At the heart of this discussion is finding ways to decouple economic wealth from carbon emission in order to establish a life-sustaining environment for generations to come. In November 2019, 5 climate scientists, joined by over 11,000 other scientists in their field, reported in a scholarly article, “World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency”, BioScience, that the Earth is unequivocally facing a “climate emergency.” They concluded that “the climate crisis is closely linked to excessive consumption of the wealthy lifestyle. The most affluent countries are mainly responsible for the historical greenhouse gas emissions and generally have the greatest per capita emissions.” The scientists released several recommendations to mitigate the impacts of climate change, including that “Our goals need to shift from GDP growth and the pursuit of affluence toward sustaining ecosystems and improving human well-being by prioritizing basic needs and reducing inequality.”
People of faith have also called for climate change to sustain life into the future. In 2015, Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si (On Care for Our Common Home), caught the attention of the entire world. He offered a plea to all people to safeguard our environment from the destruction we are rendering to it and humanity, especially the most vulnerable among us. He said, “Both everyday experience and scientific research show the gravest effects of all attacks on the environment are suffered by the poorest”. More recently, the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), echoing Francis’ plea, made the care of our environment one of its 4 universal apostolic preferences for the next decade.
All of God’s people have a right to live well and to reach their potential as human beings. However, the climate crisis threatens this fundamental right of all, especially the most vulnerable among us including the poor and the children of this world. Their well-being has suffered from floods, famine, and droughts. In some parts of the world, homes have been washed away by storms of magnitudes not seen before, forcing people to seek refuge in other countries.
Living faith in action means moving beyond the temple, the church and the mosque to engage the social issues of society that affect the common good of all. It also means walking in solidarity with those less fortunate than ourselves and making sacrifices in our lifestyles so that others might have a fair chance to realize their God-given human potential and dignity.
The impacts of climate change are not insurmountable. We must put the well-being of all God’s people ahead of unbalanced economic growth if we are to create an environment that provides for the common good of all. Moreover, it is imperative that we act now before the crisis overcomes us.