Climate change is yet another polarizing subject in society today. There has been tremendous focus on this in the US ever since President Biden came into office. The US government is spending money like it is going out of style to reduce the global temperature, but how serious is the situation or is this just the natural progression of the climate over the 4 billion years the earth has existed?
What does the Church and the Bible say about the environment?
Catholic social teaching is centered on caring for the poor and caring for creation. All popes since John Paul II have identified climate change as a “grave” crisis and have urged Catholics to act. Pope Francis has been very strong with his statements as they relate to climate change. In 2015, Pope Francis authored an encyclical entitled “Laudito Si” (Praise Be to You) and was quoted as saying:
“Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods. It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day”
What does the Bible say about the environment? The Bible goes right into God’s love and care in Genesis:
Genesis 1:28 – “God blessed them and God said to them: Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that crawl on the earth
Genesis 2:15 – The LORD God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it
Jeremiah 12:11 – They have made it a mournful waste, desolate before me, desolate, the whole land, because no one takes it to heart.
So God made us stewards of the earth, gave us dominion over everything, and tasked us to cultivate and care for it. How well have we done that? Is it our actions that are causing a climate crisis, or is the climate just going through a natural progression of change? Do we know and will we ever know?
How do we move forward?
Great question. This subject is extremely polarizing and there doesn’t appear to be much if any middle ground. We are either headed for disaster or we aren’t. The problem is lack of trust in government authorities as some (like the US), believe the disaster is looming and we are spending billions of dollars now forcing people into technology that is years away from being ready. On the other side, countries like China, India, and Russia do not seem to have any focus on the environment and in fact, are are ramping up manufacturing building the green components for the countries that are focused on the climate.
There is a recent data point that does support the impact we are having on the environment – if you go back to 2020 during the lockdowns the level of pollution in many US cities dropped drastically. Images taken over the first three weeks of March as the lockdowns were in place showed less nitrous oxide over parts of the US. The main source of nitrous oxide is burning of fuels and emissions from motor vehicles. This was achieved in the first few weeks of the lockdowns so this does add some credibility to what some scientists have been saying. Does this qualify as an emergency? Who knows, but we do know we can have an impact.
I propose we focus more on short-term solutions to try and provide immediate results before we kill all the cows and start feeding people insects. We may get to that, but the alarmist view has a tendency to polarize people. What can we do?
- Focus more on emissions. We have ethanol in the environment today and it has shown to decrease emissions at the expense of gas mileage. I have to believe that expanding the use of ethanol will have a faster impact on emissions. We have put men on the moon we should be able to figure this out.
- Build out the infrastructure to support EVs while focusing on the challenges they bring, i.e. charging time, cost, etc. The expense and push to EVs without the infrastructure to support them makes no sense and quite frankly makes it much more difficult to get people on board.
- Figure out a way to engage the countries that are the main drivers of pollution. The Paris Climate agreement may have been a start, but without enforcement this becomes symbolic. Impacting these countries bottom line may be a way to get better engagement from them.
- As Catholics, God asks us to take care of His creation and that absolutely includes the environment. Everyone wants their kids to have the best life and a healthy environment is a critical component of that:
- Walk or use public transportation more in your day to day activities.
- Ride sharing cuts down on the number of cars on the road decreasing emissions.
- Walk more often especially when you are doing your daily tasks. Maybe a walk to the store helps clear your head and at the same time help decrease emissions. Walking is very spiritual and helps us to connect to God.
- Think more about what we do related to the environment. Sometimes many people doing small things can add up to something significant.
- Prayer – this is always part of the solution. Pray for more insight, a more open mind to other views, and for God to show us a path when we do not see one ourselves.
We may need to take more drastic measures to address this, but we also need our governments and scientists to help us understand what they are seeing. Scientists need to work together (those that believe climate is a crisis and those that don’t believe), to try and get more consensus on the causes and the severity of the problem.
God gave us the earth to take care of and we need to do a better job. What are your thoughts on this issue? Do you believe this is a crisis and why? Do you agree on the current approach by some governments? Where is God in all of this for you? As always, comments are encouraged and I will respond as quickly as I can.