Floods, Fires, Storms – What Are Catholics To Make Of It All?

Fields - green and poppy once side, withered and dry cracked soil the other


2020-21 has been a period of fighting a global disease, during which we almost weekly learn of additional life threatening challenges – parts of southern Europe on fire under record 48 degrees of blistering heat whilst fierce storms rage elsewhere and flooding is commonplace.  Are we to take this as a sign of the “end times”, or mere collateral damage as a result of man’s appetite for materialism, profit and enhanced lifestyle?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is a United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change.  In their new report, which follows a study of more than 14,000 scientific papers on global warming, rapid climate change as the result of human activity is now recognised by the world’s scientific community as a certainty.

Christians can easily cite Genesis when discussing Bible verses about the environment. Yet there are so many other scripture verses that remind us that God not only created the Earth but also calls on us to protect it.   The planet belongs to God (1 Corinthians 10:26) and is only on loan to us humans who are called to care for it.  In so doing we renew the harmony between ourselves, our Creator and our world.  Isaiah and Jeremiah prophesy about the dire consequences that occur when man fails to take care of the Earth (Isaiah 24:4-6).  So where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, any slight lack of full scientific proof should not be used as a reason for postponing remedial measures.

The Catholic Bishops of England & Wales call on Catholics to lead by example.  For instance, one of the report’s starkest conclusions is that the Earth has warmed 1.09℃ since pre-industrial times and many changes such as sea-level rise and glacier melting are now virtually irreversible.  1.07℃ of the 1.09℃ warming is due to greenhouse gases associated with human activities.  Consumers can send powerful signals to the market by their greenhouse-friendly choice of goods and services.

The lead Catholic Bishop at CBCEW, in responding to the report, stressed that the time has come to act for the common good:

“The grim and disturbing findings of the report only reinforce the message of Pope Francis’ Laudato Si – we must do everything we can, and now, to protect and defend Our Common Home.  World leaders must come together with urgency for the common good and commit to making real progress, on a global level, not just pay lip service to the facts and figures of which we are all too aware.  This is a time to be acting for the common good, not self-interest or self-serving politics.”

We pray for the success of the UN Climate Conference in Glasgow in November.  Catholics have a duty, as an essential part of their faith commitment, to respond to the reality of climate change – with sound judgements and resolute action.  Care for the Earth must become our purpose and vocation.