Since his election as 45th President of the United States, the words and actions of Donald J. Trump regarding climate change have in many ways been antithetical to Pope Francis’s call for the human family to care for our common home. In response, thousands of Catholics and more than a dozen Catholic organizations have endorsed a petition from the Catholic Climate Covenant that calls on President Trump to take several important actions in the face of global climate change. Our common home is at a crossroads, and I urge Catholics to take faith-based action on behalf of creation and the poor by signing and sharing the Catholic Climate Covenant petition to President Trump.
CATHOLIC TEACHING ON CLIMATE CHANGE
In his 1990 World Day of Peace Message, Pope John Paul II warned that the “’greenhouse effect’ [had] reached crisis proportions as a consequence of industrial growth, massive urban concentrations and vastly increased energy needs” (6). Since then, the Catholic Church has repeatedly recognized climate change as a moral issue the consequences of which obligate Christians to respond with a commitment to care for God’s creation and protect human life and dignity – especially of the poor and vulnerable who contribute least to this problem.
In response, the Church has called for both individual and structural responses to climate change. Specifically, as Pope Francis said in his encyclical Laudato Si’, “There is an urgent need to develop policies so that, in the next few years, the emission of carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gases can be drastically reduced, for example, substituting for fossil fuels and developing sources of renewable energy” (26).
Globally, Pope Francis celebrated the 2015 Paris Agreement in which 195 nations committed to “hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.” In the United States, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has repeatedly advocated for a national carbon pollution standard like the Clean Power Plan. Additionally, the USCCB, Catholic Relief Services, and Catholic Charities USA support the United Nations’ Green Climate Fund which will help poor countries address climate change.
PRESIDENT TRUMP ON CLIMATE CHANGE
Over the past several months, the words and actions of President Trump run counter to the climate change teachings and advocacy of the Catholic Church.
In November, he pledged to “cancel billions in global warming payments to the United Nations” – a clear reference to the Green Climate Fund. In December he appointed Republican Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to become the next Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Mr. Pruitt has repeatedly questioned “the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind” and is currently suing the EPA in opposition to the Clean Power Plan. And although he has waffled between a commitment to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement and an “open mind” regarding the compact, Trump’s EPA transition head Myron Ebell – whom the Washington Post describes as an established “climate change skeptic” – said earlier this week that the President “will definitely pull out of the Paris climate change deal.”
CATHOLIC PETITION TO TRUMP
In response to Trump’s words and actions on climate change, the Catholic Climate Covenant – which includes sixteen national Partners and supports the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops – has organized a petition that urges the President to support the Church’s climate change teachings and advocacy. In particular, the petition asks three things of President Trump:
- Maintain the United States’ moral leadership on climate change by honoring the Paris Agreement (COP21) and taking swift action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions between 26 and 28 percent compared with 2005 levels by 2025;
- Support sustainable development and address the underlying causes of migration by honoring the United States’ initial pledge of $3 billion and further supporting the Green Climate Fund to help poor countries adapt to the effects of climate change;
- Support job creation and economic opportunity by encouraging states to craft plans to reach and exceed their Clean Power Plan carbon reduction goals by transitioning to renewable energy sources like wind and solar power and enacting energy efficiency and conservation standards.
Since the Covenant launched the petition, it has been signed by thousands of Catholics and endorsed by more than a dozen Catholic organizations, communities, and institutions: Global Catholic Climate Movement, Catholics Confront Global Poverty, Franciscan Action Network, Sisters of Mercy, Conference of Major Superiors of Men, Leadership Conference of Women Religious, Sisters of St. Dominic of Blauvelt, NY, Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States, Ignatian Solidarity Network, Dominican Sisters Conference, Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach, Xavier University, Siena Heights University, Rosemont College, Donnelly College, and Maryknoll Office of Global Concerns.
Especially after President Trump’s recent executive actions in support of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines, as well as the Senate’s confirmation of former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State, there is an urgent need for persons and communities of faith to take concrete advocacy steps in defense of our common home. I therefore urge Catholics especially to sign the Catholic Climate Covenant petition to President Trump and urge others via social media to do the same.
Daniel R. DiLeo is a Flatley Fellow and Ph.D. candidate in theological ethics at Boston College. He writes regularly for Millennial Journal.