Climate Justice 1
“The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it.”
“The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because I have been anointed to give good news to the poor; He has sent me to heal the broken heart; to preach freedom to the captives, and bring sight to the blind; to release the oppressed.”
As followers of Jesus Christ and members of a global community, we at the Salvation Army International Social Justice Commission (ISJC) are strongly committed to advocacy for human dignity and social justice on behalf of the world's poor and oppressed. We believe that a choice to follow Christ with our lives is a choice to begin to see the world as He does; to make His cares and concerns our own. We agree to be His hands and feet—to extend His justice into the darkness of our world. In His lifetime, Christ was passionately intentional in identifying and challenging the injustices that He saw around Him, even when others wanted to look away. (See our Jesus and Justice resource for examples, available online here.)
In our modern world, social injustice continues to resurface all around, taking new forms as society grows and changes. Each period of history has been defined by its own cares; poverty, multiculturalism, world wars, slavery and civil rights, just to recall a few. Today, the call of Christ remains: to face this injustice squarely, to identify it, and to address it. Our post-modern time has brought many exciting opportunities for human benefit and with them new opportunities for injustice. Climate Change may be the clearest example of this blessed curse. It is a challenge born in human ingenuity and progress—a byproduct of our own cleverness. In the industrial age, we discovered a huge means of development deep underground in the form of fossil fuels. These we have been harvesting for over a century now and with them have accomplished more than ever thought possible. Yet today we as humanity are reminded of the limited nature of our best laid plans. Climate Change has caught us off guard. Today we are startled to quite suddenly stand face to face with a massive unforeseen result of our own actions—a new source of injustice.
Secretary General of the United Nations (UN), Ban Ki-moon has recently announced, “I am convinced that climate change, and what we do about it, will define us, our era, and ultimately the global legacy we leave for future generations. Today, the time for doubt has passed.” Whether we personally see the effects yet or not, Climate Change, in all of its complexity and danger, is here to stay. But just how big is this issue? And how are we as seekers of Christ’s justice to respond? These are the questions we set out to address.
The problem is real. Do you believe it?
As far back as historians can recount, mankind has relied on the use of fossil fuels. Throughout the centuries, we have utilized coal, petroleum, and natural gas in a constant effort to build and sustain our demanding societies. Today, we are admittedly more dependent than ever, as fossil fuels account for 86% of the total energy consumed by the human populations of the world. They are the lifeblood of industry—forming the foundation of our increasingly complex modern societies and international economy. The energy generated by fossil fuels powers our homes, businesses, infrastructure, and cities. It moves us from home to school and work each day, sends us on overseas journeys, and provides even the most basic utilities and food supplies. Developed countries support a high energy lifestyle that is increasingly sought after by rapidly emerging economies like those of China and India. World energy demand is projected to rise by more than 36% before 2035, and by up to 75% in rapidly developing countries like China. Yet as international demand for energy expands without end in sight, it is increasingly clear that the supply is waning. Our world will run out of fossil fuels—some say by the end of the century. This leaves humanity in a very real and pressing energy crisis.
Beyond energy. It’s about the World.
Human reliance on fossil fuels presents another global threat that cares little for how much fuel we actually have left. Nearly all experts, including the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), now confirm that the continued burning of fossil fuels has been solidly identified as a direct cause of change in global climates, particularly rising temperatures. Our ecological systems are changing at alarming rates, and with the changes come many threats to our natural resources, wildlife and especially the peoples of the world. Perhaps the greatest threat of climate change is not the exhaustive consumption of fossil fuels, but rather the ecological consequences of that consumption. These consequences do not acknowledge national boundaries. They fall upon a single geographical world—not a divided political world. Those countries that have irresponsibly sown the most seeds of harmful fossil fuel emissions will not necessarily reap their fair share of these consequences. Consider the United States, which consumes 40 percent of the world’s fossil fuels, yet only holds 4 percent of the world’s population. Scientists speculate that despite its massively disproportionate consumption, it will be one of the last countries to witness the harmful weather related effects of its own emissions, simply because of its less vulnerable geographical location. As a global village, we must be prepared to treat our changing climate as a shared, international concern. There is no room to pass the blame or the responsibility.