International Vatican Conference on Climate Change and Development

On April 26th and 27th, 2007, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace has organised an international Conference on Climate Change and Development, in which I participated. In a “The Tablet” article by Robert Mickens entitled ‘Eco-sceptics’ mar Vatican’s foray into climate-change debate (5 May 2007), I have been quoted as follows:

Jesuit Fr Jacques Haers of the Catholic University of Louvain said he was disturbed that “IPCC scientists had been publicly rubbished at a church conference”. However, he said it did not appear that the Vatican shared the sceptics’ view. Fr Haers noted that several participants had suggested that Pope Benedict XVI issue an encyclical on safeguarding the environment.

It leaves me worried, indeed, that the work of the serious scientists who participate in compiling the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) reports (they were represented by the German Stefan Rahmstorf, who delivered an excellent paper), came under strong fire by a number of eco-sceptics who were alloted a more than reasonable number of interventions at the Conference. I was, however, very impressed by the interventions of several politicians who participated in the event – the Frenchman Laurent Stefanini, the British David Miliband (his contribution has been published in The Tablet, April 27, 2007), and the Argentinian Raúl Estrada Oyuela – and by the presentations of various bishops -Bernd Uhl from Freiburg, Christopher Toohey from Forbes NSW in Australia, and the Anglican bishop of Liverpool James Jones (the interventions of his RCC counterpart, archbishop Patrick Kelly, were also of a very high quality) – as well as the representative of the World Council of Churches – Elias C. Abramides -.

It remains a pity that a full day was lost to quarreling with the eco-sceptics and that precious time was lost in which a better and fuller unfolding of a theology of the environment could have been developed.


3 responses to “International Vatican Conference on Climate Change and Development

  1. Pingback: The Roman Catholic Church and the environmental challenges « Theology as a Process

  2. Dear Prof. Haers,

    I read from Leonardo Boff’s recent article that V CELAM seems to exclude the IPCC perspective on environment. I hope the Vatican will make initiatives to issue official statement regarding the reception of IPCC. Please see Leonardo Boff’s article regarding V CELAM and IPCC perspective.

    New Agenda for Aparecida
    By Leonardo Boff (11 May 2007)
    The agenda for the V CELAM Conference in Aparecida revolves around the following of Jesus, so that all may have life. The solemn presence of the Pope raises it to the highest form. However in recent months, there have been new developments that could not be included in the preparatory texts. These developments are modifying societies’ collective consciousness, and represent a challenge to all Humanity. They will also affect the universal and continental Church. They are of such gravity, that they should change the bishops’ agenda in Aparecida.
    Since February we have learned with 90% certainty that global warming is a consequence of human ways of production and consumption, and that it is an irreversible fact. Until now, the world strategy has been to conserve and care for the Earth with understanding, compassion and love. We were not to exceed the limit because doing so would change the entire status of the planet. But that limit has been surpassed: we are already within a global warming range of between 1’4 up to 6 degrees Celsius, which will probably stabilize at 3 degrees. The consequences of this rupture will be disastrous: there will be a major thawing and the sea will rise significantly, flooding the cities close to the oceans, where 60% of Humanity lives. Climates will be tremendously affected, great droughts will occur in certain regions, and unimaginable floods in others, destroying in both cases the harvest necessary for human and animal nourishment. Bioversity will be catastrophically affected, causing the extinction of thousands of species, breaking the always fragile equilibrium of the ecosystems. Millions of persons will run the risk of disappearing from the face of the Earth, and whole regions will become inhospitable for human habitation (great parts of Brazil among those regions.)

    These data are not imagined. They are empirical, gathered by thousands of scientists spread over the 130 countries that are part of the UN organ known as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Changes, IPCC. And two strategies are offered as urgent: to adapt to the new situation, and to lessen its harmful effects.

    This changes priorities: the question is now not so much one of sustainable development, as of the continuity of the Earth and of Humanity. The new central issue can no longer be how to evangelize the Latin American Church, and how to avoid the flight of Catholics to other Pentecostal and popular Churches, but to what degree will the Churches, with the spiritual capital they posses, help the Earth to be benevolent to all manifestations of life, and to what degree will they guarantee a common future for all Humanity.

    The bishops, as pastors, should be conscious of the new responsibility they must assume: that of awakening the conscience of the faithful and reeducating them to Humanity’s new situation. Bishops will be present from the whole Amazon area, covering parts of nine Latin-American countries. We know that these forests, together, are the principal factor in the equilibrium of the climatic system of the Earth, of the regime of the winds, and of the rains. The Church, heir to The One who said: « I have come to bring life, and abundant life », must be the leader in realizing responsible actions. She has the vocation to be the guardian of life and to safeguard all creation. Aparecida must not fail in the face of this challenge, on pain of not fulfilling her sacred mission.

    Free translation from the Spanish sent by , done at

  3. If I had a penny for each time I came to Superb post.

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