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ARC Home > Faiths and Ecology > Christianity > Catholics on Climate Change :

Catholics on Climate Change

Link here for the US Catholic Climate Covenant website Who's Under Your Carbon Footprint?

This statement was made by the Catholic Bishops of Australia, on the invitation of the Climate Institute, Australia. It is one of 16 statements from different faith traditions. Link here for all 16.

"Rapid climate change as the result of human activity is now recognized by the global scientific community as a reality. As pastors of more than a quarter of the Australian population, we urge Catholics as an essential part of their faith commitment to respond to the reality of climate change - with sound judgements and resolute action.

"Our clear call as human beings is to renew the harmony between ourselves, our Creator and our world. We call on Catholics to lead by example. Care for the Earth must become our purpose, and vocation."
"For our part, the Catholic Bishops of Australia offer the hand of cooperation to all spiritual and secular leaders in Australia. We do so in an act of solidarity, knowing that the Earth is our common home. Religion knows the natural world has value in itself. It belongs to God and is only on loan to humans, who are called to care for it. Therefore, the world and all in it must be freed from what can be termed 'a state of suffering'.

"Humans are part of the created world, and inextricably part of a material existence. We are indebted to the scientists, environmental activists, rural people, foresters, fisher people, writers, artists photographers, educators, business people, government officials society leaders and all who have helped humanity become aware of the dangers of climate change, and create human choices for an alternative future. Such people show that humanity elevates itself when it reaches for a heightened consciousness of Life on Earth.

"Future generations should not be robbed or left with extra burdens. Those who are to come, have a claim to a just administration of the world's resources by this generation. We need to keep in mind the Precautionary Principle: where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing remedial measures.

"Each sector of the community has a role in imagining and building a future Australia with reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

"Consumers send powerful signals to the market by their greenhouse-friendly choice of goods and services. We dream of a fuller view of humanity, greater than a mere owning of more material goods.

"The three levels of government have duties of leadership to take decisions for the common good and the future of the nation. Internationally, Australia must continue to support structures that help reduce global warming. Strengthening biodiversity compliance and ratifying the Kyoto Protocol seem but minimal.

"Business must appreciate that models of development, social structure and styles of technology must integrate environmental factors if there is to be authentic development. 'Super-development', often for the purpose of economic gain, poses an additional threat to the environment.

"Profit is a limited goal and needs to be linked to socially and environmentally responsible ethical investment. Promoters of unsustainable lifestyles harm the environment now and will ultimately make Australia weaker. Infrastructure planners, the building sector, transport, manufacturing, electrical generation and related industries can all promote energy saving and seek alternative energy sources. Farmers and foresters do well when they respect nature's rhythms. Ultimately profit is secondary to ecologically sustainable living.

"The right to a safe ecological environment is a universal human right. As one of the world's biggest emitters per capita of greenhouse gases, Australians have a particular duty to recognize the fact that they are directly implicated in the causes of atmospheric pollution. This is harming the many innocent peoples of the Pacific region, whose ecological footprint is radically lighter than our own. Of immediate concern are environmental refugees coming from our Pacific neighbours. More than periodic emergency relief they need long term structural help, debt relief, equitable trade policies and technological change.

"Warfare has multiple negative environmental impacts and eats up much of the world's financial resources. Therefore, we urge the choice of dialogue and cooperation. Catholics wish to participate in a future where all sectors of the community go beyond sectarian interests, secular and religious differences.

"Our clear call as human beings is to renew the harmony between ourselves, our Creator and our world. We call on Catholics to lead by example."

"Care for the Earth must become our purpose, and vocation."

Catholicism is Australia's largest religion, with nearly 28% of Australians, or more than five million people, identifying as Catholics. Catholic Social Teaching says that 'the environment is one of those goods that cannot be adequately safeguarded and promoted by market forces.' (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 470)

Compiled by the Climate Institute(Australia) Ltd Level 2, 263 George Street
Sydney, NSW 2000 Australia
Phone: +61 (0)2 9252 5200

Additional Quotations by Bishop Chris Toohey from Catholic Earthcare Australia

On faith and the environment

“We have to be prayerful people first – otherwise this whole deal becomes sheer activism. From a faith perspective, we’ve got to marry up our prayer and our action – the two go together”.

On personal responsibility

“When [people] hear the science and a respectful treatment of their own dignity, the response is ‘I need to be careful about how I use energy myself, at my home and in my life’”.

On climate change and the developing world

“If everyone in the world lived like Australians, we’d need ten planets! How can we say to people in developing countries who have a legitimate right to a good standard of living and all the other things we say we want, how are we going to do that while preserving the planet – this is our biggest challenge.”

On safeguarding water sources

“There’s life where there’s water – water is crucial. How we use water in many respects will determine how peaceful a world we have.”

On electricity

“Everybody knows that generation of electricity is important for development. Not only in your country and mine, but in the developing countries too – they need electricity. How we go about making this stuff is the big ticket item.”

On Sound of Many Waters

“It’s an audacious plan… I don’t know anyone else who’s done this…The fact that it’s going over a year gives it momentum. It gives people a chance to make a positive stance to the natural world part of their own life… It could well be a bit of a beacon on the international scene.”

These quotations were taken from an interview given by Bishop Chris Toohey to CCN in October 2007 on the opening of Sound of Many Waters.


Link here for an article in American Catholic about the Catholic response to the environment.

Link here for the US Conference of Bishops' Climate Change, Justice and Health Initiative.

Link here for article about Pope Benedict's public stance on climate change.

Link here for Catholic prayer resources on the environment, including hymns, readings, and prayers of petition. From the US COnference of Bishops' website.

Link here to read Catholic Schools Eco Newsletters.

Link here to download ARC's leaflet focussing on Catholic Schools and the environment.

Link here for news of a multi-faith walk which took place in July 2008 across Clifton Suspension Bridge with a Jewish Rabbi, a Christian Bishop and a Muslim Imam.

*** Link here for details of a manifesto signed at an interfaith climate summit in Uppsala Sweden.

*** Link here to download the CIDSE (Cooperation for International Development and Solidarity) Catholic Bishops' call for Climate Justice at the UN Summit for Climate Change, December 2008.

*** And here for the Declaration of the German Commission for Peace and Justice at the UN Summit for Climate Change, December 2008.

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