Peter Healy sm, New Zealand Marist, names a "blessed unrest" and how a global perspective on Climate Change calls for 'ecological conversion' and the development of low carbon living….
The latest Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change Report (IPCC 2018) tells us we need to move to low-carbon lives immediately. In a prophetic appeal, this Panel of scientists is inviting humanity to transform. They are saying we need "rapid, far-reaching changes in all aspects of society".
The IPCC is an international panel of scientists set up in 1988 by UN agencies to assess the science that helps us understand the risk of human-induced climate change. Since 2014 the reports have been saying we can see the effects of climate change now in the form of wildfires, declines in crop yields, flooding and sea-level rise, droughts, ocean acidification and extinction rates. They also tell us we need to get to net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
The IPCC warns us that every bit of warming matters. This is because a 1.5 degree Celsius or higher increase in temperature means a greater risk of irreversible changes to our planet's ecosystems. The question is sometimes raised about how come such small temperature increases can have such grand effects? The best answer lies in the climate science of ice ages. A two-degree drop in temperature is all it takes to begin a little ice age and a five-degree drop means entry into the depths of a full ice age. This indicates how finely balanced climate is on a global scale.
The call to change from the IPCC is loud and clear. It is a clarion call to all institutions and all sectors of society. You don't need to be a scholar of the Old Testament prophets or an expert at discerning the signs of the times to hear this call. It resounds every which way!
The good news is there are changes underway all around the world moving in the right direction. There is a "blessed unrest" in nearly every nation on earth working with the integrity of creation. This unrest is about bringing business as usual to an end and helping us begin a new era of human-earth relations. The Stuff project launched recently called Quick! Save the planet is an example of blessed unrest coming into the mainstream news here. Its aim is to "disturb our complancey and help us make the realities of climate change feel tangible and unignorable". This project is inviting us to embrace an era of disruption and transformation. A reinvention of humanity and a new covenant with creation is being asked for, and The Earth Charter referenced in Laudato si' (n207) is one expression of such a covenant.
The IPCC summary states that "the next few years are the most important in our history". In Aotearoa/NZ we have been poor at responding to the IPCC and dealing with climate change. Dr. Bronwyn Hayward of Canterbury University calls this "climate laziness". Between 1990 and 2015 our net carbon emissions rose by 64%, while a country like Great Britain dropped theirs by 38%. The growth of our dairy industry is responsible for much of our increase in emissions. We also hide behind a self-description of a small nation at the bottom of the world that contributes small amounts of carbon and methane compared to superpowers like China, India and the USA.
Aotearoa/NZ has a Carbon Zero Act coming into law soon. This Act will, in conjunction with a new Climate Commission, hold the government to account in our transition to carbon zero status. As a religious-citizen organisation it is possible for the SMNZ to become carbon zero. This would be a constructive collective response to our current climate crisis. We will further consider carbon zero status in the next Kōrero. In the meantime, reflect, listen, pray and explore how community life can become a low carbon life.
Peter Healy SM
[Kōrero, NZ Marist province newsletter, No 7, Dec 2018]
The IPPC 2018 Report – follow this link https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/