It’s odd that some of the most fervent climate-change deniers are people who profess to be those of strong faith (right-wing evangelical Christians in particular – Trump supporters for instance). The evidence is there.
Dr John Cook (a former astrophysicist whose free online cause to understand the science on climate change has been taken by over 40,000 people) says that the short answer of how much of climate change is caused by humans is ‘all of it’. He writes:
Scientists’ best estimate is that roughly 100% of warming since the mid-20th Century is caused by human activity. The main producers of greenhouse gases are electricity generation and transport. Current research finds that if humans weren’t around, the climate would actually be cooling slightly. To avoid the worst impacts, we need to stop burning fossil fuels and transition to renewable energy. Dr John Cook
So why on earth do we have our MPs still obsessed by economic growth and fossil fuels? One big contract was recently awarded by Rishi Sunak’s government. He is Hindu, most of his Cabinet are Christians. If they are people of faith, why are they destroying our planet? In the USA, it’s even worse with many Christians acting like Donald Trump is the second coming of Christ, even though he’s a dangerous loose cannon who denies climate change and wants more fossil fuels to ‘make America great again’.
In North America, Fox News is often accused of giving free publicity to climate change deniers, due to its right-wing politics. Yet now we have GB News, with many presenters also doing the same. Surprisingly, one is the formerly hugely popular Coast presenter Neil Oliver, who now presents on the channel, and recently said that the media and politicians were scaremongering people to be ‘frightened of summer’ due to climate change heatwaves. He’s likely a very nice man, but of course he’s not a climate scientist, and getting these facts wrong has huge consequences.
The claim that ‘terrifying temperatures of at least 40 degrees C were being predicted, in order to ‘control the public’ was quickly disputed by BBC meteorologist Tomasz Schafermaker, who basically tore the argument up with science. He explains that reported temperatures are air temperature (above 1 metre) not ground temperatures, which will actually have been higher (sometimes in excess of 50 C). This is the problem when we have politicians and media pundits deciding how serious climate change is, rather than listening to scientists and highly-qualified weather forecasters.
One religious leader who is taking climate change seriously is Pope Francis. Also a fan of animal welfare (hence why he took his Papal name after St Francis of Assisi), he himself appears to be very much on the side of the environmentalists, promoting simple living and taking action to prevent a collapsing planet. But the Catholic church itself does not fare so well (The Vatican is not exactly a case for simple living, and even takes $30,000 a month in rent from McDonald’s – a company that has huge criticism for its policies on both environment and animal welfare). When he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Fr Bergoglio (as he was then known) frequently took the bus. He’s known to cook his own (very tasty) meals and wears normal clothes, living in a small apartment, rather in the grand palace rooms.
Do other religions protect the planet? You would think so, but not always the case. Surprisingly, India’s holy Ganges river is one of the most polluted in the world. Even street dogs have turned blue, from drinking and bathing in water that suffers toxic run-off from dye used for the western denim jeans industry.
how local churches can help save the planet
Eco Churches is a bit like the similar Eco Schools project. Churches can sign up and do everything from grow local food to install solar panels, then when certified, they can show off God’s work on their literature! As churches also tend to be older buildings, you’ll likely also save a fortune on energy bills.
The site has a huge list of downloadable free booklets, packed with ideas. They include green energy, wildlife-friendly lighting, boilers, secondary-glazing, heating, recycling and managing closed churchyards. Some inspiration from member churches on what they’ve done:
- Creating non-profit pop-up cafes
- Adopting an unused red phone box as a book exchange point
- Building & maintaining a wildlife-friendly community garden
- Building seating and tables from donated wooden pallets
- Hosting Climate Sundays (download free mass services & ideas)
- 360 Carbon is a free carbon calculator for places of worship.
JustMoney Movement is an organisation of Christians for a fairer, greener world. It offers a free guide for churches to switch to a greener ethical bank, and campaigns for a Wealth Tax of 1% to 2% on those with assets over £10 million (which could raise up to £50 billion). Research has shown that an annual wealth tax of up to 5% on the world’s billionaires and multi-millionaires could raise enough money to lift 2 billion people out of poverty. You can also download an ethical buying guide for churches.
books by religious environmentalists
We love eco-nuns! Yorkshire’s Stanbrook Abbey is now an eco building that has solar panels, rainwater harvesting and a sedum (living) roof. Green Sisters is a wonderful book about the new breed of ‘eco-nuns’ who are driving around in electric cars, and ripping up manicured gardens to grow free food for parishioners. The best line comes from Mother Superior ‘anyone who saw the Divine in a potato, could never turn it into Pringles!’
Sue Parfitt is an 80-year old Anglican priest, who in October 2022 was arrested for speaking truth to power and peacefully holding up signs to ask governments to take the climate emergency seriously (like failing to insulate all homes, which would immediately cut wasted energy and make bills affordable). She says ‘Jesus said I am the way, the truth and the life. Not being able to tell the truth undermines our faith’.
Father John Dear is a Jesuit priest and campaigner for peace and animal welfare, who was even turned away from one sector of the Catholic church, yet thankfully remains a priest in California. We need more like him.