The following commentary first appeared in the Nov. 10 issue of The Tablet, a London-based international Catholic weekly. It is provided here through Catholic News Service.

Richer countries must see problems faced by poorer countries as their own problems, not someone else's.

Last July, on the hottest day ever recorded in Britain, about 40 homes around London were destroyed by fires that had spread from nearby burning grassland, scorched by the sun. The London Fire Brigade said the nine separate incidents on the outskirts of the capital made it their busiest day since the Second World War. It was the day global warming came home.

So who was to blame?

With parts of Africa facing famine from crop failure, huge floods killing hundreds in Pakistan and repeated hurricanes devastating Madagascar, this was the hot topic at the United Nations climate-change summit in Cairo in November under the heading of "loss and damage."

Responsibility for the climate changes that drove up temperatures in Britain during last summer's heatwaves -- and caused the other extreme weather events all over the world -- lay, it was said, with the richer nations.

They are the polluters, who burn fossil fuels to drive their industries and make themselves ever richer. The victims of climate change, on the other hand, are usually poorer and less able to protect themselves.

Hence the rich owe the poor due recompense -- "reparations" -- for the damage and loss they suffer from climate change that the rich, which largely means the West, have caused. This is an attractive analysis, but there is not much evidence the West is being persuaded by it.

In any event, who can the London residents who lost their suburban homes in the fires last summer claim damages from? The danger in the reparations argument is that it artificially divides the world into victims and perpetrators -- or indeed the ancestors of the perpetrators -- those who pioneered the Industrial Revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries. Global warming was unknown to them: They did not intend to harm the climate.

If the Industrial Revolution had victims, they were mainly the downtrodden proletariat on whose behalf Pope Leo XIII spoke out in "Rerum Novarum" in 1891.

Global warming is a threat to the very survival of human civilization, and it is morally right that the burden of dealing with it should fall largely on the shoulders most able to bear it; and morally right also that the lead on combating climate change should be taken by those doing most of the polluting.

Which means, in essence, moving away from using fossil fuels as fast as possible. It means a moratorium on coal mining, and oil and gas extraction, including fracking. The climate is at a tipping point. The global goal of limiting climate temperature rises to 1.5 degrees Celsius (equivalent to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2050 may no longer be achievable.

It may soon be too late to avert a climate catastrophe. Huge numbers of refugees, families displaced by global warming, could soon be demanding shelter wherever they can find it. At a certain point, such as when the Arctic permafrost begins to melt, global warming could accelerate out of control.

The planet, to use Pope Francis' vivid expression, is humanity's common home. All are responsible for it -- to each according to their needs, from each according to their means. If there is blame to be allocated, it is to countries that are not doing their fair share. The United Kingdom and the United States are among them.

Global warming generates a lot of hot air from the mouths of politicians. The new British prime minister, Rishi Sunak, wants to be seen as a One Nation Tory who "gets it" on global warming. But even that phrase is now out of date. He needs to become a One World Tory and to see off the global warming cynics in his own party who want to abandon the goal of zero carbon by 2050 that successive governments have set for Britain.

That global warming is partly caused by human activity is still denied in some influential quarters, and their voices are likely to become more prominent in the United States now with several Republicans winning their midterm elections. Partly this is from ideological obstinacy but also from basic ignorance of climate science.

At the wavelengths at which it arrives, energy in the sun's rays can pass through the atmosphere, maintaining air and sea temperatures. But the return radiation from that warmth is at wavelengths to which the atmosphere is more opaque, so less energy escapes, and more is trapped.

That opacity is increased by the presence of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane. So, the more they are present, the warmer the planet becomes. The climate becomes less stable, and extreme weather events are more frequent.

The burning of fossil fuels in combustion engines -- oil and natural gas and especially coal -- is the primary source of those gases. Beside the "climate justice" demand for reparations, the other fresh idea at the COP27 summit is for harnessing the enterprise of industry and commerce as a major resource against global warming. This would need a well-regulated and ecologically guided form of capitalism.

Major corporations can see that global warming is a long-term threat to their very survival, not just to their profitability. So, the private sector needs to be given better-constructed tax and investment incentives to find innovative solutions.

Alongside intergovernmental initiatives, such as the global fund proposed by President Macron of France, there is a case for triggering a new industrial revolution to reverse some of the harmful consequences of the old one: profit and the common good hand in hand.

There also is a strong argument for debt relief for the countries most in danger from global warming, which are often, relatively speaking, also the most indebted. A heavy debt burden can easily put infrastructure investment, for instance in flood prevention, out of reach.

Again, this requires richer countries to see the problems faced by poorer countries as their own problems, not someone else's. They should not be punished for past neglect, for which the present generation bears no blame; they are being challenged to act out of love for the beautiful and bountiful home that planet Earth has provided, and love for the humanity that populates it, as well as their own self-interest.

Time is running out.

The views or positions presented in this or any guest editorial are those of the individual publication and do not necessarily represent the views of Catholic News Service or of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops."I thank God for the meals," she told CNS. "It's a great help, not only for me, but for all the people who need help. It keeps them alive and also to have faith in God, to know that there are people who care."