Science, Faith and the Climate Crisis

Cover of Science, Faith and the Climate Crisis

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(16 chapters)

Prelims

Pages i-xxix
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Abstract

This chapter examines the perceived socio-cultural impacts of relocation to Fiji through the lens of target communities in Kiribati. Findings based on the perceptions of Kiribati communities reveal that relocation is the last ‘adaptation resort’ to escape and offset individual losses caused by climate change. It is viewed as an option that will compromise their socio-cultural practices and values in the long term. This study indicates that attention should not be focused only on factors that drive human relocation but should also prioritise justifications of those who choose not to relocate. This approach will better serve community expectations for in-country climate change adaptation and help shape future strategies and/or policies on climate change-driven relocation. Finally, policies and adaptation initiatives should be holistically framed; integrating values that are important to grassroots level such as socio-cultural values; and spiritual and mobility concerns for informed decision-making at all levels.

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As a scholar from Tonga, I developed this reflection based on my own experiences as a training Pastor for the Free Wesleyan Church (FWC), working in Pacific Island region on the area of climate change and religion. Here, I am taking a quote from the Bible (e.g. Luke 18:27) and used it as a theme to tell the story of Pacific people about Moana and how this state-of-the-art idea helps in shaping resilience (Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction). In the context of the Pacific (e.g. Tonga), the meaning of Moana is complex. Using this leading-edge idea as a guide, I model a framework named ‘Moana: Nothing is impossible with God’. By implementing this model to affected communities, Resilience Moana and Sustainable Development Goals are expected to be achieved by 2030 and beyond.

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Rivers have played a defining role in the global development of human societies and culture. This will undoubtedly continue in the twenty-first century with a growing demand for water, increasing pollution of river channel and floodplain environments, and anthropogenic global warming-related changes in the frequency of floods and droughts. These will have major environmental and societal impacts worldwide. We consider how rivers initially shaped societies, and then how urbanisation, industrialisation and intensified agriculture have more recently transformed river systems, so compromising planetary health and human ways of life. So where do we go from here? Humanity now faces an existential environmental catastrophe of its own making, and it will be on the world's most densely populated floodplains where this crisis will be played out. We highlight likely areas facing the greatest challenges. Ironically, many of these are where ancient civilisations began. Interdisciplinary catchment-based approaches, and new technologies such as those based on satellite imagery and unmanned aerial vehicles, are now beginning to address pressing societal and planetary problems in the unfolding climate crisis.

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Global temperature has risen by 1°C since 1900, while since the 1990s the Arctic has recently experienced an accelerated warming of about double the average rate of global warming. Nearly all climate scientists agree that the main cause of this temperature rise is ever-increasing accumulations of ‘greenhouse gases’, especially carbon dioxide and methane, within our atmosphere. Sea level rise could easily exceed one metre this century under ‘business as usual’. However, global warming is not just about rising temperatures, melting ice and rising sea levels, but it also affects the frequency and severity of many extreme weather events. Planetary warming is not a uniform process, can spring surprises in regional climate change and is probably linked with the tendency for Northern Hemisphere mid-latitudes to have more extreme (variously hot/cold/dry/wet) weather, especially during the recent period of rapid Arctic warming. There is overwhelming scientific evidence that human activity through enhanced greenhouse gas emissions is largely responsible for recent climate change and accompanying extreme weather, and we are already clearly seeing these changes. However, it is equally evident that, although initial remedial steps are being taken, finding an adequate solution will not be easy unless much larger changes are made to the way in which we all live. Limiting global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial temperatures would require global carbon dioxide emissions to decrease by approximately 40–60% by 2030 relative to 2010 levels. This can only be achieved through a collective solution that fully involves diverse communities, among them religious stakeholders.

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A review of the global policy environment for climate change and sustainable development education is contextualised with a case study from the Pacific region. The case study details how Pacific Island nations have opted for a regional education response to improve their prospects of adapting to climate change – their most pressing contemporary issue. The case study then details what this means in practice using bottom-up examples of successful disaster risk reduction in Tuvalu and Fasi village, Tonga, led by Anglican youth.

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This chapter discusses how society can be more involved in climate research and policy as a more socially equitable and just way of tackling future climate impacts through the lens of education. The first section discusses previous and contemporary social and political conditions in relation to increased and more equitable and just citizen engagement in climate action in the science–policy domain. The second section then explores how collaborative education approaches through Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) can be ramped up to catalyse increased citizen engagement in climate action. The chapter concludes by critically discussing future directions for research in ESD and climate change as a more inclusive and just form of climate governance.

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Marc Andrus, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of California, argues that the water crisis is in fact a spiritual crisis. He draws together personal experience and scripture, especially the story of the flood in Genesis and the account of Jesus walking on the water in Mark's Gospel, to reflect on the relationship between humanity and the rest of creation. He details some of the devastating consequences of our continued disregard of the earth's delicate ecosystem, including fresh water scarcity, plastic pollution, species loss and endangerment, and climate refugees. He ends with a review of the role of faith bodies in addressing the water crisis, through theological interpretation and practical action.

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In his renowned article published in 1967, Lynn White Jr argues that a causal relationship exists between Christianity (grounded in the Bible) and the contemporary ecological crisis. ‘Western’ Christianity, insists White, is the world's most anthropocentric religion, and it is this anthropocentrism that underlies human harm of the environment. The ecological crisis, he argues, is a religious crisis. But White also suggests that since the roots of the ecological crisis are largely religious, the remedy must also be (broadly) religious. With White's words in mind, this chapter outlines a strategy for Christian communities to read the Bible in such a way that it might contribute to the emergence of an ecological sensibility that is appropriate to the environmental concerns of climate crisis in the twenty-first century. It then offers a brief ecological reading of Genesis 1 and 2, exploring how such an interpretation might provide faith communities with a foundation for re-conceiving the relationship between God, Earth and humanity. This chapter argues that, set alongside the ever-increasing scientific discoveries that point towards interdependence and the continuity of all life, the Bible has the potential to act as a powerful resource for Christian communities in the ongoing endeavour to alleviate environmental degradation.

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In the context of Climate Change as an international imperative, this chapter explores the role that technology may have in addressing global warming. It takes the perspective that a range of solutions will be required, involving changes to social practices as much as the development of energy supply solutions that have a net zero impact on greenhouse gas emissions. It explores a range of potential changes that individuals can make to their daily lives in support of the wider transformation needed within society as a whole.

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The climate crisis is frightening for many people because of evident and often dire impacts. Although these impacts are alarming, it's often not clear what one person, or one community, can do to drive down greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. For this reason, the Episcopal Diocese of California initiated the development and rollout of an Internet accessible tool – sustainislandhome.org – that can help people and communities be part of climate solutions. This chapter focuses on why sustainislandhome.org was developed, its design principles and how it works, and lessons the Episcopal Church is learning from rollout of this tool across Episcopal dioceses in the United States. It's my hope that our effort can serve as a model for other faith communities in educating and mobilizing their members for climate action and advocacy.

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This chapter, based on a keynote presentation at the Moana: Water of Life conference at the University of Lincoln, UK, in August 2019, explores how individual people of faith, and faith actors, engage with the confluence of member states, UN entities, and civil society that make up the UN system, in order to address climate change and water, informally and formally. Interviews with faith-based organizations, UN entities, and UN ambassadors revealed lessons learned on the successes, challenges, and obstacles in engaging with the UN on climate action. Drawing from this research, the author revealed some “lessons learned” in order to respond to a key question: How can faith-based participants engage with the United Nations (UN) on climate action in smart, strategic ways in an era of climate emergency? The research aims to equip the readers with a sense of the urgency of climate action and an appreciation of their own agency and action and practical tools for using their faith in climate action with the UN.

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This chapter offers an analysis of the different voices and perspectives comprising the book. It explores the main themes that have emerged from the chapters and conversations, offering an overview of areas of difference, but also of surprising fundamental agreement, not just on the ‘what’ but also the ‘how’ of what needs to happen next.

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Conclusion

Pages 173-174
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Afterword

Pages 175-178
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Index

Pages 179-183
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Cover of Science, Faith and the Climate Crisis
DOI
10.1108/9781839829840
Publication date
2020-06-17
Editors
ISBN
978-1-83982-987-1