Pope Francis links climate change, energy and world poverty

In his encyclical “Laudato Si”, Pope Frances appealed for efforts to limit climate change through reducing consumption of fossil fuels. Many Christians responded to the Encyclical and worked to persuade their country to reduce the use of coal, natural gas and oil for the production of energy.

4RG expected that the Laudato Si would be a path to the future.  But it is apparent that much more reductions of carbon emissions must be greatly increased.

Recently Pope Francis addressed a Church-sponsored a symposium of oil company executives and energy investors to discuss risks created by climate change, and the measures that ought to be taken to limit global warming before it is too late.

His remarks stressed the relationship between of poverty and access to sources of energy. Poverty is a serious problem affecting over one  billion people worldwide.  Raising people out of poverty is imperative but will require an enormous increase in access to energy.

 India (the world’s third largest emitter) is an example of what is needed.   Much of India’s poor suffer from the most extreme energy poverty in the world. An estimated 360 million to 460 million people in India have little or no access to electricity. The Indian Government has frequently emphasized that these citizens need energy to lift them out of the poverty trap.  India has embarked on an extensive program to develop clean  energy, a program that will also create jobs for the poor.

The Pope summarized the potential conflict and its attendant risks in these words:   “Civilization requires energy, but energy use must not destroy civilization, . . . our desire to ensure energy for all must not lead to the undesired effect of a spiral of extreme climate changes due to a catastrophic rise in global temperatures, harsher environments, and increased levels of poverty.”

Though he found the progress toward decarbonization to be “commendable”, the Pope stressed that the steps taken are insufficient. “Will we turn the corner in time? – No one can answer that with certainty,” he said. “But with each month that passes, the challenge of energy transition becomes more pressing.”

Moreover, “if we are to eliminate poverty and hunger, the more than one billion people without electricity today need to gain access to it. But that energy should also be clean, by a reduction in the systematic use of fossil fuels.” he added.

Pope Francis lauded the transition to clean, accessible energy as “a duty that we owe towards millions of our brothers and sisters around the world, poorer countries, and generations yet to come”.

As with “Laudato Si”, his vision opens another way to the future that includes reduced carbon emissions and alleviation of poverty.


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