People around the world have responded swiftly and generously to the devastation in the Philippines caused by Typhoon Haiyan, the largest storm ever recorded. In the wake of this disaster, it is important for us to go beyond simple relief efforts. We must heed the warnings of climate scientists who point to present disasters and future dangers, including sea level rise and increasingly deadly storms linked to climate change.
In November, 2013, in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan, leaders from more than 190 nations met in Warsaw, Poland, for the latest round of United Nations climate negotiations (the 19th Conference of the Parties, or COP 19). Yeb Sano, the lead negotiator from the Philippines, broke down in tears, made a powerful and emotional appeal for bold action, and pledged to fast for the duration of the talks unless commissioners come to a substantial agreement addressing climate change.
Many people around the world have joined him in fasting. An interfaith group in Warsaw has joined the fast, stating that, “As we engage in COP19, it reminds us to relate the negotiations with our responsibility as a believer. We cannot live in isolation, but we must care for each other. As a principle of equity, we fast and reduce because we can for others who cannot.”
On November 20, the tenth day of Yeb Sano’s fast, developing nations walked out of the climate talks because of the refusal by wealthier nations to heed their call for a financial mechanism to address “loss and damage” caused by climate change. This protest highlighted the fact that fossil fuels emissions now causing climate change have mostly come from industrialized nations, especially the United States.
The vast majority of scientists acknowledge that climate change is real, largely caused by human activity, and happening now. If you have doubt about this, visit The Consensus Project, Skeptical Science , or The Climate Reality Project. People of faith, conscience, and reason should not avoid raising the alarm. Future and more frequent disasters will be coming if we don’t respond to this threat. This is especially important because the people of the Philippines, the Maldives and other island nations, Africa, and other hard-hit countries are pleading with those of us in wealthier, more powerful nations to take climate negotiations seriously. We must enter into solidarity with the people of the Philippines and other developing nations that are affected “first and worst” by climate change, and join them in calling for climate justice.
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Sharon Delgado was part of the United Methodist delegation to the Global Forum in Rio de Janeiro during the 1992 Earth Summit, where the original Framework Climate Convention was negotiated. In the 1990s, she wrote about climate change for the General Board of Church and Society and for the National Council of Churches. She is a trained presenter with the Climate Reality Project, and has been speaking and writing about climate change for many years.