Pope Francis’s White House Speech Emphasizes The Need For Climate Change Action
Today was a historic day as Pope Francis gave his first speech in Washington, D.C., during his first ever trip to the United States. In fact, it is an important religious day for more than just Catholics: the Muslim community is celebrating Eid al Adha and the Jewish community is celebrating Yom Kippur. Pope Francis has been popular among people of many faiths because of his inclusive message of peace and prosperity for all the world’s people. In his long-awaited address at the White House with President Obama this morning, the pope addressed one of those pivotal, global issues: climate change.
One of the core tenets of Pope Francis’s tenure has been his heeds for climate action, and today was no different. In his speech, the pope highlighted the urgency of combatting climate change, calling it “a problem that can be no longer left to a future generation.” His words echo his 192-page encyclical released in June, a teaching in which Pope Francis calls for global action to combat climate change and continues a history of Catholic teaching on caring for creation. The pope referenced his encyclical today, stating, “When it comes to the care of our ‘common home’, we are living at a critical moment of history.”
Pope Francis not only discussed the climate and referenced his encyclical, but he also said he finds President Obama’s attempt to reduce air pollution, which he aims to do with the Clean Power Plan, to be “encouraging.” The Clean Power Plan is the most ambitious action yet taken in the United States to slow global warming. It will lead to up to $54 billion in climate and health benefits and 870 fewer tons of carbon pollution.
Though Pope Francis is the leader of the Catholic Church and his moral teachings hold great sway, not all Catholic elected officials are choosing to follow the Holy See on climate change. Jeb Bush, a Catholic of 25 years, has called Pope Francis a “most extraordinary leader,” but has dismissed the pope’s teachings on climate change. Fellow Catholic GOP presidential candidate Marco Rubio believes that Pope Francis is the “shepherd of [the] faith” but also states that “humans are not responsible for climate change in the way some of these people out there are trying to make us believe.” Finally, one GOP congressman, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), is boycotting the pope’s speech to Congress on Thursday because he disagrees with the His Holiness’s stance on climate change.
BOTTOM LINE: Today was a historic day that many—Catholics and non-Catholics alike—will remember. In his first-ever visit to the United States, Pope Francis made sure to highlight our shared responsibility to combat climate change and protect our “common home.” Though GOP candidates may deny man-made climate change, Pope Francis’s words show the grave importance of acting on climate and highlight the necessity of the Clean Power Plan as one important means of doing so.
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