Catholics urge action as UN report forecasts climate crisis in coming decades

Water from the melting Aletsch Glacier in the Swiss Alps runs down through a hole in 2015. (CNS / Reuters / Denis Balibouse)

The global community finds itself at a "a can't-fail moment," United Nations officials said with the release of a major report that foresees an ecosystem-altering climate crisis that will impact the lives of hundreds of millions of people unless "unprecedented" transitions across society occur.

Catholics who work on the climate change issue say the world has "a moral and ethical imperative to act," with urgency and decisiveness.

"We need to be as adamant in standing up for life in addressing climate change as we are about the vocalized issue of abortion," Charity Sr. Carol De Angelo said. "Can we broaden this as a life issue?"

The report, from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, an advisory group of scientists to the international body, projected that at current rates of greenhouse gas emissions the globe will reach 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) of warming above preindustrial levels around 2040, and as soon as a decade earlier.

Average global temperatures have already risen 1 C since preindustrial times (1850-1900), resulting in rising sea levels, declining Arctic sea ice and more extreme weather. Because warming does not occur uniformly worldwide, some regions have already experienced temperature rises above 1.5 C.

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