Christians called to climate action with urgency

Our summer of fire should be a catalyst for change and Christians have a role to play.

By Marguerite Marshall


February 18 2020Christians understand that new life can spring from devastation. From the despair of Jesus’ death came his resurrection and a faith that changed the world.

We’re taught that no matter how horrific circumstances can be, trusting in God and showing love brings life.

This can help us be strong in the face of Australia’s horrific and unprecedented bushfires. Scientists say that these will worsen as the world’s climate heats up as part of climate change.

Nearly all the world’s climate scientists have warned us of this threat for decades, but leaders influenced by fossil fuel interests have not responded accordingly.

Now Australia’s devastating bushfires have grabbed international attention and are being widely recognised as caused by climate change.

As a foretaste of what is to come, this could drive us to despair or we could view it as an opportunity. These bushfires could be the trigger for a safe climate future.

Scientists say that extreme weather will worsen as the world heats up. Already, at a little over one degree hotter than the pre-industrial age, we are experiencing such horrific unprecedented bushfires. Yet the United Nations’ 2015 Paris climate conference agreed to keep heating preferably to no more than 1.5 degrees. And at the world’s current rate of greenhouse gas emissions growth, the global temperature is likely to exceed three degrees.

But emissions must start dropping this year, according to Mission 2020, co-founded by the Paris climate conference executive secretary, Christiana Figueres.

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says carbon emissions must fall by about 45 percentage points from 2010 levels by 2030 and to “net zero” around 2050.

So do we just ignore this as being too hard to achieve and carry on with our everyday lives: except of course for those who are affected by devastating bushfires?

Now that it’s clear that civilisation will collapse unless we change, we are seeing business groups and conservative politicians saying that we must act.

We need to change and quickly. But how? There is reason to hope this can happen.

A major cause of climate change is the use of coal and other fossil fuels. Most renewable energy is now cheaper than fossil fuels and costs are dropping quickly, according to IRENA (the International Renewable Energy Agency).

Renewable energy intermittency can be avoided by using a mix of wind, solar and hydro power, batteries and strengthened grids, according to studies by organisations such as think tank Beyond Zero Emissions.

The studies also demonstrate how renewable energy could provide more jobs than are in the fossil fuel industry.

People say that Australia is too small to make a difference. But we are one of the world’s top coal exporters and we can make a difference, for instance, by not developing new coal plants like the one that Adani wants to build in Queensland.

In emergencies, change can happen quickly such as in World War II, when the US transformed its economy from one emerging from the Great Depression into the world’s biggest in a few years.

Financial and practical rewards can bring speedy action. In the early 1980s, a McKinsey study estimated 900,000 mobile phones would be used globally at the turn of the century. Instead, before the 21st century dawned, there were 900,000 new subscribers every three days.

So these bushfires could be the turning point the world needs for speedy change.

At last communities know what is in store for the world – and worse, if we don’t act now.

We have the answers.

As Christians, we can’t ignore anything that is harming God’s creation, so let us do what we can and make it clear to our leaders that it’s in their interests to act now.

Marguerite Marshall is a Uniting Church member and a writer who was trained by Al Gore as a climate reality project leader.