A YOUNG Australian explorer has shared her witness of melting polar ice at a Vatican conference discussing the devastating impacts of climate change.
Seventeen-year-old Jade Hameister, the youngest person ever to ski both the North and South poles and to cross the polar ice cap on Greenland, implored world leaders to give her generation “a fighting chance” in combating global warming.
During her visit to the North Pole, she said the sea ice was so thin in sections that there were areas of open water where there never had been before.
“For the first time in the history of our species, we have one common threat against which we must all act as one,” Ms Hameister said during a two-day conference Saving Our Common Home and the Future of Life on Earth, marking the third anniversary of Pope Francis’ 2015 environmental encyclical Laudato Si’: On Care for our Common Home.
“I call on the United Nations Climate Change Conference … to put aside our differences and to think and act as one species facing an extinction event of our own making.”
Holy See secretary of state Cardinal Pietro Parolin warned that humanity was facing a “possible collapse” in the Earth’s ability to sustain life, urging global leaders to mitigate the devastating impacts of climate change.
Cardinal Parolin said there was a “clear urgency” to the task and that people around the world, “as members of the common household, need to come together”.
The Dicastery for Integral Human Development hosted the July 5-6 event among about 400 global faith leaders, scientists and politicians with hopes to influence separate meetings later this year of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the UN Climate Change Conference.
The head of the dicastery Cardinal Peter Turkson opened the event by saying the planet was “on the brink of an unprecedented global catastrophe”.
He said effects of climate change, including warming temperatures and rising sea levels, “place a question mark on the very future of human existence”.
“Is our world listening? Or do we find new ways of inviting our world to listen?” Cardinal Turkson asked.
Receiving conference participants, Pope Francis said, “reducing greenhouse gases requires honesty, courage and responsibility, above all on the part of those countries which are more powerful and pollute the most”.
“The COP24 Summit, to be held in Katowice, Poland, in December, could prove a milestone on the path set out by the 2015 Paris Agreement,” the Pope said.
“We all know that much still needs to be done to implement that agreement.
“All governments should strive to honour the commitments made in Paris, in order to avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis.”
“The political environment is tougher,” Fr Augusto Zampini Davies, an Argentinian who directs development and faith issues at the dicastery, said.
“But precisely because the environment is tougher … we should work harder in collaboration with lots and lots of people.
“We need to convey all this good energy. We want to create a synergy that can bring an explosion,” Fr Davies said.
“The Church wants to help the international community to have a good discussion and a good proposal for action at COP24.”
Ms Hameister was one of five young people from different continents invited to briefly present her experience.
“My generation will inherit this great threat of global warming and the political decisions of today’s leaders,” she told the conference.
“Please give us a platform from which we can still achieve a positive outcome.
“I am confident that my generation will have the technology, the passion and the unified movement to make a meaningful difference, but it is up to current world leaders to make sure we still have a fighting chance. Please, give us that fighting chance.”
Macson Almeida, a young man from India, said he and other young Indians were looking to the future “with anxiety”, knowing their country was likely to be among those most impacted by abnormal climactic events.
“I urgently appeal to those responsible to quicken the pace to climate negotiations,” Mr Almeida said. “Every year we spend negotiating, we are losing out on time.”
Pope Francis encouraged young people and indigenous peoples, at the centre of the next two synods of the Catholic Church, to be at the forefront of the ecological challenge.
“It grieves us to see the lands of indigenous peoples expropriated and their cultures trampled on by predatory schemes and by new forms of colonialism, fuelled by the culture of waste and consumerism,” he said.
Finally, Pope Francis encouraged all to continue “to work for the radical change which present circumstances required”.
“Injustice is not invincible,” the Pontiff said.