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Ending fossil fuels is a testament to faith

Ending fossil fuels is a testament to faith

This month, Christians like me celebrate Advent, when we joyfully await Christmas. During this season, Christians like me are also waiting for an end to the climate crisis.

Ending the fossil fuel habit that is driving climate change will be hard. We can do it together–if we choose to believe a better future is possible.

The planet has already warmed by 1.1 degrees Celsius. That might seem like a small number. But in the time between the beginning of civilization and the dawn of the industrial revolution, the average global temperature shifted by only about 0.5 degrees up or down.

Consistency gave us stability. It gave us predictability. It let us develop the farms and fisheries that feed our bodies and the churches and libraries that feed our spirits.

That stability is now gone. In just the last 140 years, we’ve pushed the pendulum of global temperature into a bigger swing than the biggest swing in all of human civilization.

Big warming means big change across our complex planetary systems, like shifting rainfall and temperature patterns, newly risen seas, more powerful storms, and expanded territory for disease-carrying insects like mosquitoes. These changes might be liveable if they were stretched out over millennia.

But this change is taking place over decades. We simply cannot adapt quickly enough to cope. The people we care about are already more hungrysickconflict-prone, and forced into migration.

Our fossil fuel habit is driving this suffering. For people like me who were taught to “love your neighbor,” our refusal to quit fossil fuels is a moral catastrophe.

Thankfully, we can change.

Without question, repenting of our fossil fuel habit will be deeply difficult. Right now, the world runs on oil and gas. Everything from the electricity in our homes to the fuel in the trucks that supply our grocery stores depends on it.

Making a transition away from fossil fuels will require the best of our grit and ingenuity. This is where belief in a better future comes in.

The recent UN climate negotiations in Dubai made a gesture at this future. For the first time, the final statement made explicit that a “transition away from fossil fuels” is inevitable.

But the very week the negotiations concluded, ExxonMobil announced it would increase drilling in the Permian Basin. Occidental Petroleum (now called Oxy) announced a $12 billion purchase of an oil and gas company. Perenco UK announced it had discovered a new gas field in the North Sea.

Words like “transition away from fossil fuels” are very nice. But climate change doesn’t respond to words. It doesn’t respond to good intentions or political finagling. Climate change is a physical reality. It responds only to action.

We are capable of action. Over the past century, humanity has achieved nearly miraculous progress. We’ve halved the number of people living in poverty. We’ve almost quadrupled the percentage of people who can read. The growth of renewable energy itself continues to shatter records.

We can achieve the near miracle of stopping climate change, too. We must believe that a better future is possible, and that we can get there together.

We have a clear number to aim for: nearly 60% of all known fossil fuel reserves must stay in the ground.

We know how to get there: massively ramp up renewable energy production, transmission, and storage.

We know the transition must be just. There are good, hard-working people in the fossil fuel industry, and they are owed not only our thanks but our care, as we make the inevitable and necessary transition to the fuels of the future.

We can do this. For people of faith like me, change is not an obligation. It is an opportunity to more perfectly demonstrate love in a world that sorely needs it. A better future is possible. The only question is whether we will choose it.

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