Author: Lisa Graumlich
I count the days until November 1st. On that date, the 26th UN Conference on Climate Change (COP26) will convene global leaders to negotiate commitments to address climate emergencies. The sense of urgency is palpable, fueled by a recent scientific assessment that reveals the steep path of global warming. UN Secretary-General António Guterres spared no words when he described this moment as a “red code for humanity. The alarm bells are ringing, and the evidence is irrefutable. ”
I will have a virtual seat next to COP 26 as a member of the 24-person delegation appointed by Bishop Michael Curry to represent the Episcopal Church. As a climatologist, I know the stakes can’t be higher. As a delegate, I will seek to bring a faith-based perspective to COP26, urging our leaders to accept the challenge of adopting bold strategies that reduce fossil fuel emissions, thus allowing us to achieve this important “net zero” goal by the middle of the century. What does zero net look like? Imagine a world in which the amount of fossil fuels emitted into the atmosphere is the same as the amount of carbon we remove from the atmosphere. In essence, we are stopping actively exacerbating the climate crisis.
What should you watch in the coming weeks? I have three recommendations.
First, keep in mind that the story of scientific uncertainty is over. I am one of thousands of scientists who have worked tirelessly for decades to develop a robust scientific basis that calls for action. As a scientific community, we can state with confidence that 1) climate change is happening now, 2) human activity is responsible, 3) impacts are serious and will get worse, and 4) it is important that there is still time to prevent most disruptions change. Our message to the global community is direct, sobering and supported by 1000 peer-reviewed scientific papers. Climate change is real.
Second, listen to those currently affected by climate change. We are all now experiencing the negative effects of climate change, but some of us are more vulnerable than others. Listen to voices from around the world describing how food supplies have been cut off, rising seas are threatening our coast, wildfires are getting stronger, and storms are increasingly flooding our communities. Listen to the voices of young people. They inherit a world of increasing climate risks and have a right to be deeply concerned. Climate change deprives them of future options.
Third, actively engage with friends and family to have challenging conversations about climate change and our collective future. The spectrum of climate change is huge, but we have the unique strength to bring it up. As believers, we know the power of lamentation when we set aside denial to face the desperate cries of grief over loss and social injustice. From our ancient traditions, we know how to move beyond mourning to imagine a vision of a fairer and more sustainable world. Finally, we know how to embrace hope that will boost our engagement long after the COP26 meeting is over. Climate change is calling us all to action.
Dr. Lisa Graumlich is a climate scientist and dean emeritus of the University of Washington’s Department of the Environment. She has dedicated her career to studying the causes and consequences of climate change. She is thrilled with the progress made in tackling climate emergencies that are science-based, faith-based and responsive to the needs and aspirations of the community. She is a parishioner at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Seattle, where she seeks to build bridges between the creation care service, restorative justice, and systemic change. She is in the process of separation with the hope that she will deepen this ministry as an ordained deacon.