WASHINGTON — Representatives of Catholic organizations called upon parishioners to address climate change through actions in their lives and advocacy with political leaders following a United Nations report that warned that the earth’s temperatures continue to rise, putting human lives in danger.
Solutions can be as simple as reducing electricity usage in the home and on parish property, driving less and walking more, and planting trees, the representatives of groups working on climate-related issues said.
In addition, they said that it is becoming increasingly urgent for Catholics to boost engagement with members of Congress to urge them to enact policies that will reduce the country’s dependence on fossil fuels.
Reducing the use of oil and natural gas, the burning of which scientists have determined produces greenhouse gases that lead to global warming, is crucial to mitigate the effects of a changing climate, said Dan Misleh, founder of the Catholic Climate Covenant.
“There’s lots of easy solutions. It’s a matter of just getting people aware and encouraging action,” Misleh said.
The San Diego Diocese is a national Catholic leader on this issue. Its Creation Care Ministry invites parishes and Catholic schools to educate themselves about climate change and to develop projects they can do to mitigate its effects. Currently, the ministry has a campaign to plant trees at parishes, schools and homes. It’s providing the trees for free and expert support before they are planted. More information is available at sdcatholic.org/creation.
Thousands of pages long, the report released April 4 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change paints a dire picture of the consequences facing the world if carbon emissions are not reduced immediately.
It warned that global temperatures will rise this century beyond the 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) warmer targeted under the 2015 Paris climate agreement if the current pace of fossil fuel usage continues.
Scientists have measured temperatures that already have risen by more than 2 degrees Fahrenheit (1.1 degrees Celsius) warmer since pre-industrial times, leading to more devastating natural disasters such as flooding, long-term drought, forest fires and stronger hurricanes, and the displacement of millions of people from their homelands.
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said the report demonstrates that governments and corporations have delivered “a litany of broken climate promises” as they continue to prioritize fossil fuels for energy and ignore the goals of the Paris accord.
Misleh said everyone needs “to cut emissions dramatically so the future, especially for our children and grandchildren, is not going to be as awful as we are heading for.”
Elsewhere, CIDSE, a network of 17 Catholic development agencies from Europe and North America, called for immediate “deep and urgent emissions reductions.”
In an April 4 statement, the organization said it was inspired by Pope Francis and his actions to address climate change. CIDSE’s secretary-general, Josianne Gauthier, echoed Guterres, saying that “corporate power is hindering climate justice.”
“This means to really tackle climate change, we need to address our economic system,” Gauthier said. “As Pope Francis has said, we cannot live within an economy based on insatiable and irresponsible growth. We are motivated to challenge the system based on the direct experiences of people at the forefront of climate change, who need mitigation urgently.”
The report said greenhouse gas emissions continued to grow from 2010 to 2019, but at a slower pace than in the first decade of the 21st century. The rate of growth slowed from 2.1% annually to 1.3% annually, the report said.
However, the report’s authors said that unless countries rapidly quicken the pace to cut emissions, the earth on average could see temperatures 4.3 to 6.3 degrees Fahrenheit (2.4 to 3.5 Celsius) warmer by the end of the century, a level that will cause severe effects worldwide.
To kickstart outreach to congressional leaders, a coalition of Catholic organizations has unveiled the Encounter for Our Common Home campaign.
The effort calls for training and advocacy to prepare people to “encounter and urge” senators during the week of May 2-6 to support climate solutions that especially benefit poor and vulnerable communities most susceptible to climate change.
Those registering at godsplanet.us/advocacy will be able to participate in two webinars in advance of the online or in-person meetings with senators or their staff members.
The Southern Cross contributed to this story.