How Pope Francis became a 'powerful new ally' in the war on climate change

Scientists are turning to the Pope in an attempt to find a solution to some of the world's most serious problems.

The Vatican has already this year made some of its strongest environmental statements to date, calling for everyone to take personal responsibility for their relationship with nature to ensure the future habitability and sustainability of the planet.

Marcia McNutt, editor-in-chief of Science magazine, reports that Pope Francis has become a "powerful new ally" of the war on environmental degradation, prompted by a joint workshop on sustainability convened by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences in May 2014.

She reports: "The problems that motivate the Vatican are no different from those that concern the scientific community: depletion of nonrenewable resources, loss of ecosystem services, and risks from changing climate. But what the Vatican contributes is the rationale for taking action: because it is our moral responsibility to bequeath a habitable planet to future generations."

In a paper which the subscription magazine has made available online for free, she says that when she received an invitation to present a paper on 'The Risks of Rising Seas to Coastal Populations' to the scholars at the academy meeting, she had high expectations that the threat of climate change could relate to broader concerns about poverty and equity.

According to one recent paper, "death or harm from coastal flooding" is the number-one risk from climate change. The critical problem is rising numbers of poor people living in areas at risk of rising sea levels.

She writes: "Pope Francis took the time to personally meet with all of the members of the workshop and even suggested some of the session themes. He struck me immediately as a very humble and kind person - and yet someone with the power to change the world."

Faith delegates included Hindus, Muslims, Protestants, Jews, atheists, and agnostics.

She says: "We need more leaders to step forward, claiming this moral high ground. Although the current trajectory we are on is dangerous, the message is also one of hope. A safer, more just, more prosperous, and sustainable world is within reach."

The new meeting of minds comes as the Prince of Wales prepares to tell a summit of world leaders on climate change that action is the "only rational choice."

In a video message to the UN climate summit in New York next week, Prince Charles says: "The battle against climate change is surely the most defining and pivotal challenge of our times.

"We cannot meet the climate change challenge unless business and government actively work together.

"Through the work of my Corporate Leaders Group, I am encouraged that more and more businesses are supporting a transformative goal of reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions well before the end of the century.

"Taking action on climate change is neither inherently bad for business nor against economic interests. It is, in fact, the only rational choice."

The Prime Minister David Cameron is among the world leaders attending the summit.

The growing consensus on climate change between politicians, scientists and faith leaders is being reached as a new report shows that the ozone layer is starting to recover after years of depletion caused by chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs.

The recovery is thought to be due to the Montreal Protocol of 1987 which restricted the use of chemicals capable of harming the ozone layer. The layer protects the earth from harmful UV rays from the sun, and further loss of the layer would almost certainly lead to a massive rise in illnesses such as skin cancer.