And then what? When the worst hits, I expect that the faith traditions that have put justice first all along — the progressive elements within Judaism, Islam, and Christianity — will do their part to help adherents become stronger in the fight for a compassionate response: for what amounts to the sharing of scarce resources — food, water, housing, medical care — on an unprecedented scale. But I also expect a backlash and a real, if unspoken, "throw them overboard" response from other religious Americans who have found it possible, all this while, to valorize U.S. style competitive individualism as an acceptable ethical norm for believers, blatantly ignoring the core teaching of their faith.
As faithful preachers know, the issue is never whether people have religion. The issue is whether they have good religion. And the climate crisis, with its punishing and unrelenting catastrophic blows, will function as a kind of refiner's fire (Malachi 3:3) to separate those with good religion from other Americans whose primary allegiance is to Mammon and/or Moloch, regardless of the faith they may confess with their lips.
In the meantime, we will see the usual sideshows and residual "culture war" flare-ups. Much will be made of a spurious "religious liberty" to discriminate against gay people, even on the part of institutions that rely almost totally on public funding. But friends, these truly are distractions. The main event is the enveloping climate crisis. When climate-caused scarcity and suffering are everywhere, we will be able to distinguish saints from sinners as never before in the American experience.