ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE (AP) — Pope Francis said Thursday he is convinced that global warming is “mostly” man-made and that he hopes his upcoming encyclical on the environment will encourage negotiators at a climate change meeting in Paris to make “courageous” decisions to protect God’s creation.
Francis has spoken out frequently about the “culture of waste” that has imperiled the environment and he elaborated en route to the Philippines. While there, Francis will meet with survivors of the 2013 Typhoon Haiyan, which the government has said was an example of the extreme weather conditions that global warming has wrought.
“I don’t know if it (human activity) is the only cause, but mostly, in great part, it is man who has slapped nature in the face,” he said. “We have in a sense taken over nature.”
“I think we have exploited nature too much,” Francis said, citing deforestation and monoculture. “Thanks be to God that today there are voices, so many people who are speaking out about it.”
Francis, who pledged on the day of his installation as pope to make the environment a priority, said he expected his encyclical on ecology to be released by June or July. He said he wanted it out in plenty of time to be read and absorbed before the next round of climate change negotiations opens in Paris in November after the last round in Peru failed to reach an agreement.
“The meetings in Peru were nothing much, I was disappointed,” he said. “There was a lack of courage. They stopped at a certain point. We hope that in Paris the representatives have more courage to go forward.”
The ultimate goal of U.N. climate negotiations is to stabilize greenhouse gases at a level that keeps global warming below 2 degrees C (3.6 F), compared with pre-industrial times. Negotiations culminating in the Nov. 30-Dec. 11 meeting will rise or fall on two key points: How to divide responsibility for global warming and how to pay to fight it. The developed world used fossil fuels to build roads, cities and houses, and emerging economies want to have the same chances to grow as quickly as possible. Island nations and low-lying countries, meanwhile, fear rising sea levels will swamp them and need funds to adjust.
Environmentalists are hopeful that Francis’ encyclical will jump-start the talks, and note that Francis is due to speak at the United Nations in New York in September where he may use the global stage to make some points before negotiations get under way.
Those who reject scientific findings that climate change is man-made, however, are already condemning the pope in harsh terms for taking up the issue at all. Their criticisms are based on previous comments by Francis on the environment and recent remarks by some of his top aides that there is clear-cut scientific evidence that climate change is driven by human activity.