Q. What does the Catholic Church say about global climate change?
A. A broad consensus of scientists across the globe agree that, in recent decades, the mean temperature of the earth has risen, with potentially significant effects. The exact nature, causes, and consequence of climate change is still the subject of considerable scientific research and debate. Certainly, the bishops of the Church are not scientific researchers, and the Church does not have special insight into the scientific theories surrounding climate-change, its causes, or its effects.
The conversation around our environment does involve several principles of Catholic moral and social teaching. The first is our obligation to stewardship. The earth is a gift, given to us to sustain our families through the work we undertake. Because the Lord has given us care of the earth for our own generations and for future generations, we must be sure to treat our land, air, and water resources with respect for their long-term health. We must also consider our obligation to the poor, and recognize the right of the poor to make use of natural resources, especially in developing countries, where technologies are less developed than they are in the United States. Finally, we must consider our obligation to the common good— to ensure that we do not transport environmental harm to other places, for our own benefit, or delay addressing environmental problems, leaving them for future generations.
In short, we ought to engage in agricultural activity that makes the best use of natural resources to sustain long-term benefits, undertaken with a sense of prudence and responsibility, for our own children, for the poor, and for generations after us. Whatever the causes of climate change, or its long term effects, the discussion of climate change is a good opportunity for each of us to remember the Lord’s call to be good stewards of the earth, to “fill the earth and subdue it,” as the Lord commanded Adam, exercising good leadership as the stewards of natural resources.
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