Wrapping up his visit to the Philippines this week, Pope Francis stirred up controversy by taking an unequivocal stance on climate change and calling on the international community to step up during United Nations climate talks in November.
“I don’t know if it is all (man’s fault) but the majority is, for the most part, it is man who continuously slaps nature in the face,” he told reporters. “We have in a sense taken over nature.” Scripted remarks that the Pope did not read out go on to say, “As stewards of God’s creation, we are called to make the earth a beautiful garden for the human family. When we destroy our forests, ravage our soil and pollute our seas, we betray that noble calling.”
The pope’s comments are particularly fitting in the Philippines, an island country that has been hard-hit by typhoons and other extreme weather, and is expected to be severely impacted by rising sea levels. Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 left over 7,000 people missing or dead. Things could get worse. US scientists announced last week that 2014 was the hottest year on record, with temperatures about 0.68 Celsius or 1.24 Fahrenheit above average and unusually warm ocean surfaces that fuel storms.
Predictably, climate change deniers are denouncing the pope’s message. “The Vatican apparently now has been infiltrated by followers of a radical green movement,” read an editorial in Investors Business Daily. And conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh said, “The Vicar of Christ believes man is not part of nature?…My religious beliefs are one of many things that inform me that we couldn’t have any impact on the climate, the planet, the globe, creation, no matter what, no matter how much we wanted to. It’s beyond our reach.”