Key questions for Christians on climate change

What has climate change got to do with being a Christian? Read our views on why the need for Operation Noah is so urgent and why we all have an important role to play...

Q   What has climate change got to do with being a Christian?

First, it’s about justice. The poor of the world will suffer the worst of floods, drought and loss of their homes and livelihoods. It is the richer nations who have put the world on the brink of danger, so the developed world must lead and change its ways.  As the prophet Micah says:

 “He has showed you, O man, what is good. 
 And what does the Lord require of you? 
 To act justly and to love mercy 
 and to walk humbly with your God.” (Ch 6:v 8)

Q  So it’s about protecting human life then?

Well actually, it’s even bigger than that. The UN says that up to a quarter of all animal and plant species faces extinction in the decades ahead due to global warming.

Q But humans are special aren’t we because we are “made in the image of God? So this is not so important.

It’s important for two reasons. First, from what we know of ecology, life on Earth is complex and interconnected. Eliminating whole groups of species may well have knock on effects for humans too. But creation belongs to God and not to us: “The Earth is the Lord’s and the fullness therefof,” says Psalm 24. Genesis tells us that God looks on every stage of His Creation and “sees that it is good”, that is why some people have said that the loss of life brought about by climate change is a blasphemy against God.

Q But I am Christian. Jesus says nothing about climate change.

Well he says nothing about a whole host of other things as well and that hasn’t stopped Christians from developing strong views on them! Think of nuclear weapons, contraception, stem cell research for example. And you can’t blame the New Testament evangelists for not anticipating problems that would only surface some two thousand years later.

Q  So Jesus says nothing about the environment then?

Not at all. What’s clear from the parables, especially, is that this is a teacher who is profoundly steeped in references to the natural world, a world that he has deep respect for. Think of it – the lilies of the field, vineyards, sheep and goats, mustard seeds, the pearls of great price, barren fig trees, sowers and the seed that falls on fertile and barren ground.

Q  OK. So I accept there is some religious dimension to all this, but there’s still no consensus on all this among scientists is there?

If by “consensus” you mean one hundred per cent agreement, then no. But more than fifteen hundred of the world’s premier climate scientists who work for the United Nations agree that there is more than a 90 per cent chance that the warming we have seen in the last hundred years is down to human influence. This is also backed by academies of science in China, Brazil, nearly all  European countries and, after some delays under the Bush Administration, the United States’ government. As one climate scientist put it: “If you had a poorly child and 98 out of 100 paediatricians advised you to get straight to the hospital, you wouldn’t wait for the “perfect consensus” before you acted would you?”

Q But there has always been changes in the climate hasn’t there? How do we know this is induced by humans ?

Scientists can make allowances for other variables that effect the climate: solar activity, emissions from volcanic explosions and feed those into their calculations. The fact is that greenhouse gases from human activities have been rising steeply. Since 1970, for example, they have tripled in volume.

Written by Mark Dowd and Ann Pettifor, December 2009