Climate change

Our food system is a cause as well as a victim of climate change.

Ben Lowe 10-02-2012
Green alarm clock, Alex Staroseltsev /

Green alarm clock, Alex Staroseltsev /

The climate crisis is getting bad and we may be finally starting to notice. With increasingly crazy weather across America—scorching heat waves, massive fires, destructive derechos, devastating droughts—polls are starting to show a growing awareness of and concern for how our massive amounts of pollution are changing the weather and therefore changing our lives (mostly for the worse).

I know this is starting to sound alarmist and extreme. It should. Because reality is starting to get pretty desperate for those whose lives and livelihoods depend on a relatively stable and predictable climate. At the end of the day, that’s all of us. The first to get hit, however—and they are currently getting hit hard—are those who grow and raise our food (farmers, ranchers, fishermen, etc.), those who are economically and physically vulnerable (the elderly, sickly, homeless, etc.), and those who just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time (the victims of these storms and fires). And while we’re starting to feel the impact of climate change in the United States, our global neighbors in regions such as Africa have been the ones bearing the brunt of the suffering.

After decades of scientific studies and expert warnings, climate change is no longer something being debated; it is something being experienced. Let’s just hope we do what’s right to overcome this crisis before it is too late. Because “too late” may be coming a lot sooner than we realize, and “what’s right” may be a lot harder than we want to accept.

Brian E. Konkol 09-14-2012
Climate change photo, Sangoiri /

Climate change photo, Sangoiri /

Because the scientific evidence surrounding climate change is clear, and the implications for humankind are many, the response to these global challenges needs to be persistent, organized, and significant. As Jesus calls upon humankind to “love thy neighbor," and as the Old Testament prophets remind us to strive for justice, we recognize that within a deeply connected world “neighbor” implies all that God has created, and injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere. 

So an implication of Jesus’ words and actions is to share and receive the Good News not only on Sunday mornings, but through daily acts of long-term advocacy that promotes sustainable livelihoods. With COP18 in Qatar on the horizon, the time has come when humanity can no longer afford to fight over our resources, and the moment is upon us to prod our elected officials toward legally binding legislation that values the gifts of creation that God has entrusted us to manage. 

Alycia Ashburn 09-07-2012
Melting icebergs, Denis Kichatof /

Melting icebergs, Denis Kichatof /

The melting of sea ice during summer in the Arctic is part a natural cycle, but the rate at which the sea ice is currently melting is unprecedented, as illustrated in today’s BBC News.  

"Norwegian researchers report that the sea ice is becoming significantly thinner and more vulnerable.

Last month, the annual thaw of the region's floating ice reached the lowest level since satellite monitoring began, more than 30 years ago.

It is thought the scale of the decline may even affect Europe's weather."



Julie Polter 09-01-2012

My Neighbor’s Faith: Stories of Interreligious Encounter, Growth, and Transformation —  Half the Sky Between God & Green: How Evangelicals Are Cultivating a Middle Ground on Climate ChangeAmerica and Its Guns: A Theological Exposé

Brian E. Konkol 08-14-2012
World photo, Denis Cristo /

World photo, Denis Cristo /

An examination of current public debate reveals a divide between the “brown agenda” of economic opportunity and the “green agenda” of environmental sustainability. 

On the one hand, a “brown agenda” concerns economic opportunity, or in other words, the alleviation of poverty. In light of ongoing distress surrounding malnutrition, infant mortality, and unemployment, the brown agenda is important, urgent, and worthy of support. On the other hand, a “green agenda” relates to environmental sustainability and care for the Earth. As scientific reports affirm the reality of climate change, and in recognition of decreased access to clean water and biodiversity around the world, the green agenda is also deeply important, urgent, and worthy of support.

With the above thoughts in mind, one recognizes that both brown and green agendas are essential for the promotion of life. However, the proponents of each agenda seem to be at odds with the adherents of the other. For example, far too many with a “brown agenda” believe that the best way to reduce poverty is to reduce environmental controls, and to the contrary, those engaged with the “green agenda” too often place the needs of the Earth before the livelihoods of the poor and marginalized. As a result of this persistent struggle between “brown” and “green," progress on both agendas is limited, and our path toward economic opportunity and environmental sustainability is severely off course. 

QR Blog Editor 08-08-2012

New results from the National Oceanic Atmosphere Administration show that July 2012 was the hottest summer on record for the United States, since accurate record keeping began in 1895. With an average temperature of 77.6 degrees Fahrenheit, last month's heat wave surpassed July 1936 (which recorded an average of 77.4) to become the steamiest summer around.

In a report on NBC, NOAA climate scientist Jake Crouch explains:

"These events are kind of what we'd expect with climate change, we'd expect expanding drought, we'd expect warm, record breaking temperatures… But it's kind of hard to pinpoint this month or past several months as a telltale sign that climate change is happening. The drought is more of a local factor and isn't necessarily driven by large scale climate change, but is impacting local temperatures. But we've also seen an increase in U.S. temperatures overall."

Rose Marie Berger 08-08-2012
Earth photo, moomsabuy /

Earth photo, moomsabuy /

Last month, Rolling Stone magazine featured Bill McKibben's latest plea for climate sanity on its cover. And despite every pundit's whining proclamation that climate change is such a buzz-kill, Bill's article got forwarded, commented, tweeted, and otherwise pushed around the Internet more than anything else RS has put out lately.

So somebody out there is paying attention to climate change — even if the elites can't seem to grow a spine about it.

What I liked about Bill's article was that he lays out a clear, 3-pronged strategy for really doing something about climate change while there's still time.

If we do these three things, there's a possibility that we can reverse climate change, restore health to our skies, earth, and oceans, and move forward into a future where our grandkids can not just survive, but thrive.

Here's the plan.

QR Blog Editor 08-07-2012

Fred Krupp writes in The Wall Street Journal:

One scorching summer doesn't confirm that climate change is real any more than a white Christmas proves it's a hoax. What matters is the trend—a decades-long march toward hotter and wilder weather. But with more than 26,000 heat records broken in the last 12 months and pervasive drought turning nearly half of all U.S. counties into federal disaster areas, many data-driven climate skeptics are reassessing the issue.

Respected Republican leaders like Govs. John Kasich of Ohio and Chris Christie of New Jersey have spoken out about the reality of climate change. Rupert Murdoch's recent tweet—"Climate change very slow but real. So far all cures worse than disease."—may reflect an emerging conservative view. Even Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, during public comments in June, conceded the reality of climate change while offering assurances that "there will be an engineering solution" and "we'll adapt."

Learn more here

Alycia Ashburn 08-03-2012

Last weekend the New York Times published an op-ed by University of California-Berkeley physics professor, Richard Muller, who said he has changed his professional opinion on the cause of global warming:

“Call me a converted skeptic. Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause.”

Muller’s announcement sparked a media flurry throughout the week, and NPR’s Science Friday host, Ira Flatow, interviewed him today. You can listen to the audio recording HERE.

Beth Norcross 08-01-2012

Near the end of his life, Howard Thurman was called "one of the greatest spiritual resources of this nation." He was also a pioneer in environmental theology.

Bill McKibben 08-01-2012

Climate change background, B. Calkins /

What explains our moral leaders' mealy-mouthed silence on climate change?

Robert Wilson-Black 08-01-2012

Jan Golinski/U.N.

Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change

QR Blog Editor 07-25-2012

Writing for The Huffington Post, Joanna Zelman reports on a new NASA study:

Unprecedented melting of Greenland's ice sheet this month has stunned NASA scientists and has highlighted broader concerns that the region is losing a remarkable amount of ice overall.
According to a NASA press release, about half of Greenland's surface ice sheet naturally melts during an average summer. But the data from three independent satellites this July, analyzed by NASA and university scientists, showed that in less than a week, the amount of thawed ice sheet surface skyrocketed from 40 percent to 97 percent.
In over 30 years of observations, satellites have never measured this amount of melting, which reaches nearly all of Greenland's surface ice cover.
Learn more here
Ben Lowe 07-25-2012
Y.E.C.A. logo, Courtesy Young Evangelicals for Climate Change

Y.E.C.A. logo, Courtesy Young Evangelicals for Climate Change

Good news: Evangelical Christians are stepping back up to overcome the climate crisis.  

After months of careful preparation, a new national advocacy initiative called Young Evangelicals for Climate Action (Y.E.C.A.) has just gone live. 

In seeking to live as Christ’s disciples, Y.E.C.A. has come to see the climate crisis not only as a pressing challenge to justice and freedom, but also as a profound threat to “the least of these” with whom Jesus identifies in Matthew 25. The early effects of climate change are already impacting many of our neighbors, both in the U.S. and around the world, and our time to act is running short.

QR Blog Editor 07-18-2012

For The Daily Beast, Mark Hertsgaard asks why parents aren't taking the potential effects of climate change on their children's lives more seriously:

"Beyond the distress and discomfort, the record-breaking heat raises a puzzling question for anyone who cares about the future of our young people. The laws of physics and chemistry—the fact that carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for decades after being emitted—mean that man-made global warming is just getting started on this planet.  As a result, my Chiara and millions of other youth around the world are now fated to spend the rest of their lives coping with the hottest, most volatile climate in our civilization’s 10,000-year history. Think of them as Generation Hot.

Why, then, are so few parents taking action to try to protect their beloved children from this gathering catastrophe? And why has no one asked them to?"

Learn more here

the Web Editors 07-13-2012

Bill Nye the Science Guy may not be a real scientist, but he tells CNN's news anchor that he knows how to read a chart, and when you look at the data on climate change, journalistic objectivity shouldn't try to obscure the facts. Watch Nye respond to climate change skeptics and discuss the conditions that led to the Colorado wildfires. [via CNN]

Sandi Villarreal 07-09-2012

According to the Atlantic Cities, lawmakers in North Carolina have chosen to ignore studies that show sea levels are rising faster than previously expected in favor of developing new housing along the coast. 

According to the rerport, state Rep. Pat McElraft, a not-scientist, said in a floor debate that the state should assume sea levels will rise at the same rate they have in the past: 8 inches over the past century. 

From Kelly Henderson's Switchboard blog post

"The scientific findings that North Carolina coasts will likely experience a 39-inch sea-level rise created quite a stir and were challenged by NC-20, a coastal economic development group, who cited flaws in the research. The group fears losing dollars if coastal planning begins now to prepare for the 39-inch rise since over 2,000 coastal miles will become restricted to development."

And, from Mr. Colbert, on N.C.'s logic in only considering historical data: 

"If we consider only historical data, I've been alive my entire life. Therefore, I always will be."

Sandi Villarreal is Associate Web Editor for Sojourners. Follow her on Twitter @Sandi

Mallory McDuff 07-06-2012
Climate change illustration, red-feniks /

Climate change illustration, red-feniks /

Sister Kathy Long turned toward my 13-year-old daughter and asked one question: “What will you tell your friends about spending this month in Mexico?”

In a public park in Cuernavaca, Mexico, we sat on a concrete bench next to six women who chatted and stitched embroidery patterns with brightly colored thread.

I glanced toward the sewing group, realizing that Maya would have rolled her eyes if I had asked her that same question. An intrusive query from a mother seemed compelling coming from a Catholic nun who worked in Mexico, promoted justice amid poverty, and even spent three months in jail for protesting the military training of Latin American leaders in the U.S.

“I will tell them that rich people and poor people are all people in the end,” Maya responded. “If you have three cars and two houses, you are a person just like someone whose house is made of cardboard or metal.”

QR Blog Editor 07-06-2012

The Atlantic profiles a new documnetary called Bangladesh: On The Frontlines of Climate Change:

"Ami Vitale's beautifully shot documentary visits the communities on the Bay of Bengal that are already suffering the consequences of global warming. Vitali, a photojournalist, made the switch to video to tell the story of one mother who, fearing that increasingly violent weather patterns will harm her family, seeks justice."
Watch the short film and find our more here