Pope Francis cautions against “carbon credits” as a quick and easy solution to avoid radical change and maintain excessive consumption of some countries and sectors. He is right, in that carbon offsetting and trading will not do the trick to keep us from using up the remaining global carbon budget. Universal ambition and willingness to reduce our carbon impact remain the absolute priorities in this century of survival.
The recent publication of the Pope’s encyclical Laudato Si’ has succeeded to prompt a long overdue public debate about the moral responsibility we have to our own habitat, which is welcomed. Ever since the dawn of (wo)man – argued dogmatically by followers of both religious and secular teaching – humans have in one way or another survived together upon this life bearing rock. Throughout the ages humans have endured catastrophes and tragedies of all kinds, overcoming plagues, droughts, conflicts and famines. But with global warming, we are for the first time beginning to acknowledge the enormity of the situation life on this planet faces. This scares us today, as we see the initial impacts on our changing weather systems.
The Pontiff’s criticism on the use of financial instruments and crediting systems as a means of decarbonisation has sparked disapproval by market proponents and applause from others. The singularly held idea that our capitalist pursuits can save us from climate change is neglectful of the reality. However, the notion that individualistic drive and ambition will suddenly evaporate being replaced by economic pluralism, is also far-fetched. To survive, common acceptance for one another must be our central goal regardless of political, religious, racial, ethnic, spiritual, sexual, or gender backgrounds. This concerns us all and we must be prepared to fight the toughest of battles.
If we are to continue this story of life, the task of conserving our habitat is at a critical point. In the end this is not a question of planetary survival, but a human one. As financial markets in the past have experienced spikes and dips, our planet too has witnessed extremes changes in its atmospheric conditioning and always bounced back. The planet will survive, but will we?
Should we ignore this reality and gamble on the profitability of our future, we could playing our last hand.