I was in Glasgow at COP26 as a representative from the Church of Norway, and I have been to some other COP meetings before. Did anything new happen in Glasgow? Do we have more reasons to hope for a better future than before the meeting, and does churches have a role to play?
It’s not easy to give clear answers to these questions. On one hand, the situation is more severe than ever. The evidences for a human induced global warming with more severe extreme weather events are no longer questionable. The causes and consequences are now well documented in the Sixth IPCC Assessment Report. On the other hand it seems that for the first time, there is a common understanding of the urgency of situation we all are in. Even Saudi Arabia stated at COP that the 1.5°C target is a 'no-brainer'. But that does not mean that actions are in line with the urgency.
It is true that climate change affects us all. In one sense we are all in the same boat. But it may be more correct to say that we are all on the same ocean, but in different boats. As I write Cyclone Batsirai has just hit the Eastern shore of Madagascar with devastating force. My wife comes from Madagascar, and we lived in the region for three years working for the Malagasy Lutheran Church. The infrastructure there is not prepared for this kind of heavy storm, and complete villages are now submerged by flooding water. The death tolls are yet to be confirmed. The drought in southern Madagascar is mentioned by UN as the first famine with no other reason than human induced climate change. When nature strikes back, the poorest are always the most severely hit. This is one face of the coin of climate injustice.
The other face of the coin is the question of responsibility, both in terms of causing the problem, and in capability of dealing with it. In the report The Fossil Fuelled Five, released during COP 26, Norway is placed together with the UK among five wealthy countries whose fossil fuel production threatens chances of keeping 1.5°C hope alive. On January 18 the Norwegian government announced the release of 53 new licenses for searching for oil and gas on the Norwegian continental shelf.
It is no longer a scientific issue of finding out what is happening or what to do to deal with the challenge. It is a moral issue of doing the right thing or not. It is a question of political will and guts, and here churches may play a role. We may support the voices of those who suffer under climate change, including children and young people who lose faith in the future and native people who see their inherited land being destroyed. And we need to point our leaders to their responsibility not only to those who elected them, but to all humanity. And we all need to realise the importance of all of God's creation and our responsibility of caring for it. So let us pray and act on this, and let’s do it together!
Published on lifeandwork.org 8 Feb 2022