Science event explores Christian response to climate change
Blue Planet, Blue God - these were the interlinked themes of a recent lecture on climate change and its impact on the world’s oceans. What should be the Christian response to the turbulent times that lie ahead?
Report by Patrick Richmond and Nick Brewin
At a recent meeting organised by Science and Faith in Norfolk and attended by over 40 people, including the Bishop of Norwich, Meric Srokosz, a research professor at the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton, explained that the world’s oceans cover two thirds of the surface area of our blue planet. They are the reservoir that absorbs over 90% of the heat accumulated through global warming. The state of the oceans reflects the accumulated impact of human activity over recent history and provides some useful insights into the nature of climate change over the next century.
As a result of ice-caps melting in polar regions, the sea level is rising. This will adversely affect many millions of people in low-lying communities, e.g. Bangladesh, and in many of the world’s major cities that are situated on the coast. Because of the rising temperatures of ocean waters, weather patterns around the world are likely to become more turbulent: there will be more intense hurricanes, tornadoes and other forms of “extreme” weather.
Professor Srokosz explained that the climate in different parts of the world could change fundamentally, because the pattern of ocean currents may change. For example, one consequence of global warming might be the weakening of the Gulf-stream which draws warm water and mild air to the shores of north-west Europe. Even though the average global temperature may rise by 2o Celsius over the next 50 years, some regions of the world may become 10 degrees warmer, while other areas might be several degrees cooler than at present. Putting all these predictions together, it is obvious that global warming will have profound implications for social stability, farming and food security around the world. It is an emergency!
In addition to his expertise in oceanography, Professor Srokosz also has a degree in theology and he was formerly Associate Director of the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion in Cambridge. In the second part of his talk, he explored the relationship between the oceans of the blue planet and its stewardship by humankind. His talk of a “blue” God reflects sadness at the way that we have damaged the planet’s ecosystem in recent decades.
From a Christian perspective, he based his argument on Christ’s two Great Commandments – that we should love God (and therefore that we should cherish God’s creation); and that we should love our neighbour as ourselves. In other words, as a global community, we should try to help all those threatened by climate change, especially the poor, who are most vulnerable to its effects.
We can each make changes to our diet and life-style that will reduce our carbon footprint and our general impact on the environment. Meric also encouraged us to lobby politicians and opinion-formers to create a socio-economic climate that will encourage governments and multi-national companies to adjust to the new realities of the climate emergency that will unfold over the next few decades. Many of Meric’s themes were based on his recent book. “Blue Planet, Blue God: the Bible and the Sea” that explores the bible's narrative regarding the delicate relationship between humanity and the natural world.
The meeting was organised by Science and Faith in Norfolk (SFN), a Norwich-based group which aims to explore the broad interface between science and religious belief. For further information, visit the SFN Homepage or follow SFN on Facebook. Contact Professor Nick Brewin (07901 884114); firstname.lastname@example.org .
Photo courtesy of Romsey Abbey