‘Each of us can take small steps toward achieving net zero carbon. … how do you start to change your life in manageable, achievable, feasible, small ways?’
– Allegra Stratton (UK spokesperson for COP26, the UN Climate Change Conference)
This week the Sixth Assessment Report from the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) dropped with a thud. With 3,949 pages merely summarising the meteorological mechanics, it’s heavy reading in every respect.
Even so, the headlines are blazingly obvious, leaving policymakers no room to claim it’ll all come out in the wash. The record-breaking droughts, fires, and floods we’re seeing aren’t normal. The blame for ‘global weirding’ is on humanity. Everything is connected, and no region is exempt.
Our greenhouse gas-fuelled overconsumption is responsible for a 0.8–1.3°C rise in global surface temperature over the last century. We’re at code-red. Dialling down the heat requires drastic reductions toward global net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050.
Yet it’s unlikely we can keep within the 1.5-degree threshold however severe the intervention; prior climate sins have generational fallout, with temperature rises set for decades to come. Where can we find hope when ecological scarring is ‘irreversible for centuries to millennia, especially changes in the ocean, ice sheets, and global sea level’?
Surprisingly, COP26 spokesperson Allegra Stratton suggested we start by skipping the rinse and putting our plates straight in the dishwasher. Unsurprisingly, such ‘micro-steps’ were mocked as ‘displacement activities’ that console overwhelmed individuals but ultimately distract from real change. Like Nero playing his proverbial fiddle, it’s easy to caricature this politician as washing dishes while the planet burns.
Without forceful lobbying and radical policies, many claim we’re doomed. But what if there’s a third way to bring change on both large and small scales – not just playing off one against the other?
Of necessity, the government must do the heavy lifting. And yet, the micro and the macro reinforce each other. Head, heart, and hands must also work together. The facts will fall on deaf ears if our hearts are hard to the planet’s plight. And without hope that God loves his world and hasn’t abandoned us in this time of ecological need, our hands are prone to point the finger at fallible politicians or hang limp by our side when our big plans fail.
Everyday actions, prayerfully performed, prime us to care for creation. A simple lifestyle, sustainable eco-churches, and wise advocacy, together make for ecological integrity. This is a potent witness to the powers who, post COP26, will be tempted to ‘greenwash’ their strategies. It shows that hopeful action begins with our Creator’s goodness, not simply human machinations. If this truth isn’t seen yet, be sure it’ll come out in the rinse.
Dr Dave Benson
Culture & Discipleship Director, LICC