COP, Climate, and the Commands of God

I recently asked Francis (who is part of our church family) to reflect on COP26 and the situation with Climate change. Here are his reflections. 

What is COP26?

The COP26 or to give it its full title the ‘2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference’, will take place in Glasgow from 31st October to 12th November. The conference is due to incorporate the 26th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (hence the title COP26). Also, the 16th meeting of the parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP16), and the 3rd meeting of the parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA3).

In other words, it is an international conference about the challenge of climate change, run by the UN, but hosted this year by the UK.

What is Causing Climate Change?

The cause of climate change is complex. There are various factors which include, cyclic climate variations, increased pollution (including higher co2 levels), volcanic activity (creating increased pollution levels). Some of the factors also contain elements that can slow down global warming, such as increased dust in the air, leading to a decrease in temperatures, but the same dust can increase snow and ice melt especially at the polar regions, in turn causing higher sea levels.

Though complex, the evidence, when taken together, points to increasing climatic changes, due to general global warming, as a result of increased pollution and associated CO2 levels.

What Should Christians do about Climate Change?

There is much that we can and should do. You can read our previous blog here which gives some thoughts on the action we might take as individuals or the latest post from the Free Church here on responding to COP. 

How is the Free Church Responding to the Government’s Net Zero Consultation?

The Free Church is seeking to engage more frequently and productively with the Scottish Government on a range of issues. This is being done (in part) by providing detailed responses to Government consultations. You can read the church’s response to the Net Zero consultation here. You might also like to look at Tearfund’s helpful set of articles and resources.

How Might our Turning Away from God be worsening or hastening Climate change?

The changing climate is perhaps a symptom of a far deeper problem; the turning away from God and his ways by the nations of today.

In Psalm 2 we read “Why do the nations conspire, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed, saying, ‘Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles.” Psalm 2:1-3.

How have we risen up against the Lord? In rejecting God and his law – summarised in the 10 Commandments.

  1. “You shall have no other gods “- Many nations now seem to think they have ‘moved beyond’ God.
  2. “You shall have no other gods before me” and “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath”. The heart of sin is idolatry. We worship ourselves, our money – and the accumulation of possessions (often at the expense of the planet). Some nations venerate celebrity, others or authoritarian dictators or symbols of authority.
  3. “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God” – The Lord’s name is merely another curse word for the majority of folk around us. Removal of all references to God in public life – ostensibly to minimise offence – is offensive to the Lord. We can also include all who persecute God’s people.
  4. “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy”. – Britain has lead the charge in breaking this commandment: we not only ceased to keep Sunday’s special or holy, but we also persuaded most of the EU to follow our lead!
  5. “Honour your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you”. The family unit has suffered its greatest attack these last few years, from various types of legislation undermining the role of having both a married Mother and Father as the model for good family units, especially in regard to the raising of children.

A further note on this fifth commandment is how it is conditional, and if broken God’s people could expect to leave, or flee their land. Whilst this promise is given specifically to the Old Testament Israel, perhaps we can draw a general principle for today.

We could continue with the next 5 commandments, but for brevity’s sake we will stop here.

What About the Conference?

In previous years the nations have met, made vague promises, and made halfhearted efforts to meet their promises. Will COP26 be any different? The cynic may well be right in saying that there will a lot of fuss, discussion, photo-shoots, and promises – but little real action.

As well as discussing the climate, we must pray that the nations who meet at the COP26 would get right with God!

Meanwhile on the streets outside will be large groups of protesters, demanding radical changes to save the environment, and in the process degrading the local environment with rubbish and noise and at times violence.

Extinctionists, Realists or Deniers?

Responses to climate change often fall into three groups,

  • A group referred to as the ‘extinctionists’, that is those who claim that the present climate change is leading to such great changes that the survival of humanity is in danger.
  • A group described as ‘realists’ who acknowledge the crisis and maintain that serious action is required to minimise the effects, but that ultimately the effects can be mitigated (we’re not heading for extinction).
  • The last group known as ‘deniers’, that is they refuse to acknowledge that there is a crisis, and that climate change is little more than normal climate variations.

As Christians we naturally fall into the second group: we know God has given us stewardship over his world and that we must govern it with care. We know the Lord will ultimately renew and restore his world. I can understand that some Christians may fall into the group of deniers, as a reaction to the extremes of the extinctionists.

In conclusion

 Isaiah says “1 Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, or his ear too dull to hear. 2 But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you… 8 The way of peace they do not know there is no justice in their paths. They have turned them into crooked roads no one who walks along them will know peace. 9 So justice is far from us and righteousness does not reach us. (Is 59:2, 8-9)

The world is in a mess owing to the arrogance of the nations, especially their leaders. This is often not helped by demonstrators who are extremists. This mess is a result of rejecting Gods and his law.

In terms of action, pray for the protection of Gods creation, and show respect for both God and his creation by trying to prevent further deterioration and bring about healing, wherever and however possible.

A Prayer to Pray

Forgive us for turning away from your ways both as individuals as well as a nation, help us turn back to you and start repairing damage that has been done. We thank and praise you, Father, for your goodness to us and the gift of creation. We look for your return, saying Maranatha, “come Lord Jesus”.

We also pray for the COP26 conference that the world leaders will work together to meet the challenges of climate change, and after the conference will choose to once again follow your ways.  Amen.