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COP23: With Trump absent at UN climate talks, Pope Francis blames 'short-sighted' humans for global warming

The pontiff has become an authoritative voice on climate change, all the more so as the US leadership has abdicated responsibility

Jeff Farrell
Sunday 12 November 2017 11:07 GMT
Pope Francis shares the concerns of the president of Nauru, Baron Waqa, over rising sea levels that are affecting the tiny Pacific island
Pope Francis shares the concerns of the president of Nauru, Baron Waqa, over rising sea levels that are affecting the tiny Pacific island (AP)

Pope Francis has denounced "short-sighted human activity" for causing global warming and rising sea levels, and urged world leaders at climate talks in Germany to act in tackling heat-trapping emissions.

The pontiff spoke out as he met a delegation of Pacific leaders in the Vatican and told them he shares their concerns about rising sea levels and increasingly intense weather systems that are threatening their small islands.

He decried in particular the state of oceans, where overfishing and pollution by plastics and micro-plastics are killing fish stocks and sea life that are critical to Pacific island livelihoods.

While several causes are to blame, "sadly, many of them are due to short-sighted human activity connected with certain ways of exploiting natural and human resources, the impact of which ultimately reaches the ocean bed itself," the pontiff warned.

History's first Latin American pope has often spoken out against global warming and the impact it has in particular on poor and indigenous peoples. Praise Be, his landmark 2015 encyclical (a type of letter concerning Catholic doctrine), denounced how wealthy countries exploit the poor, risking turning God's creation into an "immense pile of filth”.

The Pacific leaders praised the encyclical for drawing attention to those most vulnerable to climate change, including residents of small Pacific islands for whom rising sea levels pose an existential threat.

The president of Nauru, Baron Waqa, told Pope Francis that Pacific island leaders would urge negotiators at Bonn to uphold the Paris climate accord, where governments made commitments to keep global temperature rise this century below 2C above pre-industrial levels, and pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5C.

Mr Waqa warned that the 1.5C-rise was a crucial threshold: "There only remains a few years before we exceed carbon dioxide levels that will make temperature rise to levels that will see many parts of the Pacific disappear," he said.

Pope Francis told the Pacific leaders that he hoped the Bonn talks would take their plight into consideration, and look for a shared strategy to confront the "grave problems" facing the environment and oceans.

World leaders are meeting in Bonn in the first major conference on climate change since US president Donald Trump announced the US withdrawal from the Paris climate accord.

Additional reporting by agencies

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