Climate morality – not just for Catholics

Climate morality – not just for Catholics

It’s not every day that my inbox and newsfeed are filled with friends and colleagues elatedly talking about a religious leader. This week’s U.S. visit from Pope Francis has stirred excitement throughout the climate community as he declares the need for urgent action to protect “our common home” from the impacts of climate disruption.  Making history as the first Pope to address a joint session of Congress, he was welcomed to our nation’s capital with a rally for “Moral Action on Climate Justice” that drew activists from across faith, immigration, social justice and environmental organizations.

As someone who was raised Catholic and eventually found my way to a state of agnosticism, I recognize that not everyone is comfortable with messages delivered by a religious figure. What’s so powerful about Pope Francis’ position on climate action is not only his global reach among Catholics, but his message is one that resonates across faiths and with a secular audience. Individuals who most likely never before uttered the term “encyclical” are listening closely to what Pope Francis has to say about climate justice.

Faith-based groups have long been active in the climate movement, from greening congregations to mobilizing large-scale involvement in marches and political advocacy efforts. This inclusive interfaith approach to climate outreach has laid the groundwork for messaging that extends beyond religious tenets to the idea of moral obligation. Pope Francis also uses this language of morality as he calls for individuals to honor their “moral duty” to protect those most vulnerable to the disproportionate burdens of climate change.

Morality is not a religious concept, but rather a system of values and ethics that guide our actions and help us determine right from wrong. Whether you’re communicating with a faith-based or secular audience, a moral imperative frame speaks to universal ethics, such as respect for human life and helping those less fortunate. By employing a moral lens on the issue of climate change is to assert that one cannot look upon the problems of extreme weather and drought and sea-level rise, which most threaten those who are least responsible, and do nothing. In other words, all of us, no matter our religious affiliation or belief system, have a moral imperative to take action on climate change.


For more ideas on communicating about climate change from a moral perspectiveSee our tip sheet on how to communicate about climate action as a moral imperative, listen to a recording of our roundtable discussion on making a moral call to action, and peruse our Moral Messaging on Climate resource collection.


Image via @GreenpeaceUSA