Faith in a Changing Climate
Net Zero by 2050
The climate is changing, and it’s changing fast. And it’s longer something that we just read about — it’s affecting all of us personally. In the United States alone in the year 2050 we have experienced massive wild fires in California, Oregon and Washington State; we had so many storms in the Gulf of Mexico that we had to start a new list of names using the Greek alphabet; temperatures everywhere break records, year after year. Climate change is not something that will happen in the future — it’s happening now. It’s serious, and time is not on our side.
That’s the bad news.
What also is changing is society’s response. Many nations and large companies, including most of the U.S. based oil companies, have committed to goals on the lines of ‘Net Zero by 2050’, i.e., they have stated that they will reorganize all of their activities such that they are not adding carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases to the atmosphere just 29 years from now.
That’s the good news.
Is a goal of ‘Net Zero by 2050’ realistic? Well, that is a question that we explore at another site: Technology for a Changing Climate. (That site examines many “green” technologies and evaluates the degree to which they realistically can help us avert climate change dilemmas.)
No matter the nature of our response, leadership is required. The current COVID-19 pandemic has shown that leadership has been lagging, in all too many cases. Maybe this is where the church, where people of faith, can step in.
The purpose of this site is to identify what form that leadership might take. The church is in a position to provide leadership because its beliefs are not based on 'faith in progress'. It does not buy into the assumptions of modern life, particularly the need to exploit the Earth’s environment in order to maintain constant economic growth. Church leadership is of a different kind.
Predicaments, not Problems
Broadly speaking, there are four ways in which we can address the challenges of climate change. All are important, all play a vital role, and most people will work in different areas at different times, depending on their interests and talents.
The first response is to reduce the rate at which we add greenhouse gases to the atmosphere by working ‘top down’. This approach calls for working with governments (international, national and local), business corporations and large non-profits in order to change the system. Examples of actions in this area include carbon taxes and subsidies for the development of new technologies.
The second approach also calls for us to reduce emissions, but this time through personal actions. Examples include driving a smaller car, eating less meat and not using airplanes.
The third approach is to develop new technologies that can provide us with the energy that we need without adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Some of these technologies — solar panels, for example — are already proven and commercialized. Other technologies, such as nuclear fusion and the use of ammonia as a fuel, are still at the concept stage. The site Technology in a Changing Climate examines the feasibility of many of these technological ideas.
The fourth and final response is to accept that, even if we take aggressive action to slow down climate change, whatever we do is going to be “too little, too late”. We need to accept that climate change is not a problem, it is a predicament. Problems have solutions, predicaments do not. When faced with a predicament we can respond and adapt, but we cannot make it go away. At this level we see that we need a radically different type of leadership. This is the opportunity for the church.
During discussions to do with climate change and resource depletion, a friend at church asked, “Where is God in all this?” It’s a tough question to answer, it requires applying the universal principles of faith to current challenges and predicaments. In other words, we need a theology that is appropriate for our times. In the Theology section we look at examples of how the church has adjusted its priorities and its way of thinking on previous occasions.
For example, Augustine of Hippo, who lived in the final years of the western Roman Empire recognized that all human institutions eventually fail. He stated that the only entity that was permanent was the ‘City of God’. This insight provided a theological basis for thought for the next 900 years. Theology was the ‘Queen of Sciences’.
We now need a theology that grasps the reality our current way of living is unsustainable. We are fouling the environment, depleting natural resources and destroying much of God’s creation — the biosphere.
The following three points are put forward as suggestions for theologians, clergy and seminarians.
It is suggested that our response needs to be built around the following points:
Understand and tell the truth.
Accept and adapt.
Live within the biosphere.
Organization of this Site
The menu bar at the top of each page shows that the site is organized into the following sections.
This where we are now. This page explains the purpose and goals of the site.
Every week, as time and bandwidth permit, we publish a blog post to do with issues described and discussed at this site.
At this page we provide a wide range of articles and other material to do with the themes of this site, including a description of the term ‘Age of Limits’.
Before taking action, we need an intellectual and spiritual basis for the work that we do. In other words, we need a theology that is relevant to our times. In this section we discuss the work of theologians in the past who have addressed the issues faced by societies going through overwhelming change. We also provide three theological discussion points that may be help professional theologians as they respond to the dilemmas posed by an Age of Limits.
We are writing a book based on the material at this site. The current Table of Contents is provided. This is a work in progress, so it will frequently change.
This page provides information to do with our organization. It also expands on the above discussion to do with the goals of the materials that we publish and why these challenges are an opportunity for church leadership.
No one has all the answers to the challenges that face us. We are looking at very complex systems, each of which is difficult to understand on its own. Therefore, we would love to hear from you, and to receive your thoughts and suggestions.