In a sweeping manifesto aimed at spurring action in U.N. climate negotiations, domestic politics and everyday life, Francis explains the science of global warming, which he blames on an unfair, fossil fuel-based industrial model. Citing Scripture and past popes' and bishops' appeals, he urges people of all faiths and no faith to undergo an awakening to save God's creation for future generations.
It's an indictment of big business and climate doubters alike.
“It is not enough to balance, in the medium term, the protection of nature with financial gain, or the preservation of the environment with progress,” writes Francis. “Halfway measures simply delay the inevitable disaster. Put simply, it is a matter of redefining our notion of progress.”
Veerabhadran Ramanathan, a Scripps Institution of Oceanography scientist, said the encyclical would be a “game-changer in making people think about this.”
“It's not politics anymore,” he said, adding that science is usually difficult for people to understand but that people respond to arguments framed by morality and ethics.
The energy lobby was quick to criticize the encyclical and its anti-fossil fuel message.
“The simple reality is that energy is the essential building block of the modern world,” said Thomas Pyle of the Institute of Energy Research, a conservative free-market group. “The application of affordable energy makes everything we do — food production, manufacturing, health care, transportation, heating and air conditioning — better.”
The encyclical "Laudato Si" (Praise Be) will likely put several U.S. presidential candidates on the hot seat since some Republicans, Catholics among them, doubt the science behind global warming and have said the pope should stay away from the debate.
“I don't think we should politicize our faith,” U.S. Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush, a Catholic convert, said on the eve of the encyclical's release. “I think religion ought to be about making us better as people and less about things that end up getting into the political realm.”
Yet one of Francis' core points is that there really is no distinction between human beings, their faith and the environment.
“Everything is related, and we human beings are united as brothers and sisters on a wonderful pilgrimage, woven together by the love God has for each of his creatures and which also unites us in fond affection with brother sun, sister moon, brother river and mother Earth,” he writes.
The chemist-turned-pope takes as fact that the world is getting warmer and that human activity is mostly to blame.
“Nobody is suggesting a return to the Stone Age, but we do need to slow down and look at reality in a different way, to appropriate the positive and sustainable progress which has been made, but also to recover the values and the great goals swept away by our unrestrained delusions of grandeur,” Francis writes.
The Associated Press