'For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God'
If we take seriously the command to love our neighbour and to steward creation, then there is no more urgent challenge than to limit the damage being caused by the Earth's changing climate. The challenge is both personal and political and it requires us all to ACT NOW!
Manna Matters articles on climate change:
- An adventure in going car-free
- What is it about air travel?
- Update on Climate Change
- A journey into the murky world of carbon offsets
- Cutting through the crap: Understanding climate change politics in Australia
- No Time to Lose: Waking up to climate change
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What does the science say?
In 2007 the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimated that we are on track for a global warming of 3 degrees by the end of the century.
Since 2007, climate science has taken a radical turn with the discovery of climate ‘feedback effects' which are driving climate change at a speed which is worse than anyone had predicted. In September 2007 research revealed that the floating sea-ice in the Arctic was disintegrating roughly one hundred years ahead of schedule.
What will be the impact of climate change?
In Bangladesh, millions of people are already being severely affected by increased climate volatility. A one metre sea level rise will displace around 30 million people in Bangladesh alone.
In the Cartaret Islands of PNG have been fighting rising sea levels for the last 20 years. Storm surges and high tides wash away homes, destroy vegetable gardens, and contaminate fresh water. Official evacuation of the Islands started in 2007, 10 families at a time. By 2015 the Cartaret Islands could be largely submerged and inhabitable.
A sea level rise of one metre would affect 200 million people living on coastal floodplains around the world, but some scientists now predict a five metre rise by the end of the century.
The Stern Review (UK) predicts that a 3 degree rise would probably destroy most ecosystems and take global warming beyond the control of human action.
Are you a sceptic?
Let's be honest. No one really knows what is going on with the planet. For non-scientific lay people, it is impossible to cut through the complex, heated and polarised debates on the science of climate change. There is no science that is going to offer 100% absolute certainty of what is happening. By the time such certainty can be produced, it may be too late.
But we need to see this in perspective, and we still need to make a moral choice. If we make changes in our lives towards a low carbon economy, and predictions about climate change are ultimately wrong, it is still good for us. On the other hand, if we do nothing or not enough, and predictions about climate change turn out to be right, then we face unprecedented suffering worldwide.
Even in the face of uncertainty, the moral choice for Christians is clear:
- do we avoid some inconvenience and cost to ourselves because we are waiting to be convinced, or
- do we do everything in our power to avert even the possibility of increasing human suffering and despoiling creation?
Reduce your emissions
Climate change is one issue in which nobody can say it is somebody else's problem. We are all affected and we are all responsible. And even though the problem seems big, we cannot afford to be overwhelmed.
Those of us in the developed world are far more responsible as we are the source of most green house gas emissions. Australia is still the largest per capita green house gas polluter in the world. The challenges for us are clear:
- We need to take personal responsibility for reducing our own emissions - if we are not prepared to change then we should not expect that anyone else will be prepared to change.
- We need to convince our government that we need a much more serious response to reducing our national emissions.
Here are three steps that will get you along way to reducing your household greenhouse gas emissions:
- Switch to green electricity. In Australia, reliance on coal-fired electricity generation means that 35% of our greenhouse gas emissions come from electricity generation. Switching to green electricity (eg. wind or solar) is one of the easiest and most important steps you can take to reducing your carbon emissions. See Green Electricity Watch.
- Reduce plane travel & car usage. Transport is responsible for about 14% of Australia's total green house gas emissions, and the growth in plane travel has been a big part of this. Instead, take holidays more locally, ride a bike or use public transport.
- Reduce meat consumption. Agriculture contributes over 16% of Australia's greenhouse gas emissions, and livestock (especially beef and sheep) contribute most of this.
- Read: Meet your meat
Politicians take their barometer from the electorate. Make sure you have written to or visited your local MP to let them know of your views on climate change, even if you know they disagree. Organise your church (or churches) to do the same.
For example, read this coverage of an initiative by churches in Melbourne's inner-west.