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The solar panels on the Paul VI auditorium's roof Credits: Caritas

The solar panels on the Paul VI auditorium’s roof
Credits: Caritas

By Christine Campeau, Caritas Internationalis 

Human actions are having ‘‘serious and potentially irreversible impacts’ on the warming of the Earth, according to a report published by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in April.

The report, ‘Fate of Mountain Glaciers in the Anthropocene’, looks at one specific area of climate impact: the melting of mountain glaciers. The co-authors detail the impact that this will have on communities living downstream from the glacier flows and to the destruction to infrastructure that could come as a result.

When this is added to the numerous other ecosystems that are changing at parallel speeds, the reality becomes frightening.

Anthropocene is term suggesting a move away from the usual shifts between ice ages to one in which the actions of humans are profoundly altering nature.

The Pontifical Academy’s research says regular ice ages and inter-glacial triggers are linked to planetary movements. These triggers normally occur every 10,000 years. However, the co-authors are highlighting that this new human-induced phase is moving at a 10-100 year cycle. This shift is occurring during a warming period when the Earth is already at a natural temperature maximum.

The report says “Our duty includes the duty to help vulnerable communities adapt to changes that cannot be mitigated.”

The working group calls for greenhouse gas emissions to be stabilised through governments committing to the necessary international targets. It also calls for a 50 percent reduction in ozone pollutants that are warming the air (such as dark soot and methane) and the protection of carbon sinks.

And it appeals for global solidarity to respond to the adaptation needs that have already become unavoidable. The report draws attention to the need for low carbon development and says that the dirty ‘business-as-usual’ model of coal, oil and gas extraction ‘will no longer be possible because of both resource depletion and environmental damage”.

The Vatican’s solar panels are one concrete example in the right direction. The plug-in hybrid Popemobile is another. Now it is our turn to “accept our duty to one another and to the stewardship of a planet blessed by the gift of life.”