Pope Francis could lead one third of Catholics into climate fight

Pope Francis. Creative Commons: Catholic Church of England and Wales, 2013

Pope Francis. Creative Commons: Catholic Church of England and Wales, 2013

One third of Catholics would go green if Pope Francis issued a declaration on climate change, according to new polling.

The poll of 1,049 English and Welsh Catholics found that 33% would adjust their lifestyles to include such actions as driving less and recycling more if the Pope issued a statement calling for action on climate change.

72% of the respondents said that they worried about the changing climate’s impacts on the world’s poorest people, and 76% percent said that they felt a moral obligation to help the victims of global warming.

Responding to the poll’s results, Neil Thorns, director of advocacy at Cafod, said:

While the data shows us that almost two thirds of Catholics have engaged with the climate debate already, what’s most telling about these results is how many Catholics link the impact climate change is having on vulnerable people with their faith, which calls us to protect the poorest in society.

The poll comes as the Pope prepares to release a much-anticipated encyclical on man’s relationship to the environment, which is expected to hone in on climate change.

Since being elected, Pope Francis has consistently spoken out about the need to protect creation and protect the poorest and least fortunate from the effects of environmental degradation.

With December’s Paris climate talks looming, though, the pontiff has ramped up his efforts to engage Catholics on the issue of climate change even more, framing climate action as a moral imperative.

Last week, the Vatican held a climate change summit that brought together faith leaders, researchers, and business leaders to discuss the challenges posed by the global warming—including longer droughts and more severe storms that will hit disadvantaged people first and hardest.

The event featured a keynote speech from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and resulted in a declaration being issued by the Vatican’s science academies calling climate change a “dominant moral and ethical issue for society.”

The document also said that the Catholic Church can work with other religions to take a leadership role in “mobilizing public opinion and public funds to meet the energy needs of the poorest 3 billion people, thus allowing them to prepare for the challenges of unavoidable climate and eco-system changes.”

Pope Francis’ climate change encyclical has reportedly been completed, and is undergoing translation into the world’s major languages. Its release is expected to occur in early summer.

The Pope also may broach the subject of climate change when he addresses the United States Congress and the UN General Assembly later this year in September.

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