By Cindy Haverkamp
There was a time when voluntary efforts by individuals – things like recycling, driving electric, and limiting one’s time in the shower – seemed like they just might, if we all worked together, solve the climate change problem. The optimism of those times is behind us. Now, instead of doing our part to prevent climate change, we are being forced to react to climate change because it is already here.
Last Friday, while we peacefully lolled about in a national turkey coma, the Trump Administration released, without much in the way of alarm bells, the second volume of the National Climate Assessment. This report, which follows a previous volume released in November of 2017, has a distinct focus on the economic impacts of climate change. The report details how increasing wildfires, stronger hurricanes, and massive crop failures will result not just in decreased health and well-being for American citizens, but also a 10% reduction in our country’s economy, doubling the losses of The Great Recession of a decade ago. According to a report by The New York Times, these losses will include $141 billion in heat-related deaths, $118 billion in sea-level rise and $32 billion in infrastructure by the end of this century.
While Friday’s National Climate Assessment focuses on American losses related to climate change, the impacts of climate change are likely to result in severe world-wide economic and humanitarian challenges as soon as 2040, according to the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, released a little over a month ago.
So what is a concerned United Methodist to do?
First of all, we must not give in to despair. In fact, before you do anything else, pray for our planet and for the people who make decisions about the future. If you are driving electric, recycling faithfully and bringing your own bags to the grocery store, please continue doing so. However, it would help much more if you would encourage others to take these actions, as well, to help these initiatives grow and really start to make a difference. It helps even more if you talk to store and restaurant owners to encourage them to stop using plastic bags and Styrofoam containers and to start finding creative ways to deal with food waste.
As good as they make us feel, individual actions might not add up to enough, so it is also important to call and write to your government representatives and let them know how concerned you are about the National Climate Assessment. Tell them a personal story about how climate change is already impacting your life or the life of someone you know or care about. Refer to The United Methodist Social Principles which outline humanity’s responsibilities toward the natural world, specifically calling out Global Climate Stewardship. Ask them to vote for climate change legislation that will slow down our nation’s carbon emissions and remind them that despite our dizzying news cycle, the Climate Change Assessment is the most important news of today and tomorrow!
Another thing we can do is prepare our own homes for climate change disasters. Ideas for how to make an emergency preparedness kit, create a family disaster plan and stay informed are covered in the The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) curriculum entitled “Connecting Neighbors” which teaches congregants how to prepare their own homes, their churches and their communities for disaster. Consider walking through the three modules together as a Sunday school class or small group.
Want to take it to the next level by helping those already impacted by climate change disasters? Host a relief supply kit making party for UMCOR. Train to become an Early Response Team (ERT) member by attending the next UMCOR sponsored training in your Annual Conference and contact your Conference Disaster Response Coordinator to let them know you’re available to join a United Methodist Volunteers In Mission (UMVIM) trip. In the Pacific Northwest Conference, contact Jim Truitt, by email or phone: 253-797-1680 or visit the PNWUMC Disaster Response page to learn about upcoming opportunities. Another option is to join a Long-Term Recovery (LTR) Team – no training required! Both UMCOR and UMVIM welcome your financial donations, as well.
While climate change and the disasters it spawns are clearly inevitable, it is possible for United Methodists to respond with grace by following Wesleyan philosophy – relying on scripture to sustain us, tradition to uphold us, our experiences to inform us and our reason to keep a cool head while the world around us seems to be falling apart. Demonstrate your faith in action today by choosing a pro-active response to the National Climate Assessment! It’s not too late!
Cindy Haverkamp serves as Communications Associate for the Pacific Northwest Conference of The United Methodist Church.