Cardinal Blase J. Cupich

Our planet is ‘nearing a breaking point’

November 1, 2023

This fall, the Holy Father issued another stern warning about the serious threat of climate change in his letter “Laudate Deum.”

Beginning with his 2015 encyclical, “Laudato Si’,” Pope Francis has taken leadership on the world’s stage to address this essential topic. He has urged the global community to address climate change as a moral issue, calling on elected officials to take bold action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and invest in renewable energy.

Individual women and men, too, are urged to make meaningful changes in their own lives to reduce their carbon footprint.

In “Laudate Deum,” the Holy Father’s warning took on a new urgency, as he stated that the world is “collapsing” due to climate change, and may be “nearing a breaking point.” 

Just consider this: If global temperature increases by more than 2 degrees, “the icecaps of Greenland and a large part of Antarctica will melt completely, with immensely grave consequences for everyone,” the pope warns. The results will be catastrophic to all of life on this planet, which is our common home.

Islands will disappear. Coastal cities will be swallowed by flooding. People fleeing these calamities will increase human suffering, and therefore migration, in ways we have never seen.

While some deny that climate change is taking place and a serious threat to our future, the facts are clear. Climate change is caused by human behavior. The burning of fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and natural gas, for electricity, transportation and heating, releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

In turn, these emissions — carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide — trap heat in the atmosphere and warm the planet. The effects of climate change are all around us, with the rise of sea levels, heat waves, droughts, wildfires, floods and storms, the melting glaciers and ice sheets, catastrophically harming plant and animal life, and increasing ocean acidification. 

The Holy Father is calling the world to make a radical transformation of our way of life: “We need to change our lifestyles radically and rapidly.” This means transitioning to clean, renewable energy, reducing our consumption and adopting a more sustainable way of living. We each can begin by taking personal responsibility and reducing our contribution to climate change — simple things like driving less, avoiding needless disposable items and by using less energy in our homes and workplaces. 

Too often the size of a problem can cause us to feel helpless to solve it. But hope remains, and we can still choose to protect the gift of creation. After all, “humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home,” as the Holy Father says, and “truly, much can be done!”


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