Statement of the Korean Bishops on Climate Emergency
Climate Emergency Requires Urgent Action
Ecosystems on our Sister and Mother Earth Now Cry out to Us
(cf. Laudato Si’, n.2)
We are experiencing unprecedented levels of confusion and suffering caused by COVID-19, which emerged on various continents at the beginning of the year. The Catholic Church could not celebrate in public the rites of the Easter liturgy, the most important and solemn celebration of the year. Many agree that this pandemic was a human-made disaster caused by growth-oriented policies driven by human greed. Through reckless development humanity has infringed on the natural world and wildlife. Many species have become extinct, forests devastated, and viruses, previously unknown, have appeared from the depths of the forests. The global spread of the virus owes much to the transport and distribution networks found in the modern world.
COVID-19 has caused much suffering and death, and the economic crisis created by the shutdown of borders and logistical systems has impacted on the entire world. Experts forecast that it will bring about a major global recession. However, many scientists predict that if we continue with our economic policies, prioritizing development and growth above all else, we will face an even greater disaster: climate crisis. Climate change may lead to chaos throughout the natural world, eventually giving rise to outbreaks of other viruses. Climate change is already causing serious and catastrophic outcomes for the earth’s ecosystems.
The Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C, published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2018, alerted us to the fact that if it is not possible to limit the increase in global average temperature to below 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, temperature overshoot will cause irreversible climate-related disasters. However, the earth has already warmed about 1°C, and at this rate the critical threshold of 1.5°C is expected to be reached in 2030. The cost will be enormous. The United Nations (UN) report warns of the impacts of a 1.5°C temperature increase will cause great suffering to millions of people: water scarcity, heatwaves, loss of crop fields, and food crises. Initially, the weakest and the most vulnerable will be hit hard, but in the end the whole of humanity may be doomed.
Understanding ourselves as the lords and masters of the world, we human beings recklessly continue to abuse, exploit, and plunder creation. As a result, the earth, our common home, is suffering from pollution, diseases and climate crisis, and it cries out to us for help (cf. Laudato Si’, n.2). The earth is neither our possession nor something made by our own hands. We are called to be stewards of all creation by wisely managing and protecting it through peaceful coexistence. We are merely members of a family who live together in the earthly ecosystems. Thus, we should repent of our sins committed against God and nature out of greed and arrogance, and move towards ecological conversion. We need to change our lifestyles which, at present, pursue excessive development, production, consumption and produce excessive waste.
It looks as though it may be too late, but it is not hopeless. Let us begin with what we can do right now. The Catholic bishops of Korea appeal to the Korean government, all Christians and citizens of Korea to actively participate in God’s creative actions:
1. We appeal to Christians to live lives of love which help to overcome the ecological crisis we face. Let us actively participate by changing our lifestyles and practicing love through thrift and sacrifice.
2. We appeal to all citizens of good will. Please adopt an ecological lifestyle and join in efforts to use renewable energy, which can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
3. We appeal to government authorities who establish and implement policies to:
(1) declare a climate emergency. A number of nations and cities around the world have already declared climate emergencies.
(2) establish and implement plans on the basis of climate justice: to effectively mitigate greenhouse gas emissions; to reduce coal-fired power generation and expand renewable energy production; to promote an eco-friendly transformation of the agricultural and livestock industries.
(3) commit towards the establishment of an international organization to deal with our climate emergency.
If all Christians and good neighbors in this society consider protecting the dignity of life as a priority, like the just man Noah (cf. Laudato Si’, n.71), the world might be empowered to move beyond the myth of endless growth, avoid a devastating end, and embrace sustainability.
May 8, 2020
Fifth anniversary of the promulgation of the Encyclical Laudato Si’
The Korean Bishops