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Climate change: loss or gain?

Written by: Ali Johnson

The 2020s are a big decade for the climate. The UN’s Intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC) has said that drastic action to limit global warming to 1.5°c above pre-industrial levels must be taken before 2030, to avert catastrophic climate damage.

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Finding Our Hope explores the adventure of what it means to be a follower of Jesus through articles, projects and stories. In this article, Hannah delves into her passion for the climate from the perspective of her Christian faith.

The 2020s are a big decade for the climate. The UN’s Intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC) has said that drastic action must be taken before 2030 to limit global warming to 1.5°c above pre-industrial levels, to avert catastrophic climate damage. But the decade began with the delaying of COP26 due to COVID-19, stalling a crucial moment for global leaders to take-action on the climate. When COP26 finally got around to taking place in Glasgow in November 2021, we saw a lot of rhetoric – but not much action. World leaders were accused of ‘green washing’, of only making promises to satiate the loud rallies and protests outside the conference hall. Yes, we might have had commitments of cuts to funding for fossil fuels, methane emissions and deforestation. But now that the conference is over, the real work begins.

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With all the talk about ‘cutting’ emissions, ‘banning’ petrol vehicles, or ‘limiting’ meat consumption, it’s easy to see responding to the climate crisis as something of a loss. And for communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis around the world, this loss is already very keenly felt – in the loss of agriculture due to drought, power due to flooding, whole communities due to sea-level rise. In Western countries, these effects of global temperature rise are yet to make such a substantial impact on our environment. But it can feel like the move to ‘net-zero’ seems to mean going without so many of the things we take for granted today – long-haul flights, petrol cars, fast fashion – and to get used to new ways of doing things. With groups like Extinction Rebellion shouting the drastic need for change, and the imaginings of a world beyond the one we know now in radical new policy ideas, anticipating this change can leave us fearful.

We shouldn’t deny that living in a net-zero world will be something beyond anything we’ve experienced before. And we can’t ignore that it will involve not only change, but sometimes sacrifice, on everyone’s behalf. Our current way of living is built into our habits and structures, in a way which isn’t easy to unravel.

But this doesn’t have to be seen as a loss. Perhaps, instead, there’s value in digging deeper into what we stand to gain.

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Imagine you’ve just moved to a new area. The street you live on now has a shared electric car charging point. There, you meet your new neighbour, which opens up a conversation about where you’re travelling for work. You’re making some changes to your new place and rent some tools from a shared community shed, where someone offers to show you how to use them. Your house has been retrofitted with new insulation and a solar boiler, which is cutting your energy bills significantly. You’ve enjoyed shopping at the local grocers, where the produce comes directly from local small holdings. You’ve spent some time in a newly re-wilded park around the corner, where they’ve just planted saplings that we be fully grown in three generations time. And the neighbourhood? Twinned with a community in the Pacific who have relocated to a new area further inland following sea-level rise. Their new community buildings have been sponsored by your neighbourhood’s fundraising, and the two communities regularly keep in touch to share updates.

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This changed world may not include things that form part of our everyday lives now. But in it, new doors are open. Doors which connect us, opening us up to see one another and with the places we live in in a new way.

From where we stand now, it seems we are facing a mountain as we respond to the climate crisis. It can be hard to see the other side with much optimism. Instead, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the journey ahead. As people of Christian faith, we believe that God has promised to renew creation. This doesn’t only mean the renewal of the planet, but also renewal of our relationships with one another, and with ourselves. God made us for community – to live in a way which connects us with one another, and where we see how our actions shape the opportunities of others. If we trust in this, seeking change in every aspect of our lives becomes an adventure – one where we know that God promises new life on the other side. It is this promise which enables us to give our energy, emotion, time and resource to responding to the climate crisis. Facing the challenges of the next decade can be challenging. But instead of running towards net-zero, and burning ourselves out in the process simply to reach the finishing line, we are investing in renewal – for our children and grandchildren.

How might you take the opportunity to explore what you have to gain from changing your lifestyle for the climate? Is there one action you could take which would connect you with someone else – and reduce your carbon impact at the same time?

Why not find out about the library of things: or the Transition Towns network:

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