The Paris Agreement was negotiated in 2015 by representatives from 195 countries as an attempt to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create international mechanisms to address climate change and the continued burning of fossil fuels. Very recently we have read that the Untied States, along with Nicaragua and Syria, will not sign the agreement.
As I hear people comment on both sides of the argument, I remembered an interview Peter Seewald did to Pope Benedict XVI and published it in the book Light of the World. On page 44, Pope Benedict states, “man’s power has grown. But what did not grow along with it was his ethical potential.” In other words, just because we are able to do something, it does not mean we should. Progress must always be followed by ethics: just because we can clone a human it does not mean we should; just because we can nuke another country it does not mean we should, just because we have access to cheap oil it does not mean we should keep burning it, etc.
In the interview, Pope Benedict discussed environmental issues asserting we need to be conscious of God’s creation as technology progresses. Many environmental catastrophes have been caused in the name of progress. The Pope suggested that simply because we can do something does not mean we are allowed to do it or entitled to it. The fact that a particular technology exists does not give us the right to use it without considering the repercussions it will have on the environment and future generations.
In the era of Pope Francis, his encyclical Laudato Si has raised great awareness regarding the need to care for our common home. We all share a responsibility in taking care of God’s creation and must be faithful stewards of the earth as we take care of it for future generations.
The Paris Agreement is a recognition by world leaders that just because we possess certain technologies, it does not mean we can keep using them at the expense of the health of our planet. Unfortunately on this issue of our planet’s health, our country will not be a leader.