While key climate talks are underway in Paris and Christian participation in the People’s Climate Marches are still on the Facebook pages, some Christians still clearly doubt global warming. I agree it is an unpalatable idea that our future is under serious threat from patterns of production and consumption which have so wonderfully lifted living standards. But what is the truth of the matter?
Leaders in all the various denominations have made public statements on the issue, from the Salvation Army to the Anglicans to Pope Francis. In a recent Declaration, a group of Anglican Bishops wrote: “We accept the evidence of science concerning the contribution of human activity to the climate crisis and the disproportionate role played by fossil-fuel based economies.”
“We shared the understanding that creation is holy, and that we are called to serve (ebed) and protect (shamar) the earth now and for future generations (Genesis 2:15). We recognised that we have been complicit in a theology of dominion (Genesis 1:26), and realised that human dominion over the earth can only be exercised in the light of Jesus’ command that the greatest is the one who serves (Luke 22.26).”
The Bishops and other Christian leaders accept the consensus among 97 per cent of climate scientists who publish in peer reviewed journals. Despite a minority of scientists who dissent from the general consensus, all the national Academies of Science around the world including the Vatican’s Academy of Sciences, the CSIRO and the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change agree climate change is real and humans are the major contributors to it. Scientists have moved on from whether climate change is happening or whether humans are responsible. The questions now are: How bad will it be? What can we do about it?
Acceptance of the science of man-made global warming is furthermore shared by conservative bodies like the International Energy Agency, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Perhaps most colourfully, the IMF chief and former conservative French finance minister, Christine Lagarde, said that without strong action “future generations will be roasted, toasted, fried and grilled”. The World Bank was similarly blunt about the economic consequences of our current path: “there is also no certainty that adaptation to a 4°C world is possible.”
Even the Australian Coal Association acknowledges that CO2 in the atmosphere causes global warming, as implied here: “It will be virtually impossible to limit global temperature increases to two degrees without carbon capture and storage technology.”
Our only true refuge is not in denying the truth, but to trust in God’s providence.
Climate change is an outcome of humanity’s not heeding Jesus’ calls to live simply and to care for one another. Aid workers are reporting back to Christian aid agencies that people in developing countries are variously experiencing more frequent and severe droughts and flooding, rising sea levels, etc. These people have few options for protecting themselves, so are possibly worse off than my grandchildren will be.
While I sincerely hope we are not precipitating the end times, I recall Revelations 11:18, “The nations were angry; and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great— and for destroying those who destroy the earth.”
We, as children of God, are called to be good stewards of this wonderful earth gifted to us by God. It is clearly difficult for people to accept that the technology which is currently linked with the burning of fossil fuels is doing great harm, but it is. With God’s grace our challenge now as Christians is to respond with courage and generosity to the many wise calls for action.
Thea Ormerod is the President of the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change.More