CNA Staff, Dec 1, 2023 / 12:41 pm (CNA).
A defining theme of Pope Francis’ papacy has been his urging of humanity to better care for the natural environment, which he has done most prominently in his landmark 2015 encyclical Laudato Si’ and numerous subsequent writings and speeches.
The pope’s emphasis on this topic — especially his foray into climate science via his recent encyclical Laudate Deum — has variously drawn both praise and consternation from Catholics in the United States, about half of whom do not share Pope Francis’ views on climate change, according to surveys.
In Laudate Deum, which was released in October as a continuation to Laudato Si’, Francis wrote that the effects of climate change “are here and increasingly evident,” warning of “immensely grave consequences for everyone” if drastic efforts are not made to reduce emissions. In the face of this, the Holy Father criticized those who “have chosen to deride [the] facts” about climate science, stating bluntly that it is “no longer possible to doubt the human — ‘anthropic’ — origin of climate change.”
The pope in the encyclical laid out his belief that there must be a “necessary transition towards clean energy sources, such as wind and solar energy, and the abandonment of fossil fuels.” This follows a call from Pope Francis in 2021 to the global community calling for the world to “achieve net zero carbon emissions as soon as possible.”
He further lamented what he called “certain dismissive and scarcely reasonable opinions [on climate change] that I encounter, even within the Catholic Church.”
In light of the new encyclical — which extensively cites the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — Pope Francis was invited to speak at this week’s United Nations Climate Change Conference, known as COP28. Though the 86-year-old pope was forced to cancel his trip due to health issues, the Vatican has indicated that he aims to participate in COP28 this weekend in some fashion. It announced today that Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin will represent the pope at the conference.
While various Catholic groups have welcomed the pope’s latest encyclical, some Catholics have reacted with persistent doubts, questioning whether the pope’s policy prescriptions would actually produce the desired effects.
How do Americans feel about climate change?
According to a major survey conducted by Yale University, 72% of Americans believed in 2021 — the latest available data year — that “global warming is happening,” and 57% believe that global warming is caused by human activity.
More recent polling from the Pew Research Center, conducted in June, similarly suggests that two-thirds of U.S. adults overall say the country should prioritize developing renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, over the expansion of the production of oil, coal, and natural gas. That same survey found that just 3 in 10 adults (31%) say the U.S. should completely phase out oil, coal, and natural gas. The Yale study found that 77% of U.S. adults support at least the funding of research into renewable energy sources.
Broken down by party affiliation, Pew found that a large majority of Democratic and Democratic-leaning independents — 90% — favor alternative energy sources, while just under half, 42%, of Republicans and Republican-leaning adults think the same. Within the Republican cohort, however, 67%