Sunday, 28 August 2016

Climate Alarmism?

It was heartening to see the large number of responses to the letter, “ClimateAlarmism" in Insights.

 Several of the respondents included references for people wanting to investigate further.  Another great one is the sceptical science site, started by John Cook (a Christian), which has amongst other things an excellent list of climate myths and responses, at basic, intermediate and advanced levels.

Bob Ross is right in that the church has put a lot of resources into responding to the consequences of Climate Change on humans, but this hasn’t been the church’s sole focus.  We recently surveyed the Uniting Church’s engagement in ecological issues across the country from 2000-2014.

For more than a decade, the Uniting Church has stood in solidarity with churches in the Pacific and other international partner churches, who have asked us to support their call for a stronger global response to climate change.  We have repeatedly advocated to our government to set greenhouse gas reduction targets of the order needed avoid catastrophic climate change, to put in place policies that shift us away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy, and to support the people on the frontlines of climate change.  It is true that the church has been better at advocating for government action than it has been at implementing its own policies.

UnitingWorld has been calling the church to stand in solidarity with Pacific Islanders calling for urgent climate action.  UnitingEarth was involved in the much increased church engagement in the recent People’s Climate March.   

Uniting Church members were involved in the recent Newcastle #BreakFree2016 actions.
The NSW/ACT Synod was one of the first organisations to divest from the fossil fuelindustry, followed by other Synods and Assembly.  Admittedly, the response is patchy.  For example, Synod has never adequately actioned our own resolutions on carbon emission reduction from 2008.  We plan to revisit and update these with Uniting Resources in 2017. 

There is still much to do.  Although nearly half of UCA congregations indicated that they had engaged in environmentally-themed worship in the last NCLS, and this is double the proportion of non-UCA congregations, only 25% had taken steps to reduce their energy consumption, and 15% had participated in other activities.  

Despite these low percentages, Uniting Church congregations are significantly more engaged than other denominations, and we remain optimistic that our engagement is accelerating, so that we are on track to become the faith community to which people who are passionate or anxious about our ecological future can turn as they explore the spiritual and faith dimensions of their relationship with the rest of creation.

Everyone reading this can us travel further down the track, by following up our Synod’s divestment campaign with specific congregational and personal action.  We are asking people to switch to those power providers who did not seek to undermine Australia’s renewable energy targets, and to make a noise whilst doing so.  As part of this year’s Season of Creation , please join us in action to support renewable energy.

Jason John and Miriam Pepper, Uniting Earth NSW/ACT

1 comment:

  1. Living in Queensland I only recently came across this discussion in NSW Insights about climate change. But it's never too late to offer some comment on such an important issue!

    In the midst of all the scientific, political and economic arguments about climate change, there seems to be a dominant narrative that the climate, or more broadly the environment, is "just" an object, valued primarily in terms of its usefulness to humanity. This might be characterised as "we need to take action on climate change because we want the human race to survive". One consequence of this is that if we believe that our actions are not contributing to climate change, then we don't need to take any remedial steps as they won't have any impact on the future of the human race.

    What if we regarded the environment in terms of a relationship, not in terms of an object? After all, it is another beloved part of God's creation. It's but a short step from here to regard the environment as our neighbour and to be reminded of the divine command "you shall love your neighbour as yourself" (Mark 12:31).

    Are we, then, loving the environment as our neighbour when we fill our atmosphere with carbon as a consequence of our high levels of consumption and desire to improve our standing of living? Are we not hurting our neighbour? Tim Winton recently said "This country leans in on you. It weighs down hard. Like family. To my way of thinking, it is family ... in my own lifetime the environment has started to make the kind of claims upon us that perhaps only a family can".

    So as well as pursuing the scientific, political and economic arguments surrounding climate change, we also need to reflect on how we regard the environment: the environmental crisis is also a human spiritual crisis of how we relate to the world around us.

    Maybe one way to give this effect is to incorporate the rights of nature into environmental protection legislation, as is being discussed in New Zealand. If we think human rights need to be protected through legislation, why not also the rights of nature? Following the example of the Good Samaritan, we might then be ministering to a wounded earth at a cost to ourselves.