Published November 28, 2022 by United Methodist Insight: The Climate Crisis and COP 27: Conflicting Worldviews
The recent climate conference, COP 27, ended with mixed reviews from climate campaigners. United Methodist Agencies were represented in the talks, and their reports from the Conference and other reports about the climate negotiations are available below. In the following excerpt from her newest book, Sharon Delgado draws from The first chapter of First Corinthians to frame the ongoing conflicts that have prevented the international community from charting a clear course towards a stable climate and a just world, and points to Jesus’s passion for the reign of God as a model for our participation.
Excerpt from Sharon Delgado’s new book: The Cross in the Midst of Creation: Following Jesus, Engaging the Powers, Transforming the World
According to the most recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), average global temperatures have risen 1.1 degrees Celsius, or 2 degrees Fahrenheit, since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, largely caused by the burning of fossil fuels. The report says we must limit this warming to under 1.5 degrees Celsius to prevent the most catastrophic impacts, which means cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half globally by 2030 and to net-zero by 2050, which will require rapid and far-reaching changes in all aspects of society. Or in a slogan from the climate justice movement, “System change not climate change.”
Climate justice advocates demand policies based on the science that will help bring about systemic change. Such policies include ending fossil fuels subsidies that the International Monetary Fund says amount globally to $10 million per minute, providing “loss and damage” payments to poor countries that have been impacted most and have contributed least to climate change, immediately transitioning to justly and sustainably sourced renewable power, and banning permits for long-lasting fossil fuel infrastructure projects like pipelines and offshore oil drilling rigs that will cause pollution and keep the fossil fuel party going for decades. The bottom line is to keep fossil fuels in the ground.
The problem is that there are powerful interests working to keep the dominant system intact. They propose complex carbon-trading schemes and postpone action based on the hope of untested carbon-capture and geoengineering technologies. They promise to move to net-zero domestically sometime in the future while continuing to increase fossil fuel exports. Many government and industry leaders see the magnitude of the dangers but won’t go against the conventional wisdom of today’s system of corporate-dominated globalization, which is built around profit, powered by fossil fuels, and backed by police and military power.
Meanwhile, the movement for climate justice is strong and growing. These struggles are often led by people who are marginalized in official decision-making processes— people from island and low-lying nations experiencing sea-level rise, drought-stricken nations facing famine, frontline communities being turned into sacrifice zones by fossil fuel extraction and processing, Indigenous people whose lands are being polluted by pipelines or confiscated to plant tree farms to supply polluting corporations with carbon credits, and young people whose lives and futures are at stake— and they are supported by environmental groups, labor unions, and other civil society groups, including churches. Together, these groups make up the global movement for climate justice. They call for climate change to be treated as the emergency that it is and for governments to take immediate action. Participants are not just saying no to fossil fuels but yes to a transformed world, and they have plans to get us there.
These are two completely different approaches to the climate crisis: an approach that leaves our market-based global system intact and an approach that calls for a widespread social and economic transformation. They represent two conflicting paradigms and opposing worldviews.
Perhaps the answers to our search for climate solutions will come in ways that we least expect them. Leaders in struggles for climate justice are not high-status official representatives of the domination system, nor are they wealthy or powerful according to the wisdom of this world (1 Cor 1:20). But it may be that these will be the very people who will save us from climate catastrophe by opening our eyes to another worldview, by pressing for systemic change, and by demanding commonsense solutions that will keep fossil fuels in the ground. They may be considered “weak” and “foolish” (1 Cor 1:27-29) by the world’s standards, but they are organizing and networking together to build grassroots movements that have the power necessary to bring about the widespread social, political, and ecological changes that are necessary to transition to a more just, compassionate, peaceful, and ecologically regenerative world. Churches could amplify these movements by joining such campaigns and coalitions as respectful allies. In the words of climate justice organizer Bill McKibben, “The main way to counter the malign power of vested interests is to meet organized money with organized people.”
The word of the cross (1Cor 1:18), as weak and foolish as it may seem, allows us to glimpse a new order, an alternative to the dominant culture and its values based instead on the compassion, justice, inclusivity, and nonviolence that characterized Jesus’s life and (as we now know it must be) on care and concern for all creation. Martin Khor of the Third World Network speaks of something similar when he says that there are two paradigms at work in our world today: the top-down system of corporate globalization, backed by violence, and an emerging alternative system that is community based, people friendly, earth centered, and nonviolent. He points out that as we work within the dominant system to make it fairer, more just, and less ecologically destructive, we must also nurture seeds of hope to bring alive the second paradigm and “infuse it into the first paradigm as a kind of transition.” This worldview offers an alternative to the domination system that is consistent with traditional and contemporary Indigenous views and is supported by the understanding of God as not only transcendent but also immanent within creation. It recalls Jesus’s proclamation of the reign of God and its contemporary secular counterpart that proclaims that “another world is possible.”
The compassion and passion for the reign of God that motivated Jesus may yet save us, as his risen Spirit lives and loves through us and empowers all who give themselves to this crucial work. As we become willing, God breathes new life into us, inspiring us to speak truth to power and empowering us to participate in God’s reconciling work to all creation and in the ongoing story of the universe.
Sharon Delgado is a United Methodist pastor, speaker, writer, and activist who has been working on climate justice and related issues for over 30 years. She is on the Coordinating Committee of the United Methodist Creation Justice Movement and is Chair of the Cal-Nevada Climate Justice Ministries Task Force. Previous books include Love in a Time of Climate Change: Honoring Creation, Establishing Justice (2017) and Shaking the Gates of Hell: Faith-Led Resistance to Corporate Globalization (2007, 2020). Sharon’s blog is at sharondelgado.org.
Other resources from COP 27
Listen to representatives of United Methodist Agencies–Global Ministry, Church and Society, Westpath, and United Women in Faith–share their perspectives on events at COP 27.
Part I, November 10: United Methodist Agency Perspectives at UN Climate Talks.
Part II, November 17: United Methodist Agency Perspectives at UN Climate Talks.
Read The World Council of Churches Statement on COP 27
Rev. Richenda Fairhurst from the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference has produced two articles with videos that elaborate on faith-based climate advocacy related to issues of COP 27:
Nonviolent Direct Action: Why Youths are Walking Out and Organizing
Loss and Damage: A Necessary and Moral Response
Video from Democracy Now: Indigenous Activists on the Link Between Colonialism & Climate Crisis
“Let’s Try Something New,” Naomi Klein Calls for Boycott of Next Climate Summit
‘Abdication of Responsibility’: Fury as COP27 Draft Omits Oil and Gas Phase-Out
Is COP27 Already Too Lost and Too Damaged?
United Nations Environmental Program Faiths for Earth Resources:
COP 27 Outcomes Faith for Earth Presentation
List of Faith-based engagement at COP27
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