The following editorial first appeared in the Oct. 6 issue of The Catholic Register, the Toronto-based national Catholic Canadian newspaper. It is provided here through Catholic News Service.[[In-content Ad]]
In their darkest warning yet, world scientists have predicted an inevitable increase in storms, droughts, heat waves, floods and, ultimately, deaths due to global warming, which they boldly now confirm is caused by humans.
Climatologists have long suspected human activity is behind the steady rise in global temperatures. But they used to hedge their bets. No longer. A report released Sept. 27 by the United Nations-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — the world authority on climate — concludes that scientists are 95 percent sure humans are the “dominant cause” of global warming.
Even if this is no surprise, it is alarming. They say global warming is “unequivocal” and, due to the extent of the atmospheric pollution, the damage will be irreversible for decades, if not centuries. Slowly but surely, mankind is transforming God’s creation. The air and the seas are being mutated by our relentless release of greenhouse gas emissions. The poor, as usual, are most at risk.
The IPCC report was a scientific finding but beneath the layers of data was a moral indictment of Western society. The West’s insatiable appetite for consumer goods and services, its quest for wealth and its desire for comfort and pleasure at almost any cost stimulate a demand for the fossil fuels that wind up as greenhouse gasses spewing into the atmosphere.
Mankind is called to be a steward of God’s gift of creation but instead of stewardship the industrialized world has too often strutted with hubris, defiance, exploitation and willful neglect as it inflicted grave harm on his planet. Instead of dignity and respect for the environment, instead of showing humility or providing care, generations of wealth-seekers and government leaders have acted with indifference and sometimes disdain.
For decades, the Church has warned of a rampant culture of consumerism that dominates modern society. Pope Francis calls this a “culture of waste” and it prevents us from respecting God’s creation because we too often allow our lives to be ruled by money, pleasure and possessions, not Christian values. “Man is not in charge today, money is in charge, money rules,” he said.
Pope Benedict called it our “grave duty” to be stewards of the earth rather than regard ourselves as “creation’s absolute master.” Pope John Paul II said we are betraying a God-given mandate to safeguard God’s creation and that our daily actions “should not be dictated by an unlimited and unrestrained quest for material goods without regard for our surroundings.”
Society tends to regard the environmental crisis as something to be solved by science, industry and government. But the issue is larger than that. It is rooted in choices we all make and fixing it requires a vast moral awakening to the destructive consequences of our me-first consumer culture.
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.