Why we as Christians should care about climate change

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Maya Duckworth
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A few months ago, I witnessed one of the consequences of our climate crisis first-hand. Heavy rainfall caused catastrophic floods across Tāmaki Makaurau-Auckland. According to insurers, the flooding was the “biggest climate event” in Aotearoa-New Zealand’s history. And where was I? In a shopping mall.

I received an emergency alert on my phone, and like the several thousand other shoppers at the mall, I attempted to rush home. However, my haste was short-lived as I sat in a queue for several hours trying to get out of the car parking building. The ground floor exits were blocked due to rising flood waters, while those above were gridlocked by other shoppers trying to make it home. The car parking attendants were informative and empathetic. One attendant knocked on my car window to inform me that it would be several hours before the queue cleared, and she shared their official advice: go back inside the mall and shop until the worst is over.

People often ask us why Christians should care about climate change. Our answer is that it’s an issue of justice. The climate crisis disproportionately impacts communities living in poverty. As people called to love our neighbours and look after God’s creation, our official advice cannot be to shop until the worst is over.

 

Tearfund’s partner Homes of Hope in Fiji practices and teaches climate-smart agricultural techniques. Photo: Tearfund

 

A beautiful yet broken world

We live in a wonderful creation. The world that God has created is full of life, diversity, abundance and beauty. The Bible shows that God, people and the natural world are deeply interconnected. When our relationships with each other, with God, and with the rest of creation are good, our world flourishes. But when one of these relationships is broken, everything is impacted.

Our world is facing a climate crisis. It’s leading to an increased frequency and severity of extreme weather events, like the flooding we’ve felt here in Aotearoa-New Zealand and the horrific wildfires our neighbours in Hawaii have recently faced.

The overwhelming scientific consensus is clear: we’re facing a climate emergency and it’s human-made. The pollution that comes from burning fossil fuels like oil and gas acts as a blanket around the Earth, trapping the sun’s heat and increasing temperatures. Environmentalist, theologian and Global Advocacy Director at Tearfund UK, Dr Ruth Valerio describes this as “the outworking of a global system built on greed and overconsumption—one that is fundamentally at odds with God’s original intention for the world”.

 

The overwhelming scientific consensus is clear: we’re facing a climate emergency and it’s human-made. Photo: Unsplash

 

Climate change is a justice issue

Whilst climate change affects us all, those of our global community who are living in poverty are and will continue to be disproportionately impacted. Many of Tearfund’s partners are already seeing first-hand the devastating impacts of the climate crisis on people in poverty as it affects their health, access to food and security. Unfairly, these are the same communities that contribute the least to greenhouse gas emissions. The climate crisis is therefore also a crisis of justice.

 

Our role as followers of Jesus

God’s vision remains: a world where all of creation thrives and as Christians, we’re invited to join God in working to make this a reality. Dr Ruth Valerio describes what it means to be made in the image of God. (Genesis 1:26-28),

Firstly, it speaks of the absolute equality between people. Acting justly means not only responding to the needs of our immediate communities, but also looking to our global neighbours living in countries that do not have the financial protection or healthcare that we do.

Secondly, being made in the image of God defines our relationship with the whole creation. We are God’s representatives, created to serve and look after the rest of what he has made.

As Christians, we have a crucial role in calling for and working towards a world that allows everyone to flourish. To turn this into reality and prevent further harm to our global neighbours, we must urgently tackle the climate crisis together.

 

Selina and her husband are part of Yugashakti’s dairy project in Sri Lanka, which has climate-smart agriculture integrated in their approach to dairying. Photo: Tearfund

 

How is Tearfund tackling the climate crisis?

Tearfund is committed to responding to God’s call to love our neighbours and look after creation. We’re working to address the climate crisis through our programmatic work and advocacy.

As part of our Farming & Enterprise work, we partner with local organisations to support communities adapt to intensifying weather patterns. One of the ways we do this is through climate-smart agricultural projects. This approach helps smallholder farmers become more resilient to the impacts of climate change, improve incomes, and contribute to increased food security for their families and communities.

We respond to natural disasters. As climate change affects weather patterns, natural disasters are striking with increasing frequency and intensity. When a disaster strikes, we respond through the Integral Alliance: a global network of Christian organisations that collaborate and share resources to effectively and quickly help those in need to recover.

We also engage in advocacy, calling on those in power to make decisions that protect our neighbours and the Earth we rely on. We’ve done this through our Ethical Fashion Report, encouraging fashion companies to improve their sustainability efforts and commit to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. Moving forward, we’re also focusing on national and international climate-related legislation. Our Rubbish Campaign and focus on the UN Global Plastics Treaty is the latest expression of this work.

 

We focus our advocacy on changing the things that make the most difference to our climate crisis and neighbours facing its impacts. Photo: Unsplash

 

You can join us

Prayer is powerful, and we believe it will play an instrumental role in tackling the climate crisis. We’ve written this prayer below and encourage you to pray it with us.

Dear God,

Thank you for the beautiful world you have created. We are grateful to call it home.

We’re sorry that our actions as a global community have caused a climate crisis. We’re particularly sorry for the ways we may have personally contributed to creation’s devastation, both knowingly and unknowingly.

But we know that in you and through you, there is hope for all creation.

We pray for those who are facing the impacts of our climate crisis. We pray for protection and comfort, and that their voices would be heard.

We pray that members of governments, heads of corporations, and all in powerful positions, will be moved to act with wisdom, compassion and ambition in tackling this crisis.

We pray for ourselves. May we be continually reminded and encouraged to live our lives the way Jesus’ demonstrated: with love and a willingness to take action to protect one another and wider creation.

Amen

 

Let’s stand together in prayer and action to see a breakthrough in the climate crisis.

Take action with the Rubbish Campaign

 

 

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