At the start of 2015 the Guardian newspaper ran a series of articles, and podcasts, where it described climate change as the biggest story in the world. The title simultaneously highlighted the seriousness of the call from environmental activists and, almost, poked fun at the fact that this story – climate change – is rarely covered in the media, rarely talked about in our daily lives. It’s almost hidden.
As the editor-in-chief at the Guardian, Alan Rusbridger, explained ‘the problem with this story is…it’s so big, and it doesn’t change much from day to day.’ Which means it doesn’t get focussed on. But I think we can extend that problem out wider. The biggest problem in talking about climate change is that it can seem like too massive a problem to get our heads round, too far removed to understand or properly wrestle with. However, if the environmental activists are even half right it’s not a problem we can ignore.
The science bit
Now, I am no scientist. If you have ever met me, you will know this without a shadow of a doubt. Therefore, my conclusions on the science of climate change are taken from other peoples work. We do this sort of thing all the time, we rely on someone else to get us the relevant information we need. The key is to trust the person who is giving you the information.
If you type in climate change science into google you will get a mismatch of results. So how do you decide what to believe and what to reject? The best trick is to find out who wrote it. Lots has been made of various oil companies funding articles and work denying climate change. Equally, they could counter that and say the climate activists are funded by groups who would benefit financially with policies on renewable energy and the likes.
So who do I put my faith in?
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC for short. They are a group of over 3,000 scientists from 190 countries across the world. I think we all know how hard it is for people from all walks of life, different backgrounds, languages and cultures to come to common agreements, so I tend to trust what these guys have to say.
In their last report the IPCC said ‘Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice and rising global average sea level.’ In other words – no questions need to be asked anymore, the climate is definitely changing. They continued to say that human activity is ‘extremely likely’ – more than 95% certain – to be the primary cause.
The bit about people
So climate change is definitely happening and humans are extremely likely to be the primary cause according to the IPCC. If you disagree at this point, you can go ahead and open a new tab on your internet explorer there and go read more about climate change on your own time. Oh, and make sure you check who is writing the articles you read!
Anyway, what is the big deal? So what if the world is a bit hotter? So what if humans have caused some pollution? So what?
I’ll tell you what the big deal is…people. People like me and you. That’s the big deal. And more than that the poor. People in poverty. You see it’s the poorest nations in the world who are at the most risk here.
The map below shows the projected impact climate change will have on countries around the world. The darker the country the more problems. Failed crops, more droughts, intense storms, more floods…more poverty…more death.
You see for us living in Ireland climate change maybe some distant theory about what might happen in a few decades. But for people living in these countries it is no vague threat in the distant future, a warming world is very much a present reality.
We may not believe it because we have everything we need – a guarantee that you’ll have everything. There has not been a day in life when I was worried that I may not have enough food to survive. Not a day in my life where I have not had access to clean drinking water. But for the poor living in these countries they see it happening. They experience it. They see their crops fail. They experience the floods. This is reality. I only know this because I have had the opportunity to meet some of them, to talk to them, to hear their voices and look into their eyes when they say the rain has not come, my crops will fail, I have no food for my family.
The theology bit
However, within the worldwide church climate change has become a divisive debate.
Did God not grant humans dominion and therefore domination over nature? Is nature there simply to be utilised by us? Or does dominion mean a duty of care – a responsibility for stewardship and a mandate to live within our means?
I believe the Bible is very clear on these matters. Yes, humans were given dominion over the earth and everything in the earth. But we were meant to exercise godly domination over the earth. Not what we have witnessed in recent times, mining valuable resources by whatever method brings the greatest profit in the shortest time, leaving the earth wasted.
Recently I’ve been reading this cheery looking book by Francis Schaeffer. Apart from being the clearest example of ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’, this cook really has had an impact on what I think. Written over 40 years ago, it still speaks into today.
Francis Schaeffer declares to us that ‘Christians who believe the Bible are not simply called to say that “one day” there will be healing, but that by God’s grace, upon the basis of the work of Christ, substantial healing can be a reality here and now.’ Therefore, ‘we should treat each thing with integrity because it is the way God has made it.’
He continues ‘we are to have dominion over it [nature], but we [Christians] are not going to use it as fallen man uses it. Christians, of all people, should not be the destroyers. We should treat nature with an overwhelming respect. If we treat nature as having no intrinsic value, our own value is diminished.’
And finally, like a hammer blow he asserts that ‘there are reasons why the church seems irrelevant and helpless in our generation. We are living in and practicing a sub-Christianity.’
Phew…after reading this book I feel need to respect nature and to exercise godly dominion over the earth, not just to slow the tide of climate change, not just to stand in solidarity with those living in poverty who are most affected, but also because I believe if we don’t then we cannot fully show the beauty of the gospel to anyone. How can we be a people who reflect God’s character when we act in ways destroy creation and other people?
The action bit
But what can we do?
Yes, we can change our lifestyles. We can alter the things we buy, how we travel and what we eat. That is something we need to think about and research individually. I’m not here to guilt you into anything. Maybe you feel trepidation in making those decisions, that’s understandable. But you still want to do something?
Over the past number of years, I have started to appreciate the impact we can have on our nation simply by making our voices heard by the leaders of our country. A surprisingly easy thing to do! So maybe you want to join hundreds of people in marching through Dublin to highlight to our leaders that we want them to take action on climate change, easy all you need is the ability to move from A to B and a couple of hours’ time. Maybe you want to write a letter to your local TD, easy all you need is a pen and paper (or a computer and printer!), an address, name, envelope and stamp. It’s doesn’t need to be a detailed letter, you could just write ‘I care about the climate’ and post it. Easy. These small simple actions can make a big difference.
Maybe you have other ideas you want to share? Please do. How can we exercise godly dominion? How can we respect nature?