Monthly Archives: October 2015

Why Paris Matters… part 1

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What is COP21?

cop21

This post is part of a 3-part series on this December’s COP21 climate conference in Paris

If you’re like most people, you probably have no idea what COP21 stands for or why it matters. But this global gathering of world leaders in Paris will set the stage for a global response to climate change and may prove to be the single most important diplomatic event of the century. Here’s why:

Climate change poses one of the most widespread, destructive, and complicated challenges humanity has ever faced. Millions already suffer from extreme weather, intense heat waves, reduced crop production, rising sea levels, prolonged droughts, and increased flooding. Furthermore, while everyone is impacted in some way, those living in poverty tend to be hit the hardest. Without quick and decisive action on a global scale, these problems will grow much worse.

Yet, as you might imagine, global agreements on climate change are a little hard to come by.

Back in 1992 world leaders came together to sign the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Ratified by 196 nations, this landmark treaty aims to “stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic [human] interference with the climate system.” Each year signatories gather at an annual “Conference of the Parties” (COP) to discuss how to achieve this goal. Previous COP’s have, more often than not, led to disappointment as disagreements have resulted in lack of global participation, inaction, or insufficient commitments.

This year from November 30 to December 11 representatives from UNFCCC nations will meet in Paris for the 21st COP. Unlike past conferences, expectations for COP21 are much higher for several important reasons.

First, after the failure of COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009, convention members decided to start over with a different approach. Rather than creating a legally binding treaty imposed on all nations, they decided to take the approach of having each country develop their own climate commitments based on their individual circumstances and capabilities. This has resulted in the creation of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC’s), or voluntary national reduction targets. While this approach has its limitations, most experts believe it will be more effective for initiating a share global strategy for emission reductions.

Second, since 2009 convention members have been targeting Paris as the starting point for a new global agreement. In other words, they’ve been working on it for six years. This long-term approach has enabled the parties to work out the details and find areas of common ground.

Finally, more than 120 nations, representing 90% of global greenhouse gas emissions, have already submitted their INDC’s. This includes the United States, China, India, Brazil, Russia, Mexico, Canada, Japan, Australia, all of Europe, and many others. While some INDC’s are stronger than others, each nation has made a commitment—and that’s a big deal.

Look for Part 2 on “why now?

By: Brian Webb

Another Victim: Childrens Health

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This week the American Academy of Pediatrics put out a policy statement which tells us climate change is real, caused by humans and will adversely impact our children’s health.

This isn’t a scare tactic, but is based off numerous studies of the relation of health to climate change.

First and most obvious effect to notice is the increase of extreme (and disastrous weather) weather in the last 40 years, such as wildfires (due to extreme drought), hurricanes, flooding, and other severe weather. These vicious climate change induced disasters have injured and killed thousands of children to date. Not to mention, if they do survive, they can be separated from their caregivers and have long lasting mental health disorders* such as PTSD.

The less obvious, but still very serious effect, is the reduction of air quality. Because of fossil fuel emissions and other forms of air pollution, diseases such as asthma and other respiratory problems** are aggravated further. Not to mention severe heat increase (since 1850, the world temperature has already gone up 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit), which has put and continues to increase infant-heat related deaths***.

We often think of working on climate change for environmental reasons, but more and more we are finding that our health, and the health and well-being of our children are at a high-risk if we continue to do nothing.

Want to make a difference? Become a Climate Caretaker and commit to prayer and action on climate change.

 

 

 

Footnotes:

*Goldmann E, Galea S. Mental health consequences of disasters. Annu Rev Public Health. 2014;35:169–183

 

**Sheffield PE, Knowlton K, Carr JL, Kinney PL. Modeling of regional climate change effects on ground-level ozone and childhood asthma. Am J Prev Med. 2011; 41(3):251–257, quiz A3

 

***Xu Z, Etzel RA, Su H, Huang C, Guo Y, Tong S. Impact of ambient temperature on children’s health: a systematic review.Environ Res. 2012;117:120–131

Living Faithfully in a Changing Climate

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Our friends as TEAR Australia have recently posted this very powerful video on how Climate Change is impacting poor communities in India.

Kuki Rookhum, from EFICOR India, powerfully states the truth that, “Climate injustice for most of us is just an inconvenience, if I have the resources, I can over-come it with my money. …. But for many poor people in India, climate change and the injustice that accompanies it, means death.”

Please watch this powerful video, and share to help educate people on the true impact of climate change on the Global South and the worlds most impoverished communities.

Kuki Rokhum from TEAR Australia on Vimeo.

81 Leading Companies Commit to Climate Action

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This week (October 19th) the White House announced that 81 companies have signed on to the American Business Act on Climate Pledge, with specific details. A few weeks ago, we announced that the tally had risen to 34, with huge names like J&J, Nike and Starbucks having added their names. But now, it’s become the Who’s Who of global corporate brands, each making specific commitments of varying degrees to cut climate-warming impacts like carbon & methane emissions, deforestation and waste throughout the supply chain.

The White House announcement summarized the 81 commitments as follows:

These 81 companies have operations in all 50 states, employ over 9 million people, represent more than $3 trillion in annual revenue, and have a combined market capitalization of over $5 trillion.

By signing the American Business Act on Climate pledge, these companies are:

  • Voicing support for a strong Paris outcome. The pledge recognizes those countries that have already put forward climate targets, and voices support for a strong outcome in the Paris climate negotiations.
  • Demonstrating an ongoing commitment to climate action. As part of this initiative, each company is announcing significant pledges to reduce their emissions, increase low-carbon investments, deploy more clean energy, and take other actions to build more sustainable businesses and tackle climate change.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       In fairness, the commitments vary. They range from Ag giant Cargill (5% energy efficiency improvement by 2020 — begging for more muscle) to Apple (already 100% carbon-free, committing to more clean power). While Congress tries to undermine the Paris commitments before they’re finalized, industry leaders are acting despite government resistance.

Leaders from three signatories — IKEA, Best Buy and PG&E — held a round table discussion on their plans. It’s clear that they’re way ahead of US lawmakers on the need for bold action. Each agreed that the ultimate success of these plans hinges on some level of government action to place a price on carbon emissions, so that climate pollution is no longer free.

Still, without any legislative action, and despite congressional threats to torpedo global agreements in Paris this year, industry sees what has to be done, and they’re beginning to act. We’ve prayed, and we’ve demanded action. We’re thankful today for hopeful answers.

-J Elwood

Prayer Update: 3 out of 4 Americans Acknowledge Climate Change is Happening

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The latest UT Energy Poll released this morning shows a significant shift in U.S. attitudes about climate change: 3 out of 4 Americans acknowledge that climate change is occurring. This includes a majority (59%) of Republicans.

Human causes top the chart of what people believe are contributing factors to climate change, with deforestation being the number one believed cause. Natural causation alone (no human impact) came in fifth.

This marks a meaningful shift in the mindset of the U.S. population. With this trend continuing to increase, we can hope and pray that enough political determination will be present from the U.S. cohorts going into COP21 to institute real change.

peter

Creator God,

Thank you for working in the hearts and minds of people in the United States regarding climate change.

Thank you for placing people in positions of leadership who understand this important issue and for providing those people with intelligent advisors and good research to help support their claims and decisions.

Please continue to remove pride and greed that keeps us from acknowledging the harm our actions have upon others. Give us the ability to intelligently take in all of the information out there on climate change and make rational inferences and changes to our every day habits and choices.

Amen.

Prayer Update: Carbon Plans from India and Brazil Make it Nearly Unanimous – But the Creation Still Groans

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Last week brought us two major developments in the global response to climate pollution.

First, the world’s last two major economies – Brazil and India – came on board with plans to reduce greenhouse gas pollution for submission to the Paris COP-21 conference in December. That’s more than 140 countries with climate change plans, representing the vast majority of the world’s population and its economic activity. These plans are expected to reduce global warming by 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century, compared to business as usual. We thank God for this wonderful progress, and global unity of purpose.

At the same time, however, we learned that the plans submitted are nowhere near enough yet to stave off seriously harmful – and even catastrophic – warming of the earth, the waters and the air. According to current estimates, despite these plans, the planet will be 6.3 degrees F hotter by the end of the century. That’s in addition to the 1.5 degrees F that we’ve already seen.

Hebrew 4,16

Creator God,

In love you created all things for your pleasure. In Christ, you are reconciling your entire creation to yourself in his glorious kingdom. One day, all nations will gather in choruses of praise before your throne, in perfect oneness. We see your hand in the unity of nations committing to act to protect your climate systems. We praise you that virtually all nations are coming together in this holy cause.

And yet we lament, O Lord, that we have delayed so long, polluted so much, and committed to do so little, compared to the dangers at hand. We pray for transparency regarding national promises to reduce carbon pollution. We pray that your people will find new ways to go beyond current commitments in protecting your climatic systems. And we pray for justice for poor nations which have done so little to contribute to this crisis, yet face its worst consequences.

In the name of our blessed Savior we pray,

Amen.

 

 

 

 

Climate justice: Will we listen?

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Tafue Lusama

Rev. Tafue Lusama in his home country of Tuvalu

The concept of climate justice had never really left an impression on me until I recently attended a Faith and Justice Symposium at Houghton College and heard one of the keynote speakers, Rev. Tafue Lusama, talk about his homeland of Tuvalu. Now I have a face to represent the lists of lives that are being impacted by climate change.

Rev. Lusama left his island to make others aware of the plight of his people as they deal with the impacts of sea level rise and face the possibility of mass evacuation. I can’t imagine the kind of pain he and his people must feel, though the idea of being driven out of one’s homeland isn’t new to me. Both of my parents were refugees from Laos who came to the US to escape the political oppression left over from the Vietnam War. While the causes may be different, the human experience of becoming a refugee is something very tangible. I can’t say that I understand what it’s like to have to rebuild a life from scratch, but I can say that this is a tangible issue that has affected my life. And this is a possible outcome for the people of Tuvalu if the proper actions aren’t taken to aid in their fight for their island. That is why Lusama was reaching out to us—so that we can stand by his people in their time of need. My parents were allowed to enter the US through locals who stepped up on their behalf. Now it’s our turn to step up!

In another Symposium workshop Christen Civiletto Morris spoke about how the importance of environmental issues lies in the fact that we all share a dependence on nature. If we don’t assume responsibility for the way that we have treated this earth, the innocents will be the first to pay the price. This is already true of the people of Tuvalu as they struggle with limited access to water and food, among other difficulties. The people of Tuvalu are among the many that have not made a significant contribution to the human causes of climate change. Similarly, my parents were just children during the Vietnam War. Nevertheless, the prospect of forced migration is a reality for both.

Justice for the world can only be achieved when those in the world work collaboratively. Injustice arises when we fail to hear someone else’s voice. Who is listening to the voice of the people of Tuvalu?

We all live on Earth, why shouldn’t we strive to take care of it? Why shouldn’t we work to help each other? While the answers are complicated I would like to think that I’m doing something right in cultivating the type of hope that the people of Tuvalu still have for their island. I am aware, I am hopeful, and the ‘we’ of the subject is becoming all the more integral in my own personal outlook.

By Amanda Nouvong, guest writer

Amanda is just like any other college student; Attending Houghton College to learn about the world and how she can take her part to make it a better place. 

October Action: Care for our Home

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Home heating requires a lot of energy, especially for those of us living in colder climates (I live in upstate NY).  For most of us energy = greenhouse gas emissions.  Fortunately there are many things we can do to winterize our homes and cut the amount of energy required to heat during the winter.  (For those living in warmer climates where heating isn’t necessary, see below for a list of climate-friendly tips for your home).

This month, Climate Caretakers are working to reduce our climate impact through how we prepare our homes for the heating season.  Pick any or all of the Caretaker actions below and let us know how it goes by emailing your story or posting on Facebook.

  1. FIRST STEPS: As the weather turns cooler, wait one extra week before turning on the heat.  If you’re worried about getting too cold, try throwing on a sweater or extra blanket.  Putting a small space heater in the kids’ rooms at night can also reduce the need to heat the rest of the house.
  2. DIG DEEPER: Add extra insulation to your attic.  Blow-in insulation doesn’t cost much, is a fairly easy DIY project, and will save money and energy.  Many home improvement stores will often rent you the equipment for free if you purchase a certain amount of insulation.
  3. ALL IN: Ask your employer or local school to turn down the heat by just 1 degree this winter.  Most people won’t notice the difference, and with big buildings a small change can have a huge impact.

Student Suggestions:
If you live in a campus dorm try talking to your housing supervisor about how the school can save money and cut energy use by turning the heat down, adding insulation, or waiting a week to turn the heat on.  You can also make a difference by making sure your windows (and any public hallway or laundry windows) are always closed tight.

Looking for a few other ideas.  Try these:

  • Turn the thermostat down by just 1 degree
  • Install a programmable thermostat and set it to automatically turn down when you’re not at home or during the night
  • Spray foam, caulk, and foam weatherstripping are simple and very cheap methods of winterizing around windows and doors to cut down on drafts and heat loss
  • Double check your windows to make sure they’re closed tight

Don’t need heating in your home?  Many Caretakers live in parts of the world where heating isn’t necessary.  You can make an impact too by thinking intentionally about how your home uses energy and how you can reduce it.  Changing the temperature setting on an air conditioner, unplugging unused appliances, and always turning off lights that aren’t needed are great places to start.

What will YOU do this month?

Prayer Update: Closer to an Agreement on Climate Change

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Yesterday the United Nations released a 20-page draft agreement for combating climate change. It warns that more than a 2-degree Celsius increase above pre-industrial global temperature is likely to lead to extreme weather, droughts, floods, and rising sea levels, and that it is imperative that nations across the world work together to ensure this doesn’t happen.

The exact wording of much of the document will be deliberated during the 2-week conference in Paris (COP21) this December, where it will be hopefully adopted by almost every nation in the world. It is imperative that we pray now for concise, cooperative, and strong action from all 193 participating nations.

There is a real chance for serious change to occur this December in Paris. Let’s invest our time in prayer over this event to ensure that serious change happens. Please also be in prayer for the Climate Caretaker team going to Paris (there’s still room if you’re interested in joining us).

1 peter

Creator God,

Thank you for bringing about an opportunity for nations around the world to come together and make a cooperative decision on how to combat climate change.

We pray that you bring minds together in harmony rather than discord. We pray any disagreements be rooted in love for humanity and the earth and not in greed or lust for power. Grant open hearts and open minds to the leaders of the world as they seek to reach an agreement to keep the earth’s temperature from rising to disastrous levels. Be with the scientists and presenters as they seek to impart their knowledge and findings in a clear and concise manner, and provide wisdom to the decision-makers as they seek to decipher an incredible amount of information in the short period of time.

Please forgive us for our complicity in creating these harmful effects, and help make our current and future efforts successful in combating climate change. Help us to always remember that this earth is a gift from you. May we always be the caretakers you have called us to be.

Amen.

National Day of Action on Climate Change

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On October 14th we (in the USA) will celebrate National Day of Action on Climate Change. This is a chance for each of us to do something as a community to reverse Climate Change.

There are events going on around the country, and you can find out one near you here. Activities vary from neighborhood clean ups, to meetings with the local governments, and even protests on various issues dealing with Climate Change.

You can also start your own event and let people know about it here.

Where ever you happen to be on October 14th, we hope that you spend some time in both prayer, and action on Climate Change!

 

-Ashley