By Jacob Mercer
The issue of global warming is huge. It is perhaps the greatest single threat to our – and many other – species that the world has seen since the last great extinction, the cretaceous Paleogene extinction, 65 million years ago. If you are anything like me, then you probably look at climate change and feel overwhelmed. Overwhelmed because it threatens to displace more than 140 million climate refugees1. Overwhelmed because our infrastructures and economies are built off a system which will catastrophically damage the earth and our place on it. Overwhelmed because those who have the greatest power to change the course of global warming are doing, in almost all cases, absolutely nothing to do so. Overwhelmed because it seems as though one’s individual power to make a difference is so small.
It seems to me that for many years, there has been a sort of complacency and trust in new as-yet undiscovered technologies to get us out of this mess. A 2015 article by Dr. Ernest Moniz, the then energy secretary to President Obama claims:
“Solving climate change is about the human spirit and our ability to tackle shared challenges together. It’s about ensuring energy security, expanding access to reliable and affordable energy, and spurring economic growth that creates jobs and protects the planet. For all of that, we need innovation. We need more of it, and we need it faster.”2
The solution, he seems to advocate, is all in just doing more. Yet the UK FIRES Absolute zero report from the EPSRC and the University of Cambridge says that:
“Meanwhile, our cars are getting heavier, we’re flying more each year and we heat our homes to higher temperatures. We all know that this makes no sense, but it’s difficult to start discussing how we really want to address climate change while we keep hoping that new technologies will take the problem away…Breakthrough technologies will be important in the future but we cannot depend on them to reach our zero emissions target in 2050.”3
To assume that the solution to climate change lies solely in future innovations neglects the fact that climate change is a product of a system which is fully controlled by the same species is trying to stop it. In other words, we already have the resources to make a huge impact on stopping global warming we are simply choosing not to, because it doesn’t fit with our comfortable lifestyles. A solution to climate warming must involve us making sacrifices that we may not want to. Hence my title, the solution in sacrifice.
I’m not suggesting I have a complete solution to the problem; far from it. But is there not hypocrisy in a lifestyle which advocates climate change yet frequently holidays abroad, drives when you could walk, knowingly keeps a higher-footprint diet, buys fruit shipped in from across the world because it’s out of season at home, and buys new when second hand would do just as well? I am not suggesting it is an easy to swallow message, and by my own definition I am myself a hypocrite.
Now let us reflect on what the scriptures teach us about the nature of sin, and see how this informs how we as Christians are called to respond to the issue of climate change.
By the selfishness of mankind, we live in a broken and hurting world. We want to do whatever we desire, but there is an unavoidable unignorable moral cost to all of our choices (and unfortunately the wages of sin is death4). Yet we know and trust in a good forgiving God, Christ Jesus, and so we do not despair that
by works of the law no human being will be justified in His sight5, or that our sin is so huge and the world is so broken. For in him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace6. Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law7.
By the selfishness of mankind, we live in a burning and suffocating world. We want to do whatever we desire, but there is an unavoidable carbon impact of all of our choices. Yet we know and trust in a good forgiving God, Christ Jesus, and so we do not despair that on our own we can’t fix climate change, or that global warming is a huge problem and the world is so broken, for through Him we receive the forgiveness of sin. Do we then resign to doing nothing to help the climate? By no means! On the contrary, we do everything we can to honour God with our carbon-conscious lifestyle choices.
I believe that as Christians, we have a unique perspective and hope with which to battle a warming earth. In the same way that we recognise the seriousness of sin – in which sacrifice must be made to atone for sin – we ought to recognize that we cannot protect our earth without letting go of some comforts. So too should we see that Jesus’ death and resurrection, in the same way that it liberates us to fight against our adversaries; sin, flesh and the devil, it frees us to fight for climate justice and inspires us to care for creation.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship8.
The issue we face with global warming can seem so overwhelming. So too can the weight of sin seem to overwhelm us. But Christ’s answer is one of resounding hope.
And so we, being delivered out of the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life9.
And so my conclusion is this: not only does the solution to our burning earth require our sacrifice and call us to take up our cross, but it is a God-given mandate in living justly to do so.
- Romans 6:23, English Standard Version
- Romans 3:20, English Standard Version
- Ephesians 1:7, English Standard Version
- Romans 3:31, English Standard Version
- Romans 12:1, New International Version
- Luke 1:74-75, King James Version
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Jacob is a 3rd year studying Mathematics at Worcester College.