In the wake of Laudato Si, Pope Francis has continued to address climate change to emphasize the importance of the issue and our responsibility to protect creation. In his latest remarks, he raised five important points:
- Climate change is a social issue (with “grave social consequences”), not just an environmental issue
- Climate change hits the poor the hardest
- Protecting creation is a matter of justice
- Solidarity compels us to respond
- We owe it to future generations to do our part
While pictures of polar bears seem to be the most indelible images associated with climate change, climate change is currently killing tens of thousands of human beings each year around the globe. The poor and vulnerable are the ones who suffer most. This is a matter of justice; if we value social justice, human rights, and the common good, we must respond at every level of society.
Some would argue that we should respond because it is in our enlightened self-interest. That may very well be true. But for Christians, there is a more powerful motive: solidarity. We are one human family, all children of the same God. The suffering of our brothers and sisters should wound us, and it should motivate us to take action to alleviate that suffering and prevent others from experiencing similar pain.
The responsibility to protect the poor and vulnerable adds urgency to the issue, but so too does the long-term forecast if the status quo is maintained. It is a grave threat that demands an immediate change in our personal lifestyles and social structures. Responding to this challenge will allow us to live more virtuously by fulfilling our duties and living more simply and intentionally. And by giving up a reckless, short-term mentality, we can fulfill our responsibilities together as a community to ensure intergenerational justice so that future generations inherit a world that is more compatible with human dignity, rather than one torn apart by the reckless misuse of creation.