Our Catholic response to climate change

October 31, 2021

Dear Friends, ‘God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.’ (Genesis 1.31) Over the past few years, we have all been made aware of extreme weather events like the wildfires in California, Australia and even Siberia. In our own country we see increasing incidents of flooding and coastal erosion, and there has been very destructive flooding in countries such as Germany, China and India. Other events of concern have been the recent earthquake in Haiti and many parts of the world are suffering the effects of drought. Food shortages due to crop failures, like wheat in Canada, threaten all of us.

The recent report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change makes it clear that we cannot deny the link of all these events to global warming and that the warming is due to human action.  Records of temperature kept from 1880-2020 show that the seven highest yearly temperatures have all occurred since 2014.  The concentration of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, as of July 2021, is the highest it has been in human history.

So what is happening to that beautiful world, celebrated so powerfully in the opening chapters of the Book of Genesis?  In his powerful encyclical, Laudato Si, Pope Francis suggests that ‘we have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth.’  He suggests that ‘we have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will.’  There can be no doubt that in our modern world many have come to see ourselves as entitled to ever increasing consumption and satisfaction. Yet not only are we destroying God’s world by such actions, but others are paying the price. The global south is already experiencing the most intense impacts of climate change despite being the least responsible for it. Eleven percent of the world’s population is currently vulnerable to climate change impacts such as droughts, floods, heat waves, extreme weather events and sea-level rise.

There can be no doubt that as Christians we are called to act, to moderate our behaviour and to extend compassion to those in other parts of the world suffering because of our actions.  On the final day of this month world leaders will gather in Glasgow for the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference which will continue until 12 November.  Among the key issues to be discussed at the conference will be worldwide deforestation, mounting carbon emissions, an immediate halt to all new fossil fuel projects and overall elimination of dependence on fossil fuels. Rich nations must give extra financial support to poorer countries to enable them to achieve these goals. For in the words of Pope Francis, in Fratelli Tutti, ‘We need to think of ourselves more and more as a single family dwelling in a common home’.

There is no doubt that if governments, and particularly the governments of the wealthiest nations, could be persuaded to act, real progress could be made.

For this to happen we need to put pressure on our own UK government, which has the role of chairing the conference. There are several ways to do this. These might include writing to your MPs and local politicians to make your views known or taking part in the Global Day of Action on Climate Change next Saturday.

However, we all have a personal responsibility in these matters not just governments and the truth is that each and every one of us has some responsibility for the desecration of our beautiful earth and each and every one of us can do something about it.

There are a whole range of actions which you might consider, for example:


  • Using public transport, walking or cycling rather than car use
  • Cutting down on the amount of meat you eat
  • Avoiding single use plastic as much as you can
  • Buying locally produced food if possible
  • Recycling waste.


I would urge parishes and schools to work towards the Cafod Live Simply Award, which asks us to Live Simply, Sustainably and in Solidarity with the Poor and includes a number of these kinds of actions at both the individual and the parish or school level.


Let us remember our responsibility:

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” (Genesis 1:26)

May God bless you and your families.

Most Rev Malcolm McMahon OP

Archbishop of Liverpool