Why should Christians care about and advocate for climate justice?

This blog is part of a series on how Christian believers can help to build a Safer World for All.  

For decades, the world has made significant progress in bringing more people out of poverty, protecting people from infectious diseases, giving greater opportunity to the vulnerable, and more. 

Now, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, overlapping challenges – the erosion of stability, economic disruption, and hotter, more dangerous weather, to name a few – threaten to undo that progress. 

One of those challenges is a heating planet. 

Wherever you look in today’s modern culture, there’s no escaping talk of climate change. Discussion and decisions about the climate have shaped our politics for many years – and not just in Australia. From COP agreements to the corners of the internet, people around the globe are grappling with what a warming climate means for us… and what we should do about it.  

But what about Christians? How can we believers sort through the noisy arguments to get to the heart of the matter? And what does a Christian response to this issue look like? 
Why should Christians care about and advocate for climate justice? 

God’s people are called to be stewards of his good creation 

God pronounced that his creation was “good” when he saw all that he had made. Humans were his crowning achievement… and he put man and woman in charge of the earth.  

“God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it…’” (Genesis 1:28)

Some take that word “subdue” to be permission to use natural resources as their birthright, without regard to the depletion and damage caused. But we’re using up the world’s resources faster and faster each year, giving natural systems no time to be restored.

And the amount of climate pollution we’re creating is much more than the planet can safely absorb.  

That is not good stewardship in anyone’s language.  

If everyone in the world was to live like the average Australian, we’d need 4.5 planet Earths to sustain us. 

But there is no “second Earth”. There is no planet B.  

Even if there were, it would be incumbent on us, as God’s people and his diligent stewards, to protect his. It’s precious and must be protected, rather than exploited to the point of collapse. 

Yes, God made the world for our enjoyment – but not just for us. For our children and future generations’ enjoyment as well.  

It shouldn’t be a controversial statement to say that we must limit our use of natural resources to a sustainable level so our children and grandchildren can enjoy God’s good creation, too.  

Yet we crossed that line of unsustainability decades ago. It’s urgent that we reverse that trend. 

It’s urgent that you and I, as believers and God’s stewards, speak up for a Safer World for All. 

We don’t want to set off climate anxiety in young people or give in to ‘alarmism’ 

Climate anxiety is real, particularly among younger generations. 

Not only that but people who have survived raging bushfires, record floods and other recent disasters report experiencing climate trauma 

And the concern we have for them, the desire to protect their physical and mental wellbeing, is exactly why Christian voices need to be heard on this issue.  

And you and I can not only speak up about the problems we face and their potential solutions… but we can speak from a Christian worldview formed in the knowledge that God is a loving Heavenly Father and that, ultimately, we have hope in him.  

Christians who are speaking into this issue can do so with wisdom and grace, showing young people that yes, there is a need for urgent change – but all hope is not lost. In fact, the ultimate hope is found in he who made us and sustains us. As Paul wrote to Timothy: 

“That is why we labour and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Saviour of all people, and especially of those who believe.” (1 Timothy 4:10) 

You and I hold a deep hope in Christ that is desperately needed in conversations about heavy global issues.  

Far from bringing gloom and anxiety, we can bring the conviction that we are not alone in this struggle, that God is with us, and he will give us strength, courage, and compassion to support those around us. 

The costs of change will be too high 

It’s true that any change is difficult and involves cost, especially when the level of change will not just affect individuals but whole societies.  

But the effects of a hotter planet are already being felt, and Australia is on the frontlines 

Dangerous weather events – fires, floods, droughts and more – are affecting millions of people across the world and costing billions of dollars. Often, it’s those who are most vulnerable and least able to recover who will face the most devastating consequences. 

So the costs of inaction are very high and will only get higher.  

And with any change comes opportunity. New opportunities for work are already rising to replace those that are phased out. It’s possible to not just replace our energy sources but to improve the systems behind them so that the benefits and wealth are more evenly distributed. 

Greater equality is better for you and for me, and especially for our neighbours who are already under-resourced and falling behind.  

We can’t change the weather, so what’s the point? 

We can’t make the sun shine and the wind blow, that’s certainly true. God is sovereign over all things.  

God’s voice thunders in marvellous ways; he does great things beyond our understanding. 

He says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth,’ and to the rain shower, ‘Be a mighty downpour.’ (Job 37:5-6) 

And it’s true that floods and droughts have affected humanity since the dawn of time.  

But these events are becoming more frequent and causing more damage, driven – at least in part – by human activity.  

The planet’s climate has fluctuated through ice ages and warmer periods like the present moment. But this current heating period is happening faster than anything we’ve seen before. 

But we can reduce how much climate pollution we create – and therefore, how much we amplify these extreme weather events.  

By reducing the amount of carbon pollution we’re creating, reversing deforestation, and restoring natural systems, we can slow the decline and, with time, reverse it, to create a safer world. 

One thing is for sure: a critical first step must be to slow the damage we’re causing before it’s too late.   

What about bigger nations who pollute at an even greater rate?  

Why should we change if nations like India, China, and the U.S. aren’t? Won’t any action we take be overwhelmed by their lack of change?  

The first thing to say is that we have more influence than you might think. Australia is well respected in these conversations and has an important voice.  

Australia also happens to be the at the back of the pack when it comes to climate action – so we’re certainly not in a position to “throw stones” at other nations.  

China’s action on climate is accelerating fast and it is investing more in clean tech than any other nation, by a wide margin. 

More and more nations like India see the opportunities in moving to reduce pollution, pursue new technology and create a safer world. We’re in the early stages of a global race to protect the planet. We’re losing badly, and if we don’t start soon, we’re simply falling further behind. 

Caring for the planet is a demonstration of our love for God… and our love for our neighbour.  

The world’s low income and low-lying nations are already the worst affected by impacts of severe weather and a heating planet – despite contributing the least to the underlying causes.  

Any action we take to help reduce the damage and build resilience is a step in the right direction and is an active demonstration of our faith in action.  

There can be no doubt that Jesus calls his followers to live in a way that shows love to our neighbours.  

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:38-40) 

Speaking up for those most affected by the threat of hot, dangerous weather and all the disasters it brings is a powerful way to love our neighbour. Taking personal, direct action where we can to reduce our own impact on the planet is in line with God’s mandate to steward the earth and all of his good creation.  

You and I as believers have an important role to play in bringing hope to those in despair, resilience to those who are struggling, and support to those who need help. 

Your voice is powerful.  
So I encourage you to speak up for God’s good creation – and for your millions of neighbours who are affected by disasters, including right here in Australia. 
Start by signing the pledge today to help build a Safer World for All!