In his historic encyclical on ecology, Laudato Si’, Pope Francis calls on all people to care for creation and our common home. Pope Francis makes clear that our care for one another and our care for the earth are intimately connected, noting that humanity is not faced “with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather one complex crisis which is both social and environmental.” (Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home)
A Catholic response to climate change places care for creation and care for poor and vulnerable people who are most affected by climate change impacts at the center of its response. As the U.S. Catholic bishops wrote in their pastoral statement, Global Climate Change: A Plea for Dialogue Prudence and the Common Good, “Action to mitigate global climate change must be built upon a foundation of social and economic justice.”
During his 2015 visit to the United States, Pope Francis said, “Climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to a future generation. When it comes to the care of our ‘common home’, we are living at a critical moment of history.”
The Very Rev. Arturo Sosa, S.J., current Superior General of the Society of Jesus, announced four Universal Apostolic Preferences (UAPs) that will guide the mission of the Jesuits for the next 10 years. Included in the UAPs are the call to “Collaborate, with Gospel depth, for the protection and renewal of God’s Creation,” and to, “Walk with the poor, the outcasts of the world, those whose dignity has been violated, in a mission of reconciliation and justice.” As partners in ministry with the Jesuits through our shared Ignatian charism, we are called to allow these themes to capture our imagination and to guide our work, especially on the issue of climate change as failure to address this urgent global issue confronting the human family will affect the lives of historically marginalized groups around the world.
We ask our government leaders to demonstrate bold leadership in addressing the climate crisis by honoring the Paris Agreement to mitigate climate change, accelerating the transition to clean energy, investing in sustainable infrastructure, and prioritizing communities most impacted by environmental injustice.
- The United States has rejoined the Paris Agreement and must honor its demands to limit global warming to 1.5°C in order to reach a climate-neutral world by 2050.This will require substantial new investments in low-carbon technologies and energy efficiency.
- The U.S. must invest in sustainable infrastructure to improve our quality of life, preserve our environment and create stable jobs. Specifically these efforts need to be focused in historically underserved communities who are more vulnerable to natural disaster. Investments need to be made to provide clean air, water, energy, broadband and public transportation infrastructure. The U.S. must also pass legislation such as the RECLAIM ACT to provide transitional support to communities that are currently dependent on fossil fuel jobs and suffering the effects of its pollution.
- Communities of color, low-income communities and Tribal and Indigenous communities have suffered the most harm as a result of Environmental Injustice and must be put at the forefront of legislative initiatives. Through meaningful participation with these communities in government decision-making it is our hope that the following actions will be taken:
- Strengthening the EPA’s Environmental Justice Small Grants program, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and the Weatherization Assistance Program–which promote energy-efficiency and support communities on the frontlines of climate change.
- Passing legislation such as the Environmental Justice for All Act to address the disproportionate adverse human health and environmental effects of federal laws on Environmental Justice communities.
Archbishop Paul S. Coakley, chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development said in his 2020 statement on the 5th anniversary of Laudato Si’, “Aware that the cry of the earth and cry of the poor grows louder with injustice and technocracy that throws away the most vulnerable among us, ‘the love of Christ impels us’ (2 Cor 5:14) to do more in the years ahead.”
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) reports, “The world’s seven-warmest years have all occurred since 2014, with 10 of the warmest years occurring since 2005.”
The rising temperatures have increased the strength and frequency of natural disasters worldwide, which we have seen in the past year alone with wildfires in California and Australia, cyclones in East Africa, and hurricanes in Central America. These natural disasters have led to famine, food and water insecurity, and forced migration. People living in poverty are disproportionately more susceptible to illness or death from environmental pollutants and disasters due to the deadly mix of likelihood of exposure and fewer resources, a reality that has become evident in the U.S. amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent extreme weather conditions in Texas.
The world is on track for more than a 3 ℃ temperature increase by the end of the century. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has stated that an increase in global warming of 1.5 ℃ or higher will significantly disrupt human and natural systems. The trajectory we are following is not sustainable.
Current U.S. Policy
Environmental and climate change policy in the United States finds itself at a critical moment in history. During the past four years, without regard for the public health and climate consequences, the Trump Administration focused its efforts on rolling back over 100 environmental regulations to curb climate change and supported various policies to open federal land to coal, oil, and gas industries.
The new Biden Administration has stated that addressing climate change will be a central priority and is already taking initial steps to undo some of the significant environmental rollbacks implemented by the previous administration. Recent actions taken by the administration include:
- U.S. Rejoined Paris Climate Agreement – In rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement, the Administration demonstrated its commitment to addressing the climate crisis.
- Federal Review of Past Administration Regulations – Biden directed federal agencies to review all the Trump administration decisions over the past four years “that were harmful to public health, damaging to the environment, unsupported by the best available science, or otherwise not in the national interest.”
- Oil and Natural Gas Leases on Public Lands Ordered for Review – New oil and natural gas leases on public lands and waters were paused and a rigorous review of all existing fossil fuel leases on public lands was launched. The process will also consult with Indigenous tribes whose lands are impacted by energy permitting. This will allow the U.S. to shift its efforts toward investments in a clean and renewable energy future. In a separate executive order, he also revoked the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline.
- Environmental Justice Council Established – President Biden established an environmental justice interagency council to address the racial and economic inequities exacerbated by climate change and air and water pollution.
- Just Transition Measures Strengthened – The Administration directed federal agencies to coordinate investments in and assistance to communities dependent on fossil fuel jobs, helping them transition away from coal, oil and natural gas.
Join The Response
Schedule Visits With Your Members of Congress
Establishing and continuing relationships with your Senators and Representatives is crucial to advocating for justice. As both representatives and members of your communities, every Senator and Representative has an office–often multiple offices–in their home states. Visits to these offices are an impactful way to speak, neighbor to neighbor, with representatives and let them know why and how the laws and policies pertaining to environmental justice impact your community.
If you are unable to make a visit to your Senator’s or Representative’s office, we encourage you to pick up the phone and give them a call. This is also a valuable way to express to your legislator the importance of environmental justice within your community.
Use this website to contact your Senator.
Use this website to find your Representative.
Sign The St. Francis Pledge (And Encourage Your Institution to Join You)
The St. Francis Pledge is a promise and a commitment by Catholic individuals, families, parishes, organizations and institutions to live our faith by protecting God’s Creation and advocating on behalf of people in poverty who face the harshest impacts of global climate change. To join the Covenant, you commit to act on each of the five elements of the St. Francis Pledge.