Eight years have passed since I published the Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’, when I wanted to share with all of you, my brothers and sisters of our suffering planet, my heartfelt concerns about the care of our common home. Yet, with the passage of time, I have realized that our responses have not been adequate, while the world in which we live is collapsing and may be nearing the breaking point. [Laudate Deum 2]
On October 4, 2023, Pope Francis released Laudate Deum, an eagerly anticipated follow-up to his landmark encyclical Laudato Si’. Unlike the encyclical delivered in the third year of his pontificate, Laudate Deum took the form of an “apostolic exhortation,” reiterating the message of the encyclical while also updating us with a retrospective after nearly a decade since the encyclical’s publication. Coming in at less than a third of the length of Laudato Si’, it is a quick read and well-worth the time. You can find the unabridged exhortation here.
Here are some of the points in Laudate Deum that stood out to us:
Climate change is real and caused by human activity.
Pope Francis first sees fit to dispel common climate skepticism myths, though as he writes, it is increasingly hard to be a climate change skeptic in good faith. “No one can ignore the fact that in recent years we have witnessed extreme weather phenomena, frequent periods of unusual heat, drought and other cries of protest on the part of the earth”.  And it is not a matter of other natural cycles: “events of natural origin that usually cause warming, such as volcanic eruptions and others, are insufficient to explain the proportion and speed of the changes of recent decades.” 
Though this point seems to be a fairly fundamental observation, Pope Francis was impelled to make the basic argument anyway: “I feel obliged to make these clarifications, which may appear obvious, because of certain dismissive and scarcely reasonable opinions that I encounter, even within the Catholic Church. Yet we can no longer doubt that the reason for the unusual rapidity of these dangerous changes is a fact that cannot be concealed: the enormous novelties that have to do with unchecked human intervention on nature in the past two centuries.” 
Climate change damage is often irreversible and unequally distributed.
Pope Francis calls climate change “a silent disease that effects everyone.”  Lessons from Covid-19 show that disasters affecting humankind reverberate past borders and boundaries. “Everything is connected and no one is saved alone.”  But the fact remains that some will suffer more than others. Experience has shown that it is the poorest people who are least able to equip themselves to weather unusual natural disaster, and the ones most devastated in the wake of calamity. This hardly seems fair given the share in the blame for the climate crisis that the poorest have. Pope Francis reminds us, “the reality is that a low, richer percentage of the planet contaminates more than the poorest 50% of the total world population, and that per capita emissions of the richer countries are much greater than those of the poorer ones. How can we forget that Africa, home to more than half of the world’s poorest people, is responsible for a minimal portion of historic emissions?” 
Pope Francis mentions the Loss and Damage Fund as one of the few promising developments of the most recent UN climate conferences: "it was proposed to create a mechanism regarding the loss and damage caused by climate change, which recognizes as those chiefly responsible the richer countries and seeks to compensate for the loss and damage that climate change produces in the more vulnerable countries. It was not yet a matter of financing the “adaptation” of those countries, but of compensating them for damage already incurred."  The main concern Pope Francis mentions is the "many points remained imprecise, above all the concrete responsibility of the countries that have to contribute."  Faith groups are hoping to rectify these shortcomings in the upcoming climate conference in Dubai, and are distributing a faith-based sign-on letter to the participants. You can sign-on to the public letter in support of the Loss and Damage Fund here.
Technocracy is not the answer.
We in the Western nations are guilty of an over-reliance on technology and innovation to solve problems. Pope Francis writes that, while it is worth pursuing carbon capture and sequestration, “we risk remaining trapped in the mindset of pasting and papering over cracks, while beneath the surface there is a continuing deterioration.”  Furthermore, we are trapped by our narrow economic thinking no not see and judge the severity of the crisis for what it truly is. He explains, “the mentality of maximum gain at minimal cost, disguised in terms of reasonableness, progress and illusory promises, makes impossible any sincere concern for our common home and any real preoccupation about assisting the poor and the needy discarded by our society.”  Given the evidence of our high emissions relative to other poorer nations “a broad change in the irresponsible lifestyle connected with the Western model would have a significant long-term impact. As a result,… we would be making progress along the way to genuine care for one another.”  Instead of our current paradigm, “we need to rethink among other things the question of human power, its meaning and its limits.” 
World cooperation is necessary, but our responses so far have been inadequate.
Pope Francis writes on the upcoming Climate Conference in Dubai, as well as all the previous conferences, which have collectively failed to make the changes needed. He repeats in 2023 what he wrote in 2015: “the accords have been poorly implemented, due to lack of suitable mechanisms for oversight, periodic review and penalties in cases of noncompliance. The principles which they proclaimed still await an efficient and flexible means of practical implementation.”  Progress, Pope Francis writes, requires “the development of a new procedure for decision-making and legitimizing those decisions…. In this framework, there would necessarily be required spaces for conversation, consultation, arbitration, conflict resolution and supervision, and… a sort of increased ‘democratization’.” 
But while the results have been disappointing, “to say that there is nothing to hope for would be suicidal.”  Pope Francis is encouraged by progress from movements that have bypassed the usual UN protocol, specifically naming the Ottawa Process, a treaty negotiation process, as an example of how “civil society with its organizations is capable of creating effective dynamics that the United Nations cannot.” 
In a stern warning to those who have been derelict in their duty on the international stage, Pope Francis writes: “those who will have to suffer the consequences of what we are trying to hide will not forget this failure of conscience and responsibility”. 
Humanity is intimately connected with the rest of God’s creation.
With Laudato Si’ and with Laudate Deum, the common message is our need as a species to right our relationship with nature, which is our sibling, created by God. Our human activity has already affected plant and animal life: The increase in ocean temperatures and their salinity is damage not likely to be undone for hundreds of years. “This is one of the many signs that the other creatures of this world have stopped being our companions along the way and have become instead our victims.” 
But the inclusion of humanity in nature also “excludes the idea that the human being is extraneous, a foreign element capable only of harming the environment. Human beings must be recognized as a part of nature”  and worthy of dignified lives. “God has united us to all his creatures. Nonetheless, the technocratic paradigm can isolate us from the world that surrounds us and deceive us by making us forget that the entire world is a ‘contact zone’.” 
Our defects begin on a cultural level, and Pope Francis lauds the personal responsibility that individuals take on to protect their world, even if they are small fixes in the face of society-wide problems. In one of the final exhortation, Pope Francis writes, “I ask everyone to accompany this pilgrimage of reconciliation with the world that is our home and to help make it more beautiful, because that commitment has to do with our personal dignity and highest values.”