• The Cross & Climate Change Part 1: Forgiveness

    Posted by The Hope For Creation Team

    28 November, 2013

    Father forgive them, for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34).

    Yesterday, we introduced a series on the cross and climate change. Today we begin the series proper by looking at the first of “seven words” Jesus spoke from the cross. Appropriately enough, it is a word about forgiveness.

    They say ignorance is bliss. There may once have been an excuse for not knowing what we are doing to God’s good creation, but now there is none. We have known for over 150 years that greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide (CO2) absorb and re-emit heat energy, warming the planet. In God’s providential care, these gases contribute a certain amount of natural heating, keeping our planet warm enough for life.

    However, since industrial times, human beings have been adding to this layer of gases – particularly by burning coal, oil and gas and releasing their stored carbon (in the form of carbon dioxide) into the atmosphere. The fossil fuels that appeared to be a miraculous source of readily available energy in the 19th Century have proved to be a double-edged sword – contributing to  environmental damage through spills, airborne particulates, groundwater pollution and, of course, global warming.

    Due almost entirely to the burning of fossil fuels since the start of the industrial age in the mid 19th Century, humans have increased the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere by 40%. In 2011, atmospheric concentrations of CO2 had risen to 390 part per million (ppm), which is higher than the observed natural range of 180-300 ppm over a long time. Concentrations have been increasing by 2 ppm per year since 2009.

    As human hands have turned up the greenhouse gas jets, in response we’ve also turned up the heat, very quickly. The average Australian temperature has increased by about 0.9° C from 1910 to 2011, with an increase in daytime maximums of 0.75° C and an increase in overnight minimums of 1.1° C. Australians have just lived through:

    - the hottest 12 month period on record,

    - the hottest September on record

    - the hottest summer (2012-13) which:

    - contained the hottest day ever recorded in Australia, and

    - broke over 120 extreme weather related records

    We are contributing to these harms – sometimes in ways over which we have very direct control, and sometimes in ways in which we feel we have no say and where alternatives seem few or non-existent. Every time we drive, fly, switch on a light or an appliance, or purchase a product, we contribute to the production of greenhouse gases. A developed economy like Australia’s is an energy-hungry beast and we get the vast majority of our energy from the most greenhouse polluting sources – coal, oil and gas.

    So, we need forgiveness. We have, both as individuals as well as systematically as a nation, contributed to the harm of creation and are making the hard lives of the world’s poor harder. Increased water stress and drought in places that are already dry, wetter and more unpredictable weather in places that are already wet, sea level rise that threatens poor coastal and island communities, are all likely results of the global climate disruption we are contributing to.

    We would do well to resist the temptation of Adam and Eve to shift the blame when confronted with this reality. While there are complex and difficult economic and global questions involved, they don’t absolve us of responsibility.

    But we need more than forgiveness. We need transformation. The glorious news of the gospel, though, is that God’s forgiveness, His saving grace, is a transforming grace (Romans 6:1–6). In response to Jesus’ dinner invitation – an implicit offer of forgiveness and a call to become, once again, a part of God’s family – the notorious tax collector Zacchaeus promised to give half of all he owned to the poor and to repair the harm that he had done by repaying fourfold whatever he had defrauded (Luke 19:1–10).

    We are not bound tragically and inevitably to sin against creation and the vulnerable poor, but are called again and again to seek forgiveness and transformation from God, even where it is costly or difficult. We are called to make the personal choices, just as Zacchaeus did, that testify to our forgiveness in a carbon-constrained world – paying more for renewable energy, driving and flying less, sharing more with others and nurturing creation locally and globally. We are called also to make the structural choices, just as Zacchaeus did, to undo and restore the harm already done – to turn away from and call for an end to the idols of limitless economic growth and the wealth and power of the fossil fuel lobby in favour of serving the true and living God and seeking a future that is sustainable for all.

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    This blog is the first in a eight part series on 'The Cross & Climate Change' originally posted by Hope for Creation. You can read the other blogs in this series here.