Laudato Si 23: A Common Good

Earth from Apollo 8The encyclical letter Laudato Si is available here on the Vatican website. Climate is described in the title here as “a common good.” It is also a fact that the planet is experiencing a warming trend. Even among skeptics, this is generally conceded.

23. The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all. At the global level, it is a complex system linked to many of the essential conditions for human life. A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system. In recent decades this warming has been accompanied by a constant rise in the sea level and, it would appear, by an increase of extreme weather events, even if a scientifically determinable cause cannot be assigned to each particular phenomenon.

This summary so far is sound. We know sea level is rising. And we cannot account for all unusual phenomena. The question for people is caution and prudence during these times. Even outside of climate change, it may well be time for changes. A person of faith would always say change is good if it draws us closer to God. What about for a general care for others?

Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it. It is true that there are other factors (such as volcanic activity, variations in the earth’s orbit and axis, the solar cycle), yet a number of scientific studies indicate that most global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxides and others) released mainly as a result of human activity. Concentrated in the atmosphere, these gases do not allow the warmth of the sun’s rays reflected by the earth to be dispersed in space. The problem is aggravated by a model of development based on the intensive use of fossil fuels, which is at the heart of the worldwide energy system. Another determining factor has been an increase in changed uses of the soil, principally deforestation for agricultural purposes.

Waste gases and landscape changes: this largely sums up the concern. This would be where the skeptics and activists tussle. How much change is human responsibility?

We should also recognize that some people have economic interests in maintaining the use of fossil fuels. But the truth is that these fuels will one day be exhausted. Even if climate change isn’t mainly attributed to human beings, it still makes sense to diversify while we have the cushion. Life forms from previous eras have given us a substantial gift in gas, oil, and coal. But it won’t last forever.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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