Sunday, April 1, 2007

The Ethical and Religious Implications of Global Warming

The New York Times is reporting in this morning's edition that "Next Friday, a new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations body that since 1990 has been assessing global warming, will underline this growing climate divide, according to scientists involved in writing it — with wealthy nations far from the equator not only experiencing fewer effects but also better able to withstand them."

For example, "Africa accounts for less than 3 percent of the global emissions of carbon dioxide from fuel burning since 1900, yet its 840 million people face some of the biggest risks from drought and disrupted water supplies, according to new scientific assessments. As the oceans swell with water from melting ice sheets, it is the crowded river deltas in southern Asia and Egypt, along with small island nations, that are most at risk. In contrast, while the United States and Western Europe have contributed two-thirds of the carbon dioxide that is causing the climate change, "their wealth will largely insulate them from harm, at least for the next generation or two, many experts say. "

Now, if you accept the science that forms the basis of this conclusion--and it appears that even former nay-sayers are changing their tune--this report has profound ethical and religious implications for every Christian living comfortably in the industrialized West. Even apart from a theological response based on biblical notions of stewardship, this report suggests that we need to look hard at what God would think of those of us reaping the economic benefits of an industrialized economy at the cost of such immense hardship to our brothers and sisters in sub-Saharan Africa. I wonder what a modern day Micah or Amos would have to say, and I wonder what Christ would think about such a lack of concern about the least of these.

To be clear, being a faithful Christian does not mean that one must accept the science of Global Warming, but all too often it seems we allow our economic interests to color our view of uncomfortable scientific truths so that we can avoid moral dilemmas.

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