Can we respond to climate change?
Yes we can!
As Christians we are called to care for the poorest in society.
Many were fearful that the carbon price would make life much more expensive — in particular for the poor.
However the Government’s measures to compensate those most in need were welcomed by The Australian Council of Social Services and Australian Council of Trade Unions. More than half the money raised from the carbon price is to cover price rises for nine-out-of-ten households.
Electricity prices from the carbon price should increase 10%, gas 9% and everything else 1% (cleanenergyfuture.gov.au). If prices rises are higher we are to contact the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
Putting a price on carbon is the most effective and the cheapest way to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
This is important because, according to every scientific academy of the world’s major countries, humans are causing damaging climate change largely by using fossil fuels such as coal and oil, which emit GHG emissions.
These scientists say if GHG emissions aren’t quickly reduced violent weather patterns will ensue, causing desertification, famine, water shortages and human conflict.
One reason Climate Change presents a moral challenge to Christians is that it will impact most on the poorest in the world. Poor people in developing countries will bear over 90% of the burden of climate change … yet are least responsible for creating the problem according to former UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan.
According to Oxfam, 50 million more people will suffer hunger by 2050 and refugee numbers will burgeon.
To assist poor countries tackle climate change a United Nations Green Climate Fund should begin in 2014.
The carbon price is paid by the 300 or so top polluting entities and subsidiary companies. This gives them a financial incentive to curb pollution, by investing in clean technology or operating more efficiently.
This will help Australia reach its goal to cut emissions by 5% of 2000 levels by 2020.
Australia is not alone in adopting a carbon price. The EU has had a carbon price since 2005, to which 30 countries now belong and Sweden has had one since 1991.
Despite this some people wonder why Australia should act as our population is small. Yet Australia emits more than 180 other countries. Per head of population we produce more GHG than any developed country.
The Uniting Church says we have a moral duty to act. Certainly we could not influence world decisions if we did not.
Urgent action is needed. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which draws on top world scientific evidence, says that GHG emissions from the burning of fossil fuels must peak by around 2016 if we are to have a safe climate.
That is a huge challenge particularly given the industrial growth of China and India. However both those countries are developing renewable energy and localised carbon reduction schemes.
Care for creation
There is encouraging news. This year for the first time world investment in renewable energy has outstripped investment in fossil fuel, says Australian Chief Climate Commissioner Tim Flannery.
It’s natural for people to fear change. But Christians can feel confident that when we obey God’s commandments to care for his creation, to love our neighbour as ourselves and to care for the poor, God gives life abundantly.
For instance, renewable energy will provide more jobs.
There are 20,000 in Australia’s fossil fuel industry. The University of Melbourne Energy Institute says 75,000 jobs would be created to produce wind and solar power (with storage available around the clock). An exciting campaign to build Australia’s first solar plant with storage is occurring now at Port Augusta, South Australia.
Fossil fuel hubs like the Hunter Valley could manufacture the new infrastructure. We have changed our job structures successfully before. Remember stenographers and typing pools?
It will be cheaper to act on reducing climate change than not. In 2011 the International Energy Agency said delaying action is a false economy: for every $1 of investment in cleaner technology that is not spent before 2020, an extra $4.30 would need to be spent after 2020 to compensate for the increased emissions.
We have to change quickly.
Can we do it? Yes. We’ve acted quickly before. In two years the US changed from a small producer of war weapons in 1941 to one bigger than the total of enemy war production in 1943.
Minimising climate change is a massive challenge, but Christianity teaches us that we can succeed against huge odds, as in the David and Goliath story.
And humanity has overcome other major problems like ending apartheid in South Africa.
What we can do
- Buy green-power.
- Sign the Repower Port Augusta Petition https://repowerportaugusta.org/petition
- Visit, telephone or write to your local MP, the PM and opposition leader asking:
- to ratify the Kyoto Protocol (committing to reducing our GHG emissions 5% of 2000 levels by 2020);
- reduce fossil fuel use and increase use of non-nuclear renewable energy sources.
Marguerite Marshall is a Uniting Church member trained by Al Gore as an environmental leader with the Climate Reality Project and presenter for Beyond Zero Emissions.