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Pope Francis: ‘We must act now’ on climate

“The current economic system is unsustainable.”

Pope Francis: ‘We must act now’ on climate
[Photo: Vatican Pool/Getty Images]

Five years after Pope Francis published a 200-page encyclical arguing that tackling climate change was a moral imperative, he’s telling the world that the problem is even more urgent—and that it’s time to make changes such as moving away from fossil fuels.

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“Science tells us, every day with more precision, that urgent action is needed—and I am not dramatizing, this is what science says—if we are to keep the hope of avoiding radical and catastrophic climate change,” he told an audience today at the launch event for TED Countdown, a new global initiative to accelerate climate action. “And for this, we must act now. This is a scientific fact.”

The pope, who recently published a new encyclical arguing for social unity, believes that we need to start with education about environmental problems based on science. We need to ensure that everyone has access to clean water and sustainably produced food. And we need to transition to clean, renewable energy, with a focus on meeting the needs of the poor and people who have to move to new jobs in the energy sector.

Businesses also need to consider their impact on both the environment and humanity, he said, and one way to encourage this is by investing in companies that “put sustainability, social justice, and the promotion of the common good at the center of their activities.”

“The current economic system is unsustainable,” he told the digital audience. “We are faced with the moral imperative, and the practical urgency, to rethink many things: The way we produce; the way we consume; our culture of waste; our short-term vision; the exploitation of the poor and our indifference towards them; the growing inequalities and our dependence on harmful energy sources. We need to think about all these challenges.” All of us, he says, need to work to “persuade those in doubt, imagine new solutions, and commit to carry them out.”

The economy could be based on what the pope calls “integral ecology,” with the ultimate goal of protecting the well-being of humans and our common home. “Our goal is clear: to build, within the next decade, a world where we can meet the needs of the present generations, including everyone, without compromising the possibilities of future generations.”

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About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley, and contributed to the second edition of the bestselling book "Worldchanging: A User's Guide for the 21st Century."

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