Climate Change is not just a scientific or political issue, but a moral and spiritual issue of love and justice touching core issues of faith and Christian life. But here we will first look at the basic facts of climate change (also referred to as Global Warming, Anthropogenic Global Warming, Climate Disruption and more, see NOTE below). In brief, It’s Really Happening, Really Human Caused, Really Serious and We Can Still Really Do Something About It!
Climate Change: It’s Really Happening
Gases in the air allow energy from the sun to reach and warm the surface of the earth. Some of those gases block the heat energy of a warming surface from leaving the planet. These greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide (CO2) – a product of burning things – and methane – a fossil fuel and major byproduct of animal agriculture.
Lab tests, observing the planet, records from the past and many other types of evidence confirm that greenhouse gases allow light energy to pass through them to warm up a surface. They also confirm that those gases block heat energy from leaving. The heat energy that can’t leave builds up to increase temperatures.
The following represents a transcript of my remarks to the interfaith event “Light the Way: Faiths for Climate Justice” held in Madison, WI September 24, 2015. The organizers and presenters sought to amplify Pope Francis’ exhortation to care for creation and to act against climate change. He articulated that message in his recent encyclical Laudato Si’ and reiterated it during his visit to the United States that same week. To condense and echo some of the Pope’s sentiments, God’s gift of creation needs an unprecedented level of shared concern and cooperative action if we are to preserve it for all of us.
Climate Caretakers officially launches today, August 11, 2015 under the auspices of several Christian organizations, including Care of Creation. It channels growing concern among Evangelicals and other Christians about climate change. Those of us on the Climate Caretakers Steering Commitee have felt compelled by an Esther-like sense that we have been called together “for such a time as this” to call others together …perhaps including you… for such a time as this.Continue reading →
During the Q&A session I asked speakers at a March 19, 2015 Weston Sustainability Round Table about insurance and climate change. Did insurance companies have the clout, perspective and willingness to advocate strategies that reduce the magnitude of climate change? Would such businesses support a carbon tax? For the record, “murky” seemed to characterize the situation as they described it. Their answer parallels comments made by an Insurance industry expert who spoke on a Citizen’s Climate Lobby monthly conference call in 2014. According to both presentations, insurance companies, and reinsurance companies in particular, recognize the reality of climate change and its human causes. Unfortunately they have not, and likely will not, advocate for mitigation strategies (policies and techniques that dramatically reduce carbon pollution) to reduce the size of climate change. Instead they will continue to modify their business models so they continue to make money.
That seems to mean they will assess and adapt to changing risks with tactics like higher premiums, higher deductibles, more exclusions and more property owner precautions. More likely than not, they will at best advocate for adaptation strategies (e.g. better sewers and other flood control infrastructure). Practically speaking, mitigation strategies such as Revenue Neutral Carbon Fee and Dividend, while good for humanity overall in the long run, won’t likely save the companies any insurance claims payouts in the next 10-30 years . Steps today to reduce green house gas emissions and carbon pollution won’t eliminate the impacts of climate & weather changes already happening due to current levels in the atmosphere. Lobbying for mitigation, for cures to climate change, instead plunges them into a political firefight without improving next quarter’s, next year’s or even next decade’s profits. Lobbying for adaptation, on the other hand, avoids politically contentious questions of human cause and responsibility while keeping them profitable for the time being. It reduces the amount of damage and associated insured costs from the inevitable climate change induced extreme weather events.