My family always violates the “don’t discuss religion or politics” rule whenever we get together. Today, we hit both topics with one stone when we addressed the Christian response to global climate change. Through this conversation, I discovered just how much I care about this topic and how much I’ve learned, so I decided to share my thoughts here.
First of all, THERE IS NO DEBATE IF THE CLIMATE IS CHANGING BECAUSE OF HUMAN ACTIONS. The climate is changing. We humans have done this. There is effectively no disagreement from these facts among scientists, and even more so among scientists who specialize in climate. In fact, the climate has already changed; the rate of severe and extreme weather is unprecedented, and it’s only going to get worse. We’re now getting storms every 5 or 10 years that used to happen every 100 (or so) years. The globe is experiencing more drought, flooding, hurricanes, and severe storms than we have experienced in the past; this has already started to happen and is well documented. Essentially, as human pollutants are continually released, we are prematurely ending the stable climate that we’ve been experiencing for the last 10,000 years. Scientists have actually started releasing papers that express these points with an unusually strong wording in order to better convey this point. However, the media hasn’t really picked up on this. Why not?
Because, secondly, THE DEBATE IS MANUFACTURED BY ECONOMIC INTERESTS AND THE DESIRES OF BIG OIL COMPANIES. Big oil has deep pockets, and deep pockets influence politicians, and politicians influence the national discourse. Of course people are confused when intelligent, influential people create controversy where none would otherwise exist. I don’t even think that all climate-change deniers are seeking the ill of the nation for their own amusement; rather, they are focusing on the short-term disruption that would be caused by the changes necessary to impact our collective carbon footprint. There would be no way to effectively address global climate change without causing economic disruption, and I acknowledge that this is a real, difficult issue. So does that mean it’s better to deal with climate change in order to preserve financial stability? How bad could it really get, anyway?
It could get really bad. If someone 300 years into the future came back to tell us cataclysmic stories of famine, destruction, and civilization collapse, I would be sad–but I wouldn’t necessarily be surprised. Global climate change has already lead to drought (California) and famine (Syria), among other issues. How much of a hit can the global ecosystem take before collapsing? If our coastal cities are flooded (which many people think they will be) and if our crop systems are destabilized (which has already started to happen), then will our modern infrastructures even be able to survive? The timescale of global climate change isn’t totally certain, and neither are the exact events well-predicted. But, something is going to happen, and it’s not going to be good. The longer we delay decisive action, the worse it’s going to be for us and for future generations.
But why should Christians care about this issue? We believe that Jesus is going to come back and put all things to rights; shouldn’t that be good enough? While this is true, and this is honestly how I am still able to sleep at night after I get worked up about global climate change, this does not excuse us of engaging with the world. God is always capable of miraculous intervention to accomplish His plans, and yet He chooses to use us in His grand work in the world. Humans are supremely honored to be called since creation to work alongside the Creator, using our wisdom and efforts and desire to create culture and care for the world. We have failed this task, and we should strive to put things to rights. Christians, more than anyone else, should feel motivated to care for the earth because we know that God made the world good, that He is upholding and sustaining it, that He sent his son to redeem it, and that he has a final plan of restoration for all things.
Christians are missing a powerful opportunity to witness God’s love for all of the world by resisting the call of creation care through minimizing our carbon footprint. Who do we serve: the creator of the world, or economic stability? God, or money?