As I write the future of American involvement in the Paris Agreement on climate change hangs in the balance. If Trump pulls the US out it will join Nicaragua and Syria as the only countries in the world that have failed to sign and ratify the accord.
Trump himself has been unambiguously opposed to the agreement from the outset, famously tweeting in 2012 that “the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive.” Scott Pruitt, Trump’s recent appointment as the head of America’s Environment Protection Agency (EPA) considers the Paris Agreement to be “a bad business for this country”. There remain, however, rays of hope in that many of America’s largest Corporates want to stay in, the US economy has created more jobs through renewables in the last decade than had ever been lost from coal mining, and the leaders of other nations and even NATO, which sees the impacts of global warming as a significant threat to world peace and stability, are urging the US to honour its commitments.
But what is the malaise that makes the issue so difficult to take as seriously as we ought? Fox News, which has been referred to as “Trump TV” for its outspoken support for the President, published a news item in 2010 entitled “It’s the end of the world: 8 potential Armageddon’s”. The article listed the eight most likely events that scientists considered might bring about the end of the world:
- Gamma ray bursts from supernova that would obliterate the earth’s atmosphere
- A deadly mind virus that would cause mass psychogenic illness
- A reversal of the earth’s magnetic poles leaving the earth vulnerable to atomic particles from space
- The “big rip”, continuing expansion of the universe until matter pulls apart (described as a “dull, cold, quiet end”)
- Human experiments that go wrong, especially as we obliterate atomic particles to discover the fundamental elements of the universe
- Supervolcanoes that wipe out the planet (the article helpfully pointed out that three of the known 6 supervolcanoes on earth are located below the United States including Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming)
- Computers that take over from humans and/or computer viruses that completely disable the infrastructure that we have built around computers
- A pandemic influenza virus.
There was not a word about anthropogenic (human induced) greenhouse gases that, even by 2010, had already led to a discernible rise in global temperatures and which were affecting the ocean and atmospheric circulatory systems that constitute the earth’s climate. No reference to the impact of global warming such as the bleaching of coral reefs; the growing intensity, frequency and duration of storms; the melting of the cryosphere (the cumulative ice and snow on the planet); sea level rise; coastal erosion, loss of the biosphere; and the millions of human refugees searching for the means to feed and house themselves. The one catastrophic event that science posits is already taking place didn’t even make the list.
It should be shocking, but it is not at all unusual. It’s actually quite difficult to find any reference to the threat posed by climate change on the websites or public statements made by most of our local churches. We may not be opposed to the very idea of climate change, as Trump appears to be, but there’s little sense that we think our faith has anything much to say about it either.
So there’s the challenge – does our faith have anything to say about climate change and our response and, if it does, why aren’t we saying it?
This challenge has recently been taken up by a new local ecumenical network called the Marches Christian Environment Network. Our objective is “putting care and responsibility for the environment at the heart of Christian theology and life”. We believe that our faith is extremely well informed on the issue and that, as disciples, we ought to be as well.
Please come and join us; details from Chrissie Pepler at the diocesan office firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com