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Christians should be leading fight to save planet

Climate change is a gospel issue because it stems from human evil, greed and selfishness, says Dr Mick Pope.

Christians should be leading the fight to save the planet, says Dr Mick Pope

Dr Mick Pope: “The gospel is unavoidably political and is public not private, and climate change and other ecological crises need to be dealt with using the tools of politics.”

By Chris Shearer

September 6 2015Climate change and other ecological crises are gospel issues because they stem from human evil, greed and selfishness, Dr Mick Pope, coordinator of environmental think tank Ethos: EA Centre for Christianity and Society, said last month.

“The gospel is unavoidably political and is public not private, and climate change and other ecological crises need to be dealt with using the tools of politics,” he said.

Dr Pope, who holds degrees in both meteorology and theology, made the comments during a speech a St Paul’s Cathedral on August 23 as part of the ‘Science Week at the Cathedral’. He used the opportunity to urge Christians to apply their faith to the challenges posed by climate change, saying that “Their solution is found within the central Christian doctrine of the resurrection”.

“The earth has a fever” he said, and the cause was humanity’s unfettered growth characterised by inequity. By applying the lessons of the gospel the balance between human beings and creation might one day be restored.

“Promoting the good life for the planet should be part of the mission of the church because its hope lies with ours,” he said. “While the creation suffers under human mismanagement and abuse, the church should be leading in the fight to restore it, and those who suffer as a result, back to health. We do this because we believe Jesus died, rose and will return to put the world right. To work for a good life for the planet is part of our gospel mission.”

Dr Pope called on the audience to do away with the notion that promoting “the good life for the planet” competes with that of individuals, quoting a section of Pope Francis’ recent encyclical, Laudato Si: “A true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”

He also chided those in the church who would dismiss the science. “Some Christians ignore climate science and other evidence of environmental catastrophes because they are suspicious of the claims of environmentalists as being politically or theologically suspect – and yet we have no right to do this,” he said. “Christians can, and should, recognise and not deny when humans damage the health of the planet. It is not unchristian to recognise climate change for what it is. Furthermore, common grace means that scientific truths are open to all, Christian or otherwise.”

97 per cent percent of climate science papers agree that the Earth is warming as a result of human activity, and many predict that an average temperature rise of 2°C by the end of this century is unavoidable. Dr Pope painted a grim picture of what this is likely to mean in real terms here in Australia.

“By 2070, some climate change projections have the number of days above 35°C in Melbourne doubling,” he said.

“To put this into context, 4 days above 35°C in 2009 killed nearly 400 people above the long term average.”

The country’s flora and fauna were also likely to suffer, with Dr Pope noting that a heatwave in Western Australia in 2010 killed half of the remaining population of the endangered Carnaby’s Parrot. He also said that by the end of the century more than 99 per cent of coral reefs will have disappeared. “Heat waves push our native fauna beyond their natural ability to cope.”

Despite the inevitability of some rise in average temperatures, Dr Pope said that action needed to be taken immediately to limit the catastrophic consequences. He suggested four activities that everyday Christians could do to play their part:

  • Learn to groan with creation and the poor by understanding how climate change affects the planet and the less fortunate.
  • Divest from fossil fuels by changing banks, super funds or energy providers that invest in polluters.
  • Demonstrate a desire to change the current course by participating in public actions and petitions as individuals or church communities.
  • Consider simplicity, vegetarianism and other ideas that focus on people and planet, rather than possessions or power.