Pope’s adviser says Covid has highlighted ‘existential’ climate risk

The pope’s newly appointed scientific adviser mentioned the coronavirus pandemic has compelled world leaders to withstand the “existential risk” of the climate disaster.

Prof Ottmar Edenhofer mentioned wealthy nations now had an ethical responsibility to compensate poor nations already struggling the impacts.

Edenhofer, director of the climate analysis institute MCC in Berlin and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, was appointed to offer scientific recommendation to the Vatican company specializing in justice for refugees, the poor and the stateless.

His appointment follows Pope Francis’s 2019 declaration of a climate emergency through which he mentioned failing to behave can be a “brutal act of injustice” in direction of the poor and future generations. Edenhofer informed the Guardian he hoped his enter would assist drive motion by governments.

“Weather extremes triggered by the destabilisation of our climate are already driving migration movements worldwide,” he mentioned. “Droughts can cause simmering conflicts to flare up violently, and crop failures can drive up food prices. Unfortunately, if the planet continues to warm, migration and conflicts are likely to increase further.

“The climate issue is fundamentally also a justice issue. It is therefore both a great honour and responsibility to provide scientific advice to the Holy See on these important issues.”

Asked how climate deniers equivalent to Donald Trump and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro could possibly be persuaded to alter, Edenhofer mentioned: “I think it’s impossible to convince Donald Trump. But other leaders like Joe Biden, and also in China leaders are convinced. China is fully aware it will suffer from the impacts of climate change on water supply, which will cause huge problems.

People displaced from their homes by drought in Qardho, Somalia. Photograph: Ben Curtis/AP

“Protecting citizens is one of the main works of governments and governments cannot ignore existential risks. Because of Covid, international leaders are more aware of ‘fat tail’ risks, those of low probability but with the potential for huge damage. And in poor countries, the impact of climate change is not about a possibility in the future but is being felt today.”

Edenhofer mentioned the pope’s stark message on the disaster was vital not just for Roman Catholics, however for evangelical Christians.

“We cannot underestimate the pope is basically speaking for 1.3 billion people. I would even argue the message the pope sends to the world is also important for evangelical Christians, who have a huge problem so far in recognising climate change as an important issue. Because most of them see this as a kind of western European leftwing agenda. The pope makes very clear this is something which is not a partisan issue but it is something which is important for the whole world.

“I’m very happy that the pope and the Catholic church as a global player have taken on responsibility to care about this issue. The Catholic church represents a socially conservative people and it is important the church can speak to these people.”

The economist, who served as co-chair on the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change working group on mitigation from 2008 to 2015, has additionally labored with Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, the person behind the radical call to action on climate change.

A farmer irrigates a parched field in Sichuan, China
A farmer irrigates a parched subject in Sichuan. China faces water shortages brought on by the climate disaster. Photograph: TPG/Getty Images

His function, he mentioned, was to replace the Vatican on the scientific impacts of such modifications on human growth.

“Justice and peace for migration was always an issue of the Catholic church. But now, the care of the global commons, including biodiversity laws, climate change, land degradation, they are an integral part of human development and I see this as a very, very important step.”

Among the matters for papal dialogue, he mentioned, shall be climate refugees and compensation for poorer nations from richer nations extra chargeable for poisonous emissions.

“They [richer countries] have a moral obligation to reduce emissions and achieve carbon neutralisation and at the same time, they have to compensate people in the developing countries for climate damages. There’s no doubt about this.”

The Vatican, which Edenhofer mentioned was chargeable for persuading Poland to enroll to the Paris climate settlement, is anticipated to play an vital function on the climate summit in Glasgow later this yr.

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