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“Never before such a need for science” - to save our planet

12/08/2016 - Pope Francis called upon scientists to protect the world from climate change and its impacts, such as poverty and conflict. The leader of 1.3 billion Catholics addressed the bi-annual assembly of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. During this event Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, was formally introduced as a member of this most distinguished scientific body. He was already appointed by the pope in June 2015, previous to the presentation of the “green” encyclical Laudato Si in the Vatican, where Schellnhuber was speaking on behalf of the entire scientific community. Sustainability issues were at the heart of the recent assembly, which was attended by many Nobel Laureates and other eminent researchers. The Pontifical Academy has only 80 life-time members, who are chosen exclusively on the grounds of excellence and relevance, regardless of their faith or origin.
“Never before such a need for science” - to save our planet

Pope Francis in the midst of the members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, including PIK Director Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, at the Vatican meeting. Photo: Osservatore Romano (all rights reserved)

“Never before has there been such a clear need for science to be at the service of a new global ecological equilibrium,” said Pope Francis. “We are seeing a renewed partnership between the scientific and the Christian communities who are witnessing the convergence of their distinct approaches to reality (...), threatened as it is by ecological collapse and consequent increase of (...) social exclusion.” Scientists who work free from political or economic interest are called upon “to offer a leadership that provides general and specific solutions” to issues including climate change, water availability, renewable energy and food security, Pope Francis added. “It has now become essential to create, with your cooperation, a normative system that includes inviolable limits,” he said. “International politics has reacted weakly – albeit with some praiseworthy exceptions – regarding the concrete will to seek the common good.”

During the assembly of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, was formally introduced as a member of this most distinguished scientific body.https://www.pik-potsdam.de/news/in-short/201cnever-before-such-a-need-for-science201d-to-save-our-planet?set_language=enPhoto: Osservatore Romano (all rights reserved)
Photo: Osservatore Romano (all rights reserved)

Hans Joachim Schellnhuber told Pope Francis at their meeting how important the faith leader’s voice is right now. “After reaching the Paris accord one year ago, signed by more than 190 governments worldwide, this is year #1 of the Great Transformation – truly a great endeavor for humanity,” Schellhuber said. “By heating up our planet at a rate unprecedented in human civilization, we’re about to reach certain tipping points in the Earth system – the Greenland ice sheet could irreversibly melt, causing sea levels to rise by meters, for centuries. However, there also are social tipping points that might start a human movement towards sustainability which is irreversible, too.” He expressed his hope that humankind is reaching such a social tipping point in the near future.

“We face awesome environmental challenges: climate change, food production, overpopulation, the decimation of other species, epidemic disease, acidification of the oceans,” the British astrophysicist Stephen Hawking wrote in an essay after the meeting of the Pontifical Academy that he’s a member of.  “Together, they are a reminder that we are at the most dangerous moment in the development of humanity. We now have the technology to destroy the planet on which we live, but have not yet developed the ability to escape it. Perhaps in a few hundred years, we will have established human colonies amid the stars, but right now we only have one planet, and we need to work together to protect it. (…) With resources increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few, we are going to have to learn to share far more than at present. (…) We can do this; but it will require the elites, from London to Harvard, from Cambridge to Hollywood, to learn the lessons of the past year. To learn above all a measure of humility.”

 

Weblink to the Pontifical Academy:
http://www.pas.va/content/accademia/en.html

Weblink to Stephen Hawkins essay in the Guardian:
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/dec/01/stephen-hawking-dangerous-time-planet-inequality

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