Rule over the earth: COP26, how climate change impacts people

Rule over the earth: COP26, how climate change impacts people. In part 2 of this series, we switch focus to how climate change impacts people. Yes, it does affect the planet. However, as we saw, the crowning achievement of God’s creation was man. Further, we say that God’s command to us was to care for His creation. Not to do whatever we wanted with it regardless of consequences. Rather, to care for it as part of His plan for us. And as we saw, we’re failing miserably.

Rule over the earth: COP26, how climate change impacts people is article #2 in the series: U. N. Climate Change Conventions. Click button to view titles for entire series
Rule over the earth: COP26, how climate change impacts people

Now, let’s turn to people. More specifically, the consideration, or lack of consideration, from the rich and powerful towards the poor and others who they appear to see as insignificant.

The sign says it well: If the climate were a bank it would have been saved. But the climate isn’t a bank. Rather, it’s treated more like a business. In fact, a poorly run business. Not only the climate, but pretty much everything in God’s creation that we can touch is treated as a quick source of revenue and power. No matter that it’s headed for sure ruin. Get the money now, and let someone else worry about it after we’re dead. That seems to be the prevailing attitude.

COP26 report from the U.N.

Here are some excerpts from a U.N. report from their website: COP26: Together for our planet | United Nations. It sounds good, doesn’t it? To be sure, it does sound encouraging. Until we get to a subheading from day 13: Compromise and contradictions. That section start with:

“The outcome of COP26 is a compromise. It reflects the interests, the contradictions and the state of political will in the world today. It is an important step, but it is not enough,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said at the conclusion of the conference.

Important? I suppose. Not enough? That’s putting it mildly.

The Glasgow Climate Pact, adopted by almost 200 countries after two intense weeks of negotiations, will not radically alter the global landscape on climate change. It does provide important advances, however. For starters, it recognizes the global climate emergency, citing recent IPCC findings. It expresses “alarm and utmost concern that human activities have caused around 1.1°C of global warming to date and that impacts are already being felt in every region.” Parties also recognize that the impacts of climate change will be much lower at a 1.5°C rise compared with 2°C, and resolved to pursue efforts to keep to 1.5°C.  

Nearly two hundred countries adopted the Glasgow Climate Pact. Impressive! Until we realize that the only way to get that many countries to sign didn’t have all that much to do with limiting climate change.

All the words expressing alarm and utmost concern are wonderful. Until we realize those words aren’t what drove the willingness to sign the pact.

I started to type commitment in the sentence above, but before I even finished the word, I realized it wasn’t a commitment. Not in the normal sense of the words. After all, it was mostly a commitment to be alarmed, to be concerned, but then to try to do as much “business as usual” as each country could get away with.

Apparently the alarm and concern was over something other than the environment for many of them.

Air pollution will continue to get worse. So will water quality. The temperature will continue to rise, since carbon emissions will continue to grow. Yes, these things will get worse at a slower rate. But honestly, what’s the good news about a slow death as opposed to a more rapid one? The end game is still the same. We lose.

Should Christians care about climate change?

I’m sure there are plenty of folks who think we Christians shouldn’t worry about climate change.

No doubt, some will say, “God will take care of us”.

Others will think it’s like boiling the ocean – no sick pun intended. It’s like, there are too many people in powerful positions for us to be able to do anything.

And probably a bunch of other excuses. But I think these two will do for now. I’m sure more will come up as time goes o and I write about other related items.

Climate change: God will take care of us

Well, that sounds good too. But did God ever say He’ll take care of us whenever we want by performing a miracle? Or did He tell us something else? Like maybe:

The Greatest Commandment – Matthew

22:34-40 pp — Mk 12:28-31

Mt 22:34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Mt 22:37 Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

The Greatest Commandment? What does that have to do with whether or not God will perform a miracle, climate change or some other purpose? Well, consider this.

Jesus said, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’

Notice that part about with all your mind. Yes, God did give us a mind. Minds that were smart enough to realize that our environment was in trouble a long time ago. Minds that were smart enough to do things differently. And minds that are smart enough to know that what we’re doing now isn’t enough. Minds that should be able to see that we’re bringing about our own end if we don’t actually start using our God-given minds to take care of our God-given creation.

It’s something we shy away from these days. Some want to do things like give participation trophies just for showing up. It’s not like God gives anything like “showing up” rewards. Not when we’re told to ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind’. No, I’m not saying we’re saved because of what we do. I’m saying that because we’re saved, we want to do things, based on the gifts God gave us. Yes, it’s pretty much the same words. But the order of those words makes all the difference!

But while that’s going on, others are just taking over everything because their view of winning is very different from the rest of the world. The rich get richer. The powerful get more powerful. And our God-given creation goes down the tubes. And us with it.

Rule over the earth: COP26, how climate change impacts people

So with all that in mind, let’s see what the COP26 agreement does for some people – and does to other people.

COP26 not legally binding

So the agreement isn’t legally binding. What’s the big deal? Besides, politicians and government leaders mislead and outright lie all the time. Who cares?

Well, for one, God cares. And since He cares, so should we, especially us Christians. even more so because of something Jesus said.

Oaths

Mt 5:33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.’ 34 But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”

Let’s face it, this passage sets the tone for everything that’s going to follow.

In fact, it sets the tone for so many things. Just think about that. Yes actually means yes. No actually means no. And we’re honest when we say them.

I was really surprised to see this is the first time I’ve used this passage in quite some time, if not ever. When I first put in the ability to search by NIV Passage Title, I went back more than a year to set up searching on some of the older articles. As of this time, still working on going back further. Anyway, of 465 passages I’ve used so far – this is the first instance of this passage on oaths. Very surprising. I certainly should have used it before this!

Anyway, let’s look at this agreement, often referred to as a pact, in light of that passage on oaths. First off, here’s the definition of a pact, so we’re all on the same page.

  • an agreement, covenant, or compact:
    • We made a pact not to argue anymore.
  • an agreement or treaty between two or more nations:
    • a pact between Germany and Italy.

Something we agreed to do. Not maybe we’ll do this thing but we will do this thing. For the Christians reading this, you should understand covenant. And while this certainly doesn’t rise to the level of a divine covenant, it most certainly does mean the parties involved said yes we’ll do this. Therefore, we need to look very closely at what they said they’d do.

What’s in the COP26 agreement?

The various excerpts below come from bbc.com.

Emissions

It was agreed countries will meet next year to pledge further cuts to emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) – a greenhouse gas which causes climate change.

This is to try to keep temperature rises within 1.5C – which scientists say is required to prevent a “climate catastrophe”. Current pledges, if met, will only limit global warming to about 2.4C.

The agreement here is to, as we call it, kick the can down the road. Pathetic but true. Pledges already made in the past aren’t being met. No small part of that was former President Trump, the darling of the religious right, to pull out of the group.

Worse still, those pledges already weren’t good enough to cut emissions to the level needed to prevent further disasters. And knowing all that, the best they could do was agree to meet again – next year! Another year of runaway emissions. Many more years of intensifying disasters like more and stronger hurricanes. Increased heat and oddly enough – increased cold, since it’s the extremes that are caused by these emissions. So no, colder temperatures don’t mean global warming isn’t happening. What it does mean though, is that the high temperatures are increasing all the more. We know that, because with the colder temps increasing, the only way for global temperature increase is for the highs to increase even more than the cold temps! It’s simple math.

And who gets hurt? The poor countries, and the poor people in any country. Why? Because the rich ones can afford to do mitigation. They can afford to replace damaged buildings. They can afford all sorts of things.

But the poor people? All they can do is leave their homes and try to go somewhere else. But who’ll take them? The U.S. certainly doesn’t want them. Even though we tell other countries that they should take immigrants. But we, and other countries, have an increasing white supremacist mentality that blocks many of the poor from southern hemisphere countries from entering.

All that, even though the Bible told us things like what we read in the passages below.

Social Responsibility

Normally, I include the entire passage, However, in this case, I only have the social responsibility instructions that apply to the issue of global warming. That’s because too often, when we go back to the Old Testament, things need to be explained since the language, the culture and the context don’t directly line up with today’s world. So some are left out to avoid making this overly long to explain things that aren’t relevant to this examination.

Ex 22:21 “Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt.

Here’s one where we need to see what this means to us today. At the time, the command was given by God to the Israelites who He led out of Egypt, rescued them from slavery under Pharaoh. Today, none of us fall into that group of people. However, many immigrants are fleeing their homes for various reasons but nearly always looking for something better. And while many of us, me included, don’t fall directly into that category either, we do have ancestors who did exactly that. Mine did, and many of you can say the same thing.

And so, the command to not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in … does apply to most of us in one form or another. Especially here in the U.S. And yet, how many Christians do mistreat aliens in “our own” land, even though few of us are indigenous people?

And rather than try to just say “this passage doesn’t apply” – let’s also admit that many of the poor people in this country are minorities and many of them have a much more difficult time advancing in their socio-economic status. That is mistreating aliens.

Add to that the simple reality that climate change does affect poor people more than rich ones, and the mistreatment just continues. How do we, as Christians, justify this in light of God’s command to not mistreat aliens?

Ex 22:22 “Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. 23 If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry.

… 

This is probably another one that draws the question – what’s this got to do with climate change? Again, it’s people more likely to be poor, and less likely to be able to escape the effects of climate change.

And before we just dismiss it out of hand, let’s not ignore – If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry.

Ex 22:25 “If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not be like a moneylender; charge him no interest. 26 If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, return it to him by sunset, 27 because his cloak is the only covering he has for his body. What else will he sleep in? When he cries out to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate.

God says, “When he cries out to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate“.

Question – when the poor and needy cry out to us, do we hear them? Honestly, they’re hard to miss. So maybe the question is, do we acknowledge their cries? And finally, if we do acknowledge them, are we compassionate enough to do anything?

As Christians, we really should. We’re supposed to be more Christ-like. That means we should be as well. After all, just remember what Jesus said about the vine and the branches.

The Vine and the Branches

Jn 15:1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

Jn 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

Jn 15:9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 17 This is my command: Love each other.”

Everything in there points to the reality that we should do things. Not ignore people. Not “just” pray. Yes, prayer is important. And yet, prayer alone, with no action, doesn’t really show that we love Jesus, since Jesus sent us out to reach others. Please see Are we supposed to Believe God, Believe in God or Follow God? for more on that.

Developing countries

There’s so much more, but the final thing we’ll look at today is the impact on developing countries. It’s not just the things seen above. And it’s not just their lack of money. No, it’s something that’s way too much in line with what some of Jesus spoke about. Here’s the final excerpt from the BBS article.

The agreement pledged to significantly increase money to help poor countries cope with the effects of climate change and make the switch to clean energy.  There’s also the prospect of a trillion dollar a year fund from 2025 – after a previous pledge for richer countries to provide $100bn (£72bn) a year by 2020 was missed.  While some observers say the COP26 agreement represented the “start of a breakthrough”, some African and Latin American countries felt not enough progress was made.

Yes, promises were made. Promises that brought hope to the poor developing countries. Both for the environment, and for them to have better lives. But the promises were broken. So now, with COP26, there’s a pledge to significantly increase money to help poor countries cope with the effects of climate change and make the switch to clean energy.

Tell me, is there any reason at all for those countries to actually expect anything good to come from a pledge to do more, without even taking the time and effort to define what “more” is? If we can’t meet a specified commitment, what hope is there for an unspecified one?

Conclusion – Rule over the earth: COP26, how climate change impacts people

Can you even imagine if God made “promises” like that? For instance, let’s take the famous John 3:16 promise.

The original version:

Jn 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

What if we did just that, lived a life that showed to the greatest extent possible our belief in Jesus (per the article about regarding believe, believe in, or follow)? Then, we die and get to the entrance to Heaven. But instead of “well done good and faithful servant“, we hear “sorry, I’ve been too busy making Heaven even greater for myself and didn’t have enough time or resources to work on a spot for you. So sorry. Off to Hell you go.”

I dare say, we wouldn’t like that at all. But isn’t that what we’re doing to the poor developing countries? Offering them improvement, better living conditions, money to have e better life for themselves and their kids – and then telling them we’re too selfish to actually go through with what we promised to do?

Can you even imagine how a God who told us, “Let your yes be yes” will react to that? I can. And it’s not nice. Yes, Christians are forgiven. But at what point does our way of life indicate to God that we aren’t truly Christian? That we don’t really have any intention of following Jesus’ teachings and commands?

At what point will we hear, “Away from me, you evildoers!“?


In Part 1 of this series – Rule over the earth: COP26, climate change, lies and money, we looked briefly at Proverbs 6:16-19. In the third installment, we’ll look at everything we’ve covered, in light of that passage in Proverbs. Look forward to seeing you there.


Image by Niek Verlaan from Pixabay


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