Measuring progress

Laudato Si was released in May 2015. Since that time, progress on reducing our global climate footprint and our trajectory towards an irreversible climate catastrophe has been mixed at best. 

Shortly after Laudato Si’s release, the Paris Agreement committed most of the world’s countries to real progress on climate action. In 2017, New Zealand committed to net zero (in carbon emissions) by 2050. And in 2017 and 2018, France, United Kingdom, China, Ireland, Scotland, Israel and Costa Rica all pledged to stop selling fossil-fuel based cars by 2040. Canada, United Kingdom, France, Mexico, Italy, and 25 other nations have pledged to eliminate coal usage as part of the Powering Past Coal Alliance. Several states and territories, including our own state of Washington are also members of this alliance. 

Not all progress was from governments. For example, the American car maker, Tesla, sold 145,000 all-electric cars last year, and about the same amount in the first half of 2019. Numerous car companies, both established and startups, are following Tesla’s lead. 

Map from Climate Action Tracker website

Unfortunately, at the same time, there are many indicators that progress is stalled or gone backwards, as many countries have installed leaders that are ignoring or regressing on climate change action, including Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and sadly, the United States. You can get a good sense of the progress to date, country by country at Pope Francis has some stern words for the leaders of these countries:

What would induce anyone, at this stage, to hold on to power only to be remembered for their inability to take action when it was urgent and necessary to do so?

What can you do? You can start by keeping the climate crisis and climate justice on your mind when you go to the polls, each and every year, in elections at all levels. Of course, climate change is not the only issue to consider, but in Laudato Si, Pope Francis argues that action on the climate crisis and its inherent social inequalities is of the utmost importance:

Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods. It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day. 

Working together, we can help take care of our common home.

Paul Litwin

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