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Christians need to see climate change as a moral issue
Climate change is a moral issue and our political leaders do not see it as such. Instead, they see it as a partisan issue amid many of the others that plague us. Faced with their cowardice, it is Christians with a prophetic nerve that must stand up.
Too often, climate change is coupled with issues like inflation and high gas prices. It’s just another political, partisan issue. What’s frightening is that in the face of a burning planet, we are looking for politically viable solutions to existentially threatening issues. It is madness how little we care about the future of our planet because we value power more.
After a year of negotiation, a moderate climate change bill was dead in the water thanks to a conservative Senator from West Virginia named Joe Manchin who voiced his opposition. The Senator garnered a lot of criticism from his caucus for blocking the president’s agenda, but even more so, for the existential catastrophe, his inaction contributes to. This is not a matter of partisan politics. It is a matter of life and death for humanity and for the planet.
Manchin made his destructive choice in the face of record-breaking heat in Europe and heat waves throughout the U.S. Wales recorded its hottest day in history this week; a town in Sicily broke Europe’s record for hottest ground temperature. In London, the underground transportation system is like a sauna and the mayo is asking people not to use it. They are spreading sand on the road so that it doesn’t melt. Meanwhile, the salt lake in Utah is drying up, people in Louisiana are seeking safer shelters, and wildfires are tearing up the Western U.S. and Spain. Climate change is here and it is happening. Prevention is not an option, because the planet is already experiencing the effects of our abuse of it. Now’s the time to act radically to try to reverse the tide. The fight will be difficult, politically challenging, and not popular, but it is essential for our future. We need leaders to move the population to prioritize the future.
Sometimes we may think that individual action, like how we consume, may affect the kind of change we need, but that is far from the truth. We should do our part, but we need to be compelled to do our part by forces that are bigger than we are. Just as our choices to drive gas-powered cars weren’t really ours because of greater powers that influenced how we live, we need new power to alter our viewpoints about how we live, transport ourselves, and consume. We need a cultural revolution and that requires leadership.
Despite the glaring evidence that climate change is upon us, the issue is not a priority for voters. Only one percent of voters in a recent New York Times poll named it as the most important issue, and even among voters under 30, the ones that are thought to be most passionate about climate change, only three percent did. Such numbers make opportunistic politicians like Joe Manchin think that climate change isn’t a popular issue. The issue with that is that its popularity has nothing to do with its necessity. So even if it is unpopular, voters’ minds need to be changed about that. And political leadership has a major responsibility to play in that. Furthermore, so does our media. The economy and inflation led the Times’ poll as major issues (and so did the future of democracy, abortion, and gun control). This leads me to conclude that what the media and leadership talk about influences voters; more than that, when voters can see the effects of bad policy immediately – mass shootings, insurrections and testimony around them, and the pillaging of our rights. What our leaders need to do is draw a direct connection between wildfires, droughts, record temperatures with climate change.
Further, we need to imagine ways to transition. That means exhausting all clean energy options, including nuclear. I know that may not be appealing to some activists, but we need to move quickly, and changing our lifestyles seems like a process that is too slow. We need policy solutions that change how we live and change our culture. The time to act is now. And for leaders of Congress, we need their nerve.
So while we look for temporary fixes, we need a cultural revolution. I believe that Christians, in particular, have a role to play in that. We need to do the work of changing minds and hearts. We need believe to endure lack of comfort to save the planet, to change how we live, to put pressure on our political leaders. And we need pastors to talk about it from the pulpit. We need to see climate change as a moral issue, when our politicians won’t. We need Christians to stand up and speak about, instead of so often being on the wrong side of the issue.