Wake-Up Call: 5 Climate Resolutions to Keep Us Moving Forward
The data is in, the numbers have been crunched, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has just announced that 2014 was the hottest year on record.
It continues a trend where sea levels are rising, oceans are growing more acidic, natural disasters are increasing and, according to the US Climatic Data Center, we've not witnessed a globally cooler than average month since February of 1985. That's over 350 consecutive months of warmer temperatures—which is longer than most in my generation have been alive. Is this the world we are being left to inherit?
It doesn't have to be.
At the beginning of each year, millions of Americans reflect on the past 12 months of our lives. We evaluate where we're at compared with where we want to be, and we make resolutions about what to change in the year ahead.
Perhaps our most common New Year's resolution is to lose weight. After over a month of overeating, from Thanksgiving to Christmas and New Years, many of us step on the scale and receive a wake-up call that we're woefully overweight. This is concerning partly because our culture obsesses over body image, but more importantly because obesity is a serious health problem. So we resolve to eat better and exercise more, and if we have the money we invest in fitness equipment or sign up for a workout program. Getting back in shape can be hard work, but it's achievable. And the more progress we make the better we feel and the healthier we are.
I pray that this sobering news—that 2014 was the hottest year on record—will be our climate change wake-up call. We've been binging on dirty energy for decades now, and we're starting to feel the weight of the consequences. It's time that we resolve together—young and old, conservative and progressive, religious and secular—to change this.
The good news is that, as with the weight loss analogy, we know what needs to happen. Solutions are growing and becoming more available and cost effective—both in preparing for impending impacts and reducing further pollution. And the more we invest in research and innovation the more breakthroughs and opportunities we will experience.
The transition to a clean energy future is building momentum, but not fast enough. We need to change faster than the climate. So let's keep pushing. The more progress we make the better off we will be. Here are five broad climate resolutions we can make to keep us moving forward.
- Get serious about our values: What do we stand for, and what are our hopes? Climate action is a tangible way to protect human life, and children's health in particular. It's an opportunity to reduce thirst, hunger, conflict, forced migration, and a host of other challenges. It's about loving our neighbors, caring for the earth, and creating a more just and sustainable world for all. Let's be the people God made us to be.
- Get serious about the problem: We need to be discerning about who we listen to on climate change. Misinformation, propaganda, and conspiracy theories abound. Let's cut back on the talking heads and focus instead on the credentialed experts and their peer-reviewed research, as well as those currently experiencing climate impacts at home and abroad.
- Get serious about the solutions: Too often, we've grown overwhelmed by the challenge of climate change and fallen into despair. But it's not good enough to curse the darkness; we must also live in the light. And there are real reasons for hope. Let's celebrate and emulate our successes better—whether they are technological, political, economic, cultural, or in any other area.
- Get serious about our impacts: Climate action happens at every level—in our homes, schools, churches, workplaces, governments, and more. We're surrounded by ways we can continue to do good both by reducing our negative impacts (such as decreasing energy consumption) and by increasing our positive impacts (such as investing in clean tech firms and products).
- Get serious with our leaders: Political, business, and religious leaders have important roles to serve here. Politicians are particularly influential because of how irresponsibly partisan they've made this issue. Those who say, "I'm not a scientist," but then ignore the actual scientific community need to be held accountable. Those who step up to advocate for climate action, however, should get our support.
Great challenges call for bold but realistic resolutions. And unlike many New Year's resolutions, these ones have to stick. Too much is at stake for us to grow complacent or distracted. So may we seize this extraordinary opportunity to fight climate change and create a healthier and more hopeful future for all—my generation is counting on it.
Check out our handy, eye-catching Prayer Guide for Climate Action!
Ben Lowe is on staff with the Evangelical Environmental Network and serves as the National Spokesperson for Young Evangelicals for Climate Action. He is also the Board Chair of the Au Sable Institute of Environmental Studies. A dedicated activist and organizer, Ben was born and raised a missionary kid in Southeast Asia, where he experienced firsthand the impacts of poverty and pollution. He now lives as part of a refugee and immigrant community outside Chicago, where he ran for US Congress in 2010.
Ben is the author of Doing Good Without Giving Up: Sustaining Social Action in a World That's Hard to Change (IVP, 2014) and Green Revolution: Coming Together to Care for Creation (IVP, 2009). His next book, coauthored with Ron Sider and tentatively titled A Faith for All Generations: An Intergenerational Dialogue on Questions Defining American Christianity, is due out with Brazos Press in early 2016. Learn more at BenLowe.net.