The UN global climate change conference, COP26, now taking place in Glasgow, is a response to growing fears of global destruction if the rise in temperature is not brought under control. It is being hailed as a last chance for countries to band together to try and agree measures that will turn back the tide before it all becomes too late – which time, if Sir David Attenborough is to be believed, was actually round about yesterday (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-59039485)! Nevertheless, scientists say that there remains a narrow but rapidly closing window, so COP26 is, amongst other things, aimed at getting agreement for achieving carbon net zero emissions by 2050. To paraphrase the words of Alok Sharma, COP President-Designate (https://ukcop26.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/COP26-Explained.pdf), this is our chance not just to save the planet, but to build back better and greener!
How realistic is this? Despite the much-hyped aspirations, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is hosting the summit, is reportedly less than sanguine over its prospects for success, saying that it is ‘touch and go’ whether key goals will be met (https://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/boris-johnson-prime-minister-glasgow-downing-street-australia-b962342.html). And given the track record for co-operation and collaboration that exists between nations, one suspects he may well be right.
China, after all, is already proving reluctant to commit itself, while President Xi refused to attend due to Covid (https://news.sky.com/story/china-details-carbon-emissions-plans-but-offers-no-new-pledges-ahead-of-cop26-12443988). Similarly, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro have also both declined. And while US President Joe Biden did put in an appearance, there are question marks over American commitment to carbon reduction policy.
So does this mean that planet Earth is now doomed, with temperatures set to rise beyond those which can support life; with rising sea levels swallowing up vast chunks of habitable land; and with extreme weather conditions, bringing in their wake apocalyptic devastation?
The answer you give to this will depend on where you sit in the debate. Climate change activists scream planetary doom, unless we take immediate action – science, properly applied, they say, can fix it all. We must fly less, give up meat, and live more sustainably! But, on the other side, those who remain unconvinced point to the normal climatic fluctuations already experienced over the lifetime of our planet, producing at various times both extreme heat and extreme cold. Indeed, all things considered, there seems strong evidence to support this view. And yet … and yet the scale and speed of change does appear extraordinary, and it does raise concern.
So what is God saying to the world in all of this?
VfJUK suggests that humanity is being given a warning. The reality would appear to suggest that nothing we can do will reverse the disaster looming over us, as even the UN admits (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-59049770). If we are lucky, and by some miracle COP26 succeeds in forging agreement for zero net carbon emissions by 2050, that doesn’t resolve the problem of how we then compensate for the carbon being released into the atmosphere as a result of the melting of the permafrost, conservatively estimated as containing four times the combined amount of CO2 emitted by modern humans (https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-00659-y).
Yes, the world is at a tipping point. But while we try and combat rising temperatures and extreme weather by our own puny efforts, we don’t stand a chance; nature will always be one step ahead. To have any chance of winning this battle, therefore, we need the help of the One who called all of life into being, and who alone has control over nature.
For too long humanity has treated God with contempt. We can do whatever we want, we’ve said. We can live as we want, have what we want … behave as we want. We don’t need a kill-joy fairy in the sky and His outdated morality! We’re all ‘god’ now. So, in our hubris, we’ve rebranded good as evil, and evil as good.
But to echo the words of St Paul, ‘God is not mocked … whatsover a man soweth, that shall he also reap’ (Galatians 6:7).
The climate is only part of the world that God created and of which He made us stewards. If we wish creation, including ourselves, to remain healthy and flourish, we must strive to obey God’s will for the whole. We can’t pick and choose. We can’t ask Him to ‘fulfil’ our desires … unless we obey His will. And if we are alerted to something going wrong in one part of creation, then we must ask whether it signifies that there other things we must put right in order to restore balance.
We cannot ignore God’s commands and reject the values on which life is founded, without consequence. We do not have the right to determine who may or may not be born, merely to allow satisfaction of our desire for sex without commitment. We do not have the right to play God, deciding at the end of life when a person is no longer of value and should be terminated. We do not have the right to redefine God’s gift of marriage and question our creation as men and women, together and jointly made in His image.
In recent world events ⎼ including climate change, Covid-19, and disruption of the global economy ⎼ we are surely reaping the whirlwind. Yet God, because of His love, is giving us a chance to repent. Before it all becomes too late. The question is, are we listening? Will we hear?
This article by Lynda first appeared in Christian Today, and is reproduced with permission.