By Imam Saffet Catovic and David Hales, Co-Chairs Climate Action Task Force of the Parliament of the World’s Religions
Because of the experience of real people in real places, new scientific studies, and the collection of hard data throughout 2021, we now know more than we have ever known before about the state of Earth’s climate, and we know it with even greater certainty.
Human experience and scientific evidence reinforce the Parliament of the World’s Religions’ conviction that the reality and basic causes of climate change are settled science. We are convinced that the evidence of the danger created by human-caused climate change is irrefutable and that the danger is growing rapidly.
We are also convinced that 2022 brings new opportunities for action to meet the challenge.
The world is at a Turning Point. We — as individuals, communities, and societies — will either change our behavior or we will change the world in ways that are irreversible.
Since the Paris Conference of the Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC) in 2015, the nations of the world have been “committed” to holding human-caused increases in global temperature to less than 2.7F (1.5C).
The Goal of the 2021 Conference of Parties (COP) of the FCCC in Glasgow was to “keep 1.5C alive.” Analysis of the outcomes of the 2021 COP, and recent scientific reports since then, including those of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), clearly document just how fragile that goal is.
Our national leaders are failing to keep their commitments and in failing to act they have failed all of us.
By our decisions and our behaviour, we have chosen the 2022 world in which we now live. Unless we choose differently and behave more wisely, the damage we have caused will continue to escalate. For all persons of good faith, 2022 must be a year of action to reduce human-caused greenhouse gas emissions and to prepare for and address the inescapable consequences of the changes we have already imposed upon the planet.
Climate Change affects all of us. Even more sobering is the fact that climate change will affect every human born in the 21st century and beyond. Our decisions and actions in 2022 will shape the conditions for life, including human lives, on our planet for the foreseeable future. Further, the wicked truth about climate change is that while it affects all, it does not affect us equally. We may all be in the same storm, but we are not all in the same boat.
Each day we live, we take from, and give back to the world around us. We can choose what we take and what we give back. All too often our gifts back are laden with poisons and destructive consequences, shaped more by our ignorance or greed than by knowledge or wisdom. Our ignorance, however, is a voluntary misfortune.
We are the first generation of humans to have the knowledge, technology, and wealth to create societies that are sustainable and just. With that opportunity comes responsibility. To realize our opportunity, we must choose responsibility — not just say we choose it — but commit to developing the capacity — at every level — to understand the material, physical, and moral consequences of the choices we make. In these times, our lives will not be judged by our intentions, but by the consequences of our actions.
From a scientific perspective, our capacity to comprehend the full consequence of our choices continues to grow. From an economic perspective, we can no longer say we cannot afford sustainability, and we can clearly see that unsustainable choices lead to impoverishment, ecological disaster, and moral bankruptcy. For the rest of our lives, neither the perspective of faith nor of science will allow us to claim innocence about the consequences of our actions.
Our choices will determine the future of our planet. Therein lies the hope and the danger of this time in the history of the world – this is the reality of living in the Anthropocene. Reconciling our existence with the well-being of all starts with acknowledging the patterns of behavior individually and societally that are inconsistent with our values. Achieving reconciliation with the rest of the living world requires change.
Our Theory of Change:
We believe that change begins with engagement that is deeply and honestly based on scientific evidence and guided by our faith and values.
We believe that engagement is enriched by active Collaboration with others.
We believe that Collaboration, if it is more than selfish indulgence, will lead to ACTION.
We believe that there are two reasons for individual action:
- First, each of us has the responsibility to do what is right. If we can make a difference, no matter how small, we have that responsibility.
- Second, individual actions are the necessary fuel of societal change.
While the actions of individuals continue to impact Earth’s climate, it is now clearer than ever that it is our collective behavior that must change. No national government has yet done enough to reduce cumulative emissions of greenhouse gases. Taken together, the action commitments of the governments of the world – even if fully implemented -- still fall short of changing the trajectory of our planet toward widespread disaster and extensive human misery.
The engagement of the spiritual communities of the world is indispensable to every aspect of this challenge. We will not do what is in our hearts if we do not listen to what is in our hearts.
Our faiths call us to be warriors for the sustainability and the well-being of our world. The challenge is enormous, but we cannot allow it to erode our commitment and will to act. No one can do all that must be done, but everyone can do something. One is not responsible for what one truly cannot do alone, but all of us are responsible for what we do together. Accomplishing what is necessary starts with each of us doing what we can.
The wisdom on which we must draw as we choose our futures will come from our diverse traditions and the insights catalyzed by common purpose – the Wellbeing of humans, the fairness and justice of our societies, the sustainability of Earth’s natural systems and the flourishing of all life.
As diverse as our cultures and spiritual traditions may be, it is certain that we will share the future. Faith communities can help us recognize our interdependence, see beyond our science and knowledge to perceive meaning and wisdom, and encourage mutually reinforcing action.
There is a fearsome urgency to this challenge.
Our actions each day write the future across the face of this planet. Just as we have chosen the world in which we live today, we can choose a better world for our future. The world's religions, our shared ethics, and our individual spiritual experience are essential for making those choices wisely.
We invite all who share our concerns and values to join with us in these endeavors.