World’s top 3 Christian leaders call for ‘meaningful sacrifices’ to combat climate change

Pope Francis (C) prays together with Canterbury Archbishop Justin Welby (R) and Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I (L) at the St Francis basilica in Assisi on September 20, 2016. 
Pope Francis denounced those who wage war in the name of God, as he met faith leaders and victims of war to discuss growing religious fanaticism and escalating violence around the world. The annual World Day of Prayer event, established by John Paul II 30 years ago and held in the medieval town in central Italy, aims to combat the persecution of peoples for their faiths and extremism dressed up as religion. / AFP / TIZIANA FABI        (Photo credit should read TIZIANA FABI/AFP via Getty Images)
From left: Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, Pope Francis and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby at the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi in 2016. (Tiziana Fabi/AFP via Getty Images)

The leaders of the three largest Christian churches issued a joint statement Tuesday calling on the world to address the growing threat of climate change.

The first-ever joint address by Pope Francis, the archbishop of Canterbury and the spiritual leader of the Orthodox Church asked fellow Christians to pray in the run-up to November’s United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, that world leaders will reach significant agreements to curb greenhouse gas emissions and slow the rate of global warming.

“We call on everyone, whatever their belief or world view, to endeavor to listen to the cry of the earth and of people who are poor, examining their behavior and pledging meaningful sacrifices for the sake of the earth which God has given us,” said Francis, Archbishop Justin Welby of the Anglican Communion and Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I.

The three religious leaders represent Christian denominations that count more than 1.6 billion members worldwide. In 2015, Francis published “Encyclical on Climate Change and Inequality: On Care for Our Common Home,” which laid out the scientific case that man-made greenhouse gas emissions were pushing global temperatures to unsafe levels and that the poor were beginning to suffer the worst consequences.

Tuesday’s joint statement, titled “A Joint Message for the Protection of Creation,” also made clear that the climate crisis is of mankind’s own making.

“We stand before a harsh justice: biodiversity loss, environmental degradation and climate change are the inevitable consequences of our actions, since we have greedily consumed more of the earth’s resources than the planet can endure,” the message said.

With Glasgow less than two months away, concern is increasing that unless dramatic action is taken to curb emissions, the world has little chance of keeping global temperatures from rising above 1.5 degrees Celsius over preindustrial levels.

On Saturday, more than 200 medical journals released their own joint statement sounding the alarm that climate change represents the single greatest threat to global health.

“Health is already being harmed by global temperature increases and the destruction of the natural world, a state of affairs health professionals have been bringing attention to for decades,” the joint statement read. “The science is unequivocal: a global increase of 1.5° C above the pre-industrial average and the continued loss of biodiversity risk catastrophic harm to health that will be impossible to reverse. Despite the world’s necessary preoccupation with Covid-19, we cannot wait for the pandemic to pass to rapidly reduce emissions.”

After a summer of unprecedented extreme weather events — from record-setting wildfires to oppressive global heat waves, famine, drought and deadly flash floods — the urgency of forging binding agreements at Glasgow has, for some, become self-apparent.

The Vatican plans to host its own gathering of religious leaders and scientists in early October to direct more pressure on world leaders ahead of Glasgow.

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