"The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it,
the world, and those who live in it..." Psalm 24:1
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Around the world people face increasing food shortages, natural disasters and rising sea waters due to climate change. Climate change has created conflict over scarce land and resources, and contributed to the problem of climate migration. As communities of faith we can take steps to be good stewards of the earth, but significant industry and international efforts are also needed to curb carbon pollution and reduce the impact on the environment and vulnerable communities. Addressing climate concerns with our partners is a priority of Global Ministries.
In Focus: Responding to the December 2015 Paris Climate Agreement
Interfaith Power & Light has created “the Paris Pledge.” With this pledge, you can commit to reducing your carbon pollution by 50% by the year 2030 and to be carbon neutral by 2050. IPL will tally all pledges and share these results with the global community in Paris. By living as examples, we will show our world leaders that we believe change is not only possible, but happening now.
Coverage of Paris Climate Negotiations, Creation Justice Ministries
Confronting fear, working for change in Paris, UCC News, Dec. 1, 2015
UCC grant helps send college students to Paris climate conference, UCC News, Nov. 30, 2015
Boston church links Advent and climate change to proclaim peace, justice, UCC News, Nov. 25, 2015
What is Climate Change?
Carbon Footprint: How Do We Contribute to Global Warming?
As fossil fuels like coal and oil are burned for energy, carbon pollution increases. The level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has reached approximately 390 parts per million (ppm), significantly higher than the 350 ppm threshold scientists agree is needed to maintain a healthy global temperature. With the world population now at 7 billion, reducing carbon pollution is essential. Yet developed countries such as the U.S. contribute a disproportionate amount to global warming. Both China and the U.S. emit around 6 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide a year—much more than any other country. However, with one-fourth of China’s population, the U.S. per capita rate of pollution makes it incumbent that we take responsibility for our disproportionate role in global warming.
Care for the Environment
However, even if we changed our fossil-fuel based economy immediately, the compounding effects of current global warming will continue to heat the planet, so it is necessary also to find—and fund—ways to adapt to the effects of climate change. The effects of atmospheric warming do not remain within the borders of industrialized nations, but instead have the greatest impact on countries that are least responsible for climate change. Worse off are countries with high poverty levels, those who depend directly on local food production, or whose fragile ecosystems are highly susceptible to changes in sea and weather patterns.
For example, the melting of the polar ice caps affects small Pacific islands most significantly. Rising sea waters have substantially eroded coastlines, devastated mangroves and other essential habitats, salted wells and other freshwater sources, and in some cases swallowed whole villages, forcing displaced communities into crowded population centers or to leave their island homes altogether. If sea levels rise as predicted, low-lying countries such as Bangladesh will lose most of their land mass, islands in the Pacific will disappear, and coastal marshes such as the Everglades in South Florida will be under sea water. For plants and animals, global warming means that many will not adjust in time and will become extinct.
Climate Change, Poverty and Hunger
Expectations for an effective international agreement to control carbon emissions in the near future have virtually disappeared. While the need to reduce the massive levels of carbon pollution remains urgent, attention has shifted in the meantime to initiatives that would help communities adapt to the emerging consequences of climate change.
Because they are poor, those most impacted are also least able to adjust to these effects of a warming planet. Many will lose their homes or be unable to grow food for their families. Communities will have to adapt to increasing natural disasters like flooding, stronger hurricanes and changes in rainfall patterns. Climate migrants—those displaced due to climate change, will add stress to already overcrowded urban centers and exacerbate the current global food crisis.
Since climate damage cuts across all borders, an international strategy and mechanisms for international financing are needed to assist all countries in adapting to the impacts of climate change. U.S. foreign assistance should include programs aimed at helping communities suffering the consequences of climate change, and programs that invest in clean technology and in disaster risk reduction. Failing to do so will cost more in the future when environmental disasters are cataclysmic and an even greater number are in need of emergency assistance. The U.S. must provide international leadership toward climate adaptation and must do its part. It is only fair that those who have benefited most from using the earth’s resources now take responsibility for ensuring the world to come is still livable and that there is enough for all.
What can you do?
- Environmental Stewardship. Calculate your carbon footprint and make energy-saving choices like buying less and buying local at home, in your workplace, and in your congregation. Cut back on driving and flying.
- Policy Advocacy. Contact your elected officials at every level. Tell them that preserving God’s creation and doing justice to “the least of these” affected by global warming are issues of faith and that it is urgent we enact smart public policies not only to reduce carbon pollution, but also to help communities around the world adapt to a world made warmer and wetter by increasing effects of climate change.
- Education. Learn more about climate change and what we all can do, at home, at church, in your community and through government advocacy
- Support projects that protect the environment
- For more information:
Other Environmental Issues
- Mining and Resource Extraction
Advent El Niño Devotional Resource
Creation Justice Resources
Earth Ministry Worship Resources
Lenten Carbon Fast Resources
Season of Creation Worship Resources
UCC Study and Worship Resources on the Environment
UCC Worship and Renewal Resources
Web of Creation Worship Resources
For more information
Environmental Justice Issues
Environmental Racism Report: "Toxic Waste and Race at Twenty" (1987-2007)
General Synod Resolutions of the United Church of Christ concerning environmental issues
Green Justice Congregations Program
Study and Worship Resources on the Environment
UCC Centers for Environmental Justice
Ecumenical, Community Action and Policy Advocacy
Carbon Neutral Resources for Congregations
Creation Justice Ministries (formerly Eco-Justice Program of the National Council of Churches)
Earth Ministry (Washington State)
Green Congregation Program, Web of Creation
Interfaith Power and Light: A Religious Response to Global Warming
National Religious Partnership for the Environment
Season of Creation (Australian)
UCC Environmental Justice Links
United Nations Work on Climate Change
Web of Creation (Lutheran School of Theology)