Pope, with Governors and Mayors, Calls for Action to Slow Climate Warming, Build Resilience

by Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development - 23 May, 2024
A cultural transformation is needed “akin to an ecological conversion”

20 May 2024 – Last week Pope Francis, along with the Vatican Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, issued a call for Planetary Culture Action for Climate Change Resilience. The three-day Vatican Summit issued a Compact calling for reducing the rate of global warming by half in the near term with a “sprint” to rapidly reduce methane and the other super climate pollutants joined with the “marathon” to zero-out CO2 through decarbonization, explaining that this combination is the fastest and most effective strategy to slow warming, keep the 1.5ºC limit in sight, and reduce the risk of triggering irreversible tipping points.

Doing everything in our power to rapidly reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and bend the warming curve by 2050 to limit temporary overshoot to below 2ºC and to limit the warming to 1.5ºC as soon as possible, is the first pillar of MAST …[The three MAST pillars are: Mitigation to reduce climate risks; Adaptation to manage unavoidable risks; and Societal Transformation to enable mitigation and adaptation] and also prioritizing nature-based solutions in the proactive removal of CO2 from the atmosphere. We must drastically reduce four short-lived climate pollutants (methane, black carbon soot, tropospheric ozone, and HFCs) to reduce the rate of warming by half in the short term (<25 years). We need massive acceleration of the global decarbonization process by transitioning away from fossil fuels during the same time.

Pope Francis joined the call for action, stating :

“The destruction of the environment is an offense against God, a sin that is not only personal but also structural, one that greatly endangers all human beings, especially the most vulnerable in our midst, and threatens to unleash a conflict between generations” (Address to COP28, Dubai, 2 December 2023). This is the question: Are we working for a culture of life or for a culture of death? You have answered that we must heed the cry of the earth, hear the plea of the poor, and be attentive to the aspirations of the young and the dreams of children! We have a grave responsibility to ensure that their future is not denied them.…

The 46 less developed countries – mostly African - represent only 1% of global CO2 emissions, whereas the nations of the G20 are responsible for 80% of those emissions. The refusal to act quickly to protect the most vulnerable who are exposed to climate change caused by human activity is a serious offence and a grave violation of human rights….

In light of this planetary crisis, I add my voice to your heartfelt appeal.

First, there is a need to adopt a universal approach and a rapid and resolute activity capable of effecting changes and political decisions.

Second, there is a need to invert the global warming curve by efforts to decrease by a half the rate of warming within the brief span of a quarter-century. Likewise, there is a need to aim for global de-carbonization and the elimination of dependence on fossil fuels.

Third, the great quantities of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere must be eliminated through an environmental management programme that will span several generations.

Prominent governors, mayors, and faith leaders from around the world signed the call for Culture Action, including California Governor Gavin Newsom, Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey, and New York Governor Kathy Hochul, Mayor Anne Hidalgo of Paris, Mayor Sadiq Khan of London, Mayor Roberto Gualtieri of Rome, and Mayor Michelle Wu of Boston, as well as governors and mayors from Brazil, Germany Italy, Kenya, Spain, and Taiwan. Climate experts signing the call for action included Hoesung Lee, 2015-2023 Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Gina McCarthy, former White House National Climate Advisor, and World Health Organization Chief Scientist Dr. Jeremy Farrar.

Two experts from IGSD signed, IGSD Chief Scientist, Dr. Gabrielle Dreyfus and IGSD Director of Climate Policy, Romina Picolotti; both also made presentations at the Summit and both are co-authors of the Planetary Culture Action for Climate Change Resilience.

The Vatican summit was spearheaded by Professor Veerabhadran Ramanathan. In 1975, Professor Ramanathan was the first scientist to discover the significant greenhouse effects of non-CO2 gases and aerosols, including short-lived climate pollutants. His discovery on the warming effects of chlorofluorocarbons ensured that the 1985 Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer included climate effects.

Over the past 15 years, Professor Ramanathan has been a frequent collaborator with IGSD on science and policy papers, including a 2011 workshop at the Vatican Pontifical Academy of Sciences on the Fate of Mountain Glaciers in the Anthropocene, a chapter in the book from that workshop published by the Vatican, and a chapter in a second book published by the Vatican, HEALTH OF PEOPLE, HEALTH OF PLANET AND OUR RESPONSIBILITY: CLIMATE CHANGE, AIR POLLUTION AND HEALTH (2020).

Our collaboration also includes two seminal papers in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA):

· Dreyfus G., Xu Y., Shindell D., Zaelke D., & Ramanathan V. (2022), Mitigating Climate Disruption in Time: a self-consistent approach for avoiding both near-term and long-term global warming, PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES, 119 (22) [PDF], which ranks higher than 99% of its contemporaries and higher than 99% of the 25.7 million research papers tracked by Altmetric.

· Molina M., Zaelke D., Sarma K. M., Andersen O. S., Ramanathan V., & Kaniaru D. (2009), Reducing abrupt climate change risk using the Montreal Protocol and other regulatory actions to complement cuts in CO2 emissions, PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES 106(49):20616–20621.[PDF], which ranks higher than 99% of its contemporaries and higher than 98% of the 25.7 million research papers tracked by Altmetric.

For further information on the Vatican Summit, see From Climate Crisis to Climate Resilience (15-17 May 2024). See also Final Statement of the Workshop on Resilience of People and Ecosystems Under Climate Stress (21 September 2022).