On the 8 of August, the UN released its Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, which will undoubtedly influence world leaders' climate negotiations and decision-making as they consider an effective and sustainable response to climate change. As followers of Jesus, it is important that we too carefully and compassionately consider the projections made in the report, keeping front and centre our creator God's heart for all creation.

The report (available on the IPCC website here) is said to be the most robust to date, presenting the thoroughly researched argument that climate change is already impacting the whole world. The University of Oxford’s Dr Friederike Otto, one of the many authors of the report, says: Climate change is not a problem of the future, it’s here and now and affecting every region in the world.” 

Some other stark warnings in the report are:

  • Extreme heat will become more frequent.
  • There will be an increase in extreme rainfall.
  • Sea levels are rising and they will continue to, no matter what we do.
  • Scientists are more certain about what can be done to tackle climate change, such as cutting human-caused methane emissions.

It is clear from the report that in order to effectively tackle climate change, individuals, the UK Government, and governments and populations worldwide must take action. 

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It is therefore fitting that the report has been released just two months before the COP26 summit in Glasgow, where more than 190 world leaders will meet to reach an agreement on how to tackle climate change.

The report will be a significant factor in the negotiations and work over the next few months. The previous IPCC report paved the way for the Paris Agreement, and it is likely that this report will also be the foundation for a future agreement.

The Christians’ role in the fight against climate change

Whilst in the months ahead we can realistically anticipate cooperation among world leaders, and even another international treaty on climate change, everyone has a role in the fight against climate change, and perhaps Christians even more so. Christians are called by God to a life of stewardship, loving our neighbours and evangelism.

Stewardship

In Genesis, after God created the earth and everything in it, He declared it very good. He invited the people He had created to have dominion” over it; they were to take responsibility for its care. At the Evangelical Alliance we believe it is part of our commission as Christians to be good stewards of God’s creation. As followers of Jesus, we should treat the earth with respect because God has entrusted us to take care of it.

Loving our neighbours

This IPCC report makes it exceedingly clear that people have damaged the world, and that the poorest will suffer first. As Christians, we are called to love our neighbour as ourselves; therefore, we should be deeply concerned about the welfare of those who will pay the cost of climate change. God is not greedy, selfish or wasteful, and these characteristics should not be found in His followers as we enjoy His creation.

Evangelism

Christians are called to proclaim the good news of Jesus, but we are also called to witness in acts of mercy, self-control and justice. By caring for God’s creation, we can witness to the world that we believe in a creator God, who in turn cares deeply about those He created. We can share that He created the world to be enjoyed, not to be wasted or made unsafe.

In response to this climate change report, Christians can glorify God by once again owning the responsibility we have for our world and its brokenness. As we care for it, we can share with our peers about the God who created all things for us to enjoy, the God who gave humankind the responsibility to care for it. We can point others to the future hope of God’s kingdom, where the world we have damaged will be restored above and beyond its original goodness.

How can we effect change?

In the UK we are blessed with the freedom to speak up about the things we believe are important. One way we could respond to this IPCC report is by telling our local representative that we think urgent action on climate change is important. Evangelical Alliance member organisation Tearfund has recently launched its Reboot campaign which includes a declaration’ resource and climate factsheet; you can use this information to support your case.

A greener future in the UK depends in part on government decisions about the environment, green spaces, roads, cycling infrastructure, waste and recycling, air quality and energy efficient homes. Ultimately, steps to reduce carbon emissions will have a positive impact on other local issues, such as improving air quality and public health, creating jobs and reducing inequality.

For tips and ideas on how to start writing to your MP, please take a look at our Connect resource.

Change through personal choices

Dwelling on God’s plan for creation and our responsibility as His stewards will naturally mould our attitudes and inspire us to seek change. We have outlined some broad ways in which we can seek this change, but it is also important to reflect on the small, personal choices each of us can make to care for God’s creation.

Here are just a few ideas:

  • Reduce the amount of meat and dairy you consume.
  • Buy food that is in season and locally grown.
  • Plan your meals and food shop to reduce waste.
  • Start by serving smaller portions so less food thrown away.
  • Find out what can actually be recycled in your area, then recycle, recycle, recycle.
  • Instead of driving, walk, cycle or try a car sharing.
  • Be mindful of the way you use energy at home – hot water, lights, heating, etc.
  • Avoid single-use items and fast fashion, and try not to buy more than you need.
  • Repair and reuse. Give unwanted items a new life by donating them to charity or selling them.

Ultimately, being a follower of Jesus allows us to worry less but care more about climate change.

Eternal hope, present responsibilities

Ultimately, being a follower of Jesus allows us to worry less but care more about climate change. Trusting in Jesus frees us from the fear others may have of climate change, as we know that one day all things will be restored when Jesus returns, and this life is not all we have. At the same time, Christians have the greatest motivation to care for this world and our neighbours, because we know the creator. We know His good design and purpose for us within it. More than this, knowing the Lord should fill us with compassion for those who will suffer because of the damage done to His world.

As we seek to be a witness to the goodness of God in the way we care for His creation, we can hold out an eternal hope of a kingdom that can never perish, spoil or fade.

The Evangelical Alliance will be looking at the issue of climate change in much more detail in the months leading up to the COP26 summit. Stay tuned by connecting by signing up to our Everything Advocacy email below