Francis, who has thrown the Catholic church into the fight against climate change since becoming pope, told reporters aboard the papal plane that man has ‘slapped nature in the face’ and added that courageous decisions at Paris 2015 were needed to protect the environment.

“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 nature in the face,” he said. “We have, in a sense, lorded it over nature, over Sister Earth, over Mother Earth.”

The announcement echoes the most conclusive scientific work on the subject to date, the IPCC Synthesis report, which found that climate change was almost entirely man’s fault.

Paris and beyond

The Pope also said his encyclical on the environment would be released in June or July, to help ensure that the Paris conference would generate more ambitious outcomes than COP20 in Lima, which Francis described as ‘disappointing’.

“I think there was a lack of courage. They stopped at a certain point. Let’s hope the delegates in Paris will be more courageous and move forward with this,” he said.

The final agreement in Lima was considered by environmentalists to be too weak to limit warming to the internationally agreed limit of 2C, or to protect poor countries from climate change.

Right-wing response

Whilst seemingly grounded in science, the Pope’s proclamation has drawn criticism from the Christian right, with noted American conservative Rush Limbaugh being quoted as saying: “My religious beliefs are one of many things that inform me that we couldn’t have any impact on the climate, the planet, the globe, creation, no matter what, no matter how much we wanted to. It’s beyond our reach.”

Brad Allen

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