical need to address climate change. “Sea level rise has doubled from 30 years ago,” he said, adding that the Amazon rainforest now emits more carbon than it absorbs. 

“Enough of burning and drilling and mining our way deeper,” Guterres said. “We are digging our own graves.”

Climate change impacts all facets of life, Pope Francis told BBC Radio Oct. 29.

“We find ourselves increasingly frail and even fearful, caught up in a succession of ‘crises’ in the areas of health care, the environment, food supplies and the economy, to say nothing of social, humanitarian and ethical crises,” he said. “All these crises are profoundly interconnected.”

One example is the environment’s impact on migration. 

Earlier this month, the White House released, “Report on Impact of Climate Change on Migration.” The report outlines ways climate change has fueled migration, including into the United States by people crossing the Mexico-U.S. border.

“… Climate change may lead to nearly 3% of the population (totaling more than 143 million people) in three regions — Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Latin America — to move within their country of origin by 2050,” the report stated. “Although most people displaced or migrating as a result of climate impacts are staying within their countries of origin, the accelerating trend of global displacement related to climate impacts is increasing cross-border movements, too, particularly where climate change interacts with conflict and violence.”

Another example is the health impact of climate change.

A British medical journal, The Lancet, noted that “current climate trends indicate a ‘code red’ for future health.”

“People older than 65 years or younger than 1 year, along with people facing social disadvantages, were the most affected by the record-breaking temperatures of over 40-degrees Celcius (104-degrees Fahrenheit) in the Pacific Northwest areas of the USA and Canada in June, 2021— an event that would have been almost impossible without human-caused climate change,” according to the Lancet Countdown report released Oct. 20.

The impact of climate change is wide-reaching. It is a pro-life issue that all nations must agree to address. Pray for the success of COP26.