From the Archbishop

Cosmic calling with Christ a way ahead on climate

"In these times, it is important that we strengthen both our personal discipleship and our corporate participation as members of the Body of Christ."

By Philip Freier

February 6 2020The events of our summer have cast into stark relief our human fragility. Not just the vulnerability of our individual lives in the face of natural disaster, but the very fabric of our society. With roads closed and power and communication lost, whole communities were plunged into survival mode in the bushfire crisis of early January. It is no comfort to realise that the bushfire season can continue well into the year. Australia is experiencing the stretching of the extremes of our environment. Droughts are harder and longer, fires rage with greater intensity, cyclones are more unpredictable and intense. If we ever thought that we lived in a world where we could control the impact of these forces, that assumption has surely been dispelled.

The prescience of the 2008 Garnaut Climate Change review and the failure of our national government to implement action informed by science impels us all to move our debate from opinion to the facts. Internationally, Australia is gaining a bad reputation for its climate scepticism even though we are on track to meet the 2016 Paris targets. Our position at the recent COP25 meeting in Madrid disappointed many when we emphasised relying on carrying over credits from carbon emission reductions under the Kyoto protocol that would result in actual reductions between 2020 and 2030 of only 10% of the Paris target amounts. I realise that this can all sound technical and even meaningless to the ordinary circumstances of our daily life but is evidence of the “loophole” positioning that Greta Thunberg named in Madrid.

Our Christmas celebrations retell the Biblical narratives about Jesus’ birth and we should not pass over them too lightly or hear them outside of the Biblical narrative of Creation. The Word – or in Greek, the Logos – is present at Creation according to John’s Gospel and wonderfully known to us in the person of Jesus the Messiah. In that way, Jesus through his incarnation has a vocation of bringing Creation to its fulfilment and ultimately renewing all things in the new heaven and the new earth. As people gathered into the “Body of Christ”, we have a share in that cosmic vocation. It is a vocation that is relevant to the circumstances of the world at this present time. Carbon dioxide, wherever it comes from, knows no borders and influences the atmosphere and its retention of solar heat equally.

I think that we should not accept arguments that Australia’s emissions of carbon are only a small fraction of emissions and our policies are not significant in the whole. This is an argument that we would never accept if it were applied to drunk drivers or those who suffer from disease. We know in these practical circumstances that policy frameworks that apply to the tiny fraction of occurrences are vital. I suggest that we reframe our climate change debates in Australia to look at the quest from this perspective.

In uncertain times, we can easily despair and lose sight of the mercies of God in both Creation and in Redemption. In these times, it is important that we strengthen both our personal discipleship and our corporate participation as members of the Body of Christ. These are both things that we can do out of our own spiritual discipline and I suggest are vital for us at this time.

Bless you in this year of Grace 2020 and may you know our Saviour’s love in the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Grace and peace in Christ Jesus,