Wednesday, December 09, 2009

What does Christianity have to do with climate change?

And specifically, what does the Christian message have to offer to the enormous UN conference currently underway in Copenhagen?

In a number of previous posts, I've mentioned the work of the Centre of Public Christianity (a.k.a. CPX) in Sydney. The high standards of their online work might now be under threat since they just published a short piece I wrote attempting to answer that question, titled "Facing the truth in Copenhagen". I outline two common mistaken answers and their alternatives. Go and check it out. Or at least go and check out the rest of the CPX site.


Anna Blanch said...

Hey Byron., I'll take a look at your CPX article..but i wondered if you'd seen this and what your general thoughts are of alternative energy efforts.

byron smith said...

My general thoughts on alternative energy efforts? Three things come to mind quickly:

(a) We need viable alternatives to fossil fuels. Even if we weren't concerned about climate change and carbon emissions, peak oil is still a major issue.

(b) Alternative energy sources have been criminally neglected for decades by short-sighted governments and business. The investment has been sporadic and unpredictable (every time there was some kind of oil crisis) when the money ought to be substantial and sustained over many years since the basic needs for alternatives has been known for decades.

(c) I am no tech expert and so rely entirely on the word of others who are whom I trust. And they generally seem to be saying that while there are a number of promising options, none of them are currently anywhere near as useful and powerful as fossil fuels. That is, they are more expensive, produce less energy out for each unit of energy put in, and in many cases, have issues with fluctuating outputs (the wind doesn't blow all the time, etc.). Now all these issues are being worked on and significant improvements are being made. But not fast enough.

So my conclusion is that we need to very significantly reduce the energy-intensity of our lifestyles and pursue alternative energy sources as fast as possible, while phasing out our reliance upon fossil fuels.

The first point (reducing our energy demands) is crucial for two reasons. First, the timescales involved. Due to both peak oil and climate change (or either of them considered independently), we probably don't have the time for a gradual transition to alternative technologies without an energy shortfall. The other options will not fill the gap fast enough.

Second, I believe this is the right thing to do regardless of any threats from climate change and peak oil. Our current ways of living are extremely wasteful and are built on the assumption of an endless desire for more. Contentment is at the heart not only of any path to a healthy planet, but also of the path to a healthy soul.