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For Christians, Resolving Climate Change is Justice Issue

Christians have been urged to be a prophetic voice in their communities and embody an alternative model of lifestyle in the wake of climate warnings from the world’s leading scientists.

The United Nations International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said last week that time is running out to keep global warming to a maximum of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

The world is off track, heading toward 3 C, noted its report released on Oct. 8. Radical changes to our energy systems, transportation and how we manage land are needed; otherwise, the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people will be a reality.

Limiting global warming to 1.5 C compared to 2 C “could go hand in hand with ensuring a more sustainable and equitable society,” it continued.

Baptist minister John Weaver, chair of the John Ray Initiative, which connects environment, science and Christianity, said the latest report shows “no one can pretend any more that they don’t know about the reality of climate change and the risk it presents for people throughout the world.”

He said major changes in our lifestyles are needed, and encouraged Christians, guided by faith, to lead the way.

“Christians cannot ignore the predicted implications of climate change for the developing world nor for the biodiversity of God’s good creation. For us, this is an issue of justice,” Weaver said. “To avoid catastrophic and irreversible changes in global climate, we will need to hold the rise in average global surface temperature to 1.5 degrees centigrade; and to do this we will need to change our lifestyles.”

“All decisions we make should be guided by our Christian faith, accepting our God-given call to care for the planet, founded on our ultimate hope, which is in God’s purposes and promises,” he continued. “We will need to make changes in our sourcing and use of energy, changes to the way we manage land, changes in our shopping and eating choices, and changes to the way we move around with transportation.”

“Therefore, in our use of earth’s God-given resources and our care of God’s planet, churches should be a prophetic voice in their communities, where radical Christian discipleship embodies an alternative narrative, which offers hope – expressing an alternative model of lifestyle for all in our society. We can campaign with and support others who are working for a green, clean, sustainable energy future and a pollution-free land and ocean,” Weaver concluded.

Other Christian groups and charities have responded to the IPCC report.

Kat Kramer, Christian Aid’s Global Climate lead, who has been following IPCC negotiations throughout the week in South Korea, said it could be summed up in two key messages: one of hope, one of urgency.

“The IPCC scientists have done an amazing job synthesizing over 6,000 scientific studies into a comprehensive report on how to limit climate change to manageable levels,” she said. “Distilled down to its essence, it gives two key messages: one of hope – we can limit climate change to 1.5 C of warming and avoid the worst impacts of climate change – and one of urgency – we need to decarbonize as much as possible, as fast as possible, including halving global emissions by 2030 and reaching net zero by 2050.

“A failure to act can lead to irreversible impacts and even to tipping points that can lead to global warming spiraling out of control. The challenge is now for the world’s leaders and policymakers to keep fossil fuels in the ground, invest in renewables and in resilience measures to keep their people safe from existing climate risks,” Kramer continued. “They need to be ready to respond to this scientific report with ambitious pledges to act, backed by real plans of action.

“Individuals too can play an important role in their lifestyle choices, such as eating less meat and dairy, and consuming less energy,” she said. “We all share this one fragile planet together and so need to act in solidarity with the poorest and most vulnerable, those who will be impacted the most if we fail to act.”

Green Christian called on everyone to take action in these three ways:

  • Consider all the ways your own life impacts on the environment – use Green Christian’s leaflet, “9 Ways of Living Gently on the Earth” – and make a pledge to change your life, prayerfully accepting the natural limits God has given us. You could start by making one day each month into a Fossil Fuel Free day – thinking too about the impact of things that we buy, particularly the distances our goods have traveled before reaching our shops.
  • Join a campaign, write letters, spread the word. By joining Green Christian, or another environmental group, you can add your voice to the campaign and find out more ways to make a difference. You can also write to retailers and governments – those who have power to make a bigger difference.
  • Prayer – for conversion of those in power who are ignoring or denying this issue. And for yourself, to grow in a spirituality that recognizes that the desire to have more stuff can get in the way of what God wants for us, and is profoundly damaging the first of God’s gifts to us – our common home.

Operation Noah, an ecumenical Christian nonprofit focused on addressing climate change, stated, “The long-awaited U.N. climate change report is a call to action: If we’re going to limit warming to 1.5 C, we need to bring about ‘rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.’ There’s no time for further delay.”

Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in The Baptist Times of Great Britain, the online newspaper of the Baptist Union of Great Britain. It is used with permission.

Paul Hobson

Paul Hobson is editor of The Baptist Times of Great Britain, the online newspaper of the Baptist Union of Great Britain.