Two historic events collided this past week: Hurricane Patricia, the most dangerous hurricane in recorded history hit Mexico, and diplomats from around the world gathered in Bonn for UN climate talks meant to produce a new accord to be signed this December in Paris.
Faith leaders, with one eye on Hurricane Patricia and another on Bonn, have been worried about both.
ACT Alliance is "a global network of churches and faith-based NGOs, working with development and relief, in 140 countries around the world." In emergencies, ACT Alliance partners with groups like Church World Service to provide critical aid. Mattias Söderberg, the head of the ACT Alliance's delegation to the Bonn talks, said Friday in a press statement:
"Everybody knows that these negotiations are serious; they are not only about our own future, but also about the lives of poor and vulnerable people who are affected by climate change already today. I am deeply concerned about the slow progress and I urge negotiators to make a final effort to change their approach. All parties need to leave their comfort zones and start to look for agreeable solutions, which can foster a fair and ambitious agreement in Paris."
"There is no agreement about climate finance, the major questions of who should provide the finance, how much, and to who remain unanswered. The poor and vulnerable community remain confident that these questions will be answered in their favour, considering the fact that they are already affected by the impacts of climate change."
We know that hurricanes occur in nature. They are not new. Hurricanes, even very powerful storms, have occurred long before the impact of climate change was felt across the globe. What is new is the size and intensity of the storms faced today. The Washington Post reports:
While one storm is only one storm and can never substitute for a comprehensive statistical analysis, the fact remains that the link between warm seas and strong storms -- the theoretical reason for believing hurricanes will worsen due to climate change -- is starkly apparent in this case...
"As ocean temperatures continue to warm as a result of human-caused climate change, we expect hurricanes to intensify, and we expect to cross new thresholds. Hurricane Patricia and her unprecedented 200 mile-per-hour sustained winds appears to be one of them now, unfortunately," adds Michael Mann, a climate researcher at Penn State University.
For people of faith, this is yet another rally cry for action to combat climate change. Faith leaders have issued a statement to those preparing the Paris accord noting that: "Our religious convictions and cosmological narratives tell us that this earth and the whole universe are gifts that we have received from the spring of life, from God. It is our obligation to respect, protect and sustain these gifts by all means."
Increasingly, the fight to address climate change takes on a sense of urgency as we reach milestones where repair of the environment might be past our ability to control. If this occurs, we fail God and sentence our children and their descendants to a future of hardship that is difficult to imagine.
Standing in our way are those that still deny the science of climate change. "A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system. In recent decades this warming has been accompanied by a constant rise in the sea level and, it would appear, by an increase of extreme weather events, even if a scientifically determinable cause cannot be assigned to each particular phenomenon," wrote Pope Francis. Those that deny this solid consensus put the future in jeopardy, often for partisan political reasons, and must be called out by faith leaders for their sin of blocking progress on addressing this great moral issue that impacts all life, God's creation. Religious leaders must also do more to call their communities to take action on climate change. We are all complicit in allowing the present age to unfold as it has.
God is calling us now to restore the natural balance of creation that allows existence.