Pope Francis warned Thursday it would be "catastrophic" if special interests get in the way of a global agreement to curb the fossil fuel emissions blamed for global warming at a climate change meeting next week in Paris. In a speech at African UN headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, Francis said the Paris negotiations mark a crucial step in developing a new energy system that "corrects the dysfunctions and distortions" of the current model of development and fights poverty. "It would be sad, and dare I say even catastrophic, were special interests to prevail over the common good and lead to manipulating information in order to protect their own plans and interests," he said. Francis has made ecological concerns a hallmark of his papacy. But Thursday he took particular aim at climate change deniers, which includes several GOP presidential candidates and lawmakers who've opposed steps President Obama has taken to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
UN headquarters wasn't the only stop Francis made in Kenya. Earlier Thursday, Nairobi police say an estimated 300,000 people attended the pope's first public Mass in Africa, far fewer than the 1.4 million Kenyan authorities had predicted, partly due to heavy rainfall. And after the Mass, Francis headed to a local Catholic school, where several thousand Kenyan priests, seminarians, and nuns were there to hear him speak. He was in an unusually feisty mood at the meeting, during which he ditched his prepared speech and spoke off the cuff, urging attendees not to waste their time watching TV, but to dedicate all their waking hours to serving others or praying. Francis often ditches prepared speeches when he meets with local clergy or young people and, as he often does, he apologized Thursday for not being able to speak English well enough and reverting to his native Spanish. "What an impolite pope!" he said at the end, thanking attendees for all their work. (Read more Pope Francis stories.)