Pope Francis on climate change: "It is man who continuously slaps down nature"

The Pope is going to bat for climate action

Published January 15, 2015 2:54PM (EST)

         (AP/Lee Jin-man)
(AP/Lee Jin-man)

Climate change is definitely happening, and human activity is mostly to blame, Pope Francis said Thursday, endorsing the consensus of the overwhelming majority of scientists.

“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 down nature,” the Pope told reporters.

“We have, in a sense, lorded it over nature, over Sister Earth, over Mother Earth,” he continued. “I think man has gone too far. Thank God that today there are voices that are speaking out about this.”

The statement doesn't come as a complete surprise: Pope Francis has made clear his concern for the environment and willingness to endorse science. Last May, he made what was widely interpreted as a biblical case for addressing climate change, warning that "if we destroy Creation, Creation will destroy us." But these new comments are the first to definitively established that the Pope endorses the 97 percent scientific consensus that human activity is main driver of climate change.

They also come as he prepares to release his encyclical on climate change, which is due out in June and which will attempt to make a moral case for climate action -- one that, presumably, will focus on the disproportionate toll that sea level rise and extreme weather will take on the world's poorest people.

If persuasive, it could have a significant impact: only 27 percent of white evangelical protestants believe in man-made climate change, and nearly a third of our climate-denying Congress is Catholic. "A papal encyclical may shock millions of evangelicals into reality," Richard Cizik, president of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good in Fredericksburg, Virginia, told New Scientist. "It could be a real game-changer, because many evangelicals are still consumed by right-wing political ideology and apocalyptic theology."

The Pope, in Thursday's comments, made it clear that he expects more from world leaders after what he called a "disappointing" conference in Lima.  "I think there was a lack of courage," he said. "They stopped at a certain point. Let’s hope the delegates in Paris will be more courageous and move forward with this."

By Lindsay Abrams

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