David Coffey, president of the Baptist World Alliance, presents his report at the BWA’s general council meeting in Ede, Netherlands, last week. (Photo: Baptist World Alliance)
From Kenya to Nepal, from Australia to America, global Baptist leaders see the harmful realities of global warming and are pinning their hopes for governmental action on the United Nation’s upcoming conference on climate change in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Meeting in Ede, Netherlands, the Baptist World Alliance’s general council passed a resolution last week confessing that “many Baptists have not taken seriously the global environmental crisis resulting from ignorance, neglect, arrogance, and greed.” The council also noted that the UN’s Dec. 7-18 Copenhagen conference “will consider a new global climate treaty to set greenhouse gas emission reductions for industrialized and major developing countries, and adaption assistance for developing nations.”
The Baptists who gathered in Ede thus recognized the conference as “a landmark event,” urged national governments to take legislative actions that will strengthen the Copenhagen treaty, and encouraged Baptists around the world to pray for the proceedings.
BWA is the world’s largest body of Baptists with some 37 million baptized believers in 214 conventions or unions.
The Copenhagen treaty will replace the Kyoto Protocol, adopted in 1997, which set targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas pollution. It was ratified by 184 nations but not the United States, where it faced opposition from science-denying conservative politicians and carbon-based corporations representing big oil and dirty coal.
Speaking for the resolution was a Kenyan Baptist leader who noted the adverse effects of global warming on his country. He blamed climate change for the deep drought, dying trees and shrinking rivers.
The resolution built on the 2008 climate change resolution adopted at the BWA meeting in Prague, Czech Republic, that called on global Baptist leaders to support renewable energy technologies and to cap greenhouse pollution.
After the resolution passed on Friday, the BWA’s Christian Ethics Commission sponsored a briefing on climate change, although the seminar was already on the meeting’s schedule before the passage of the resolution.
The session was attended by members of the Freedom and Justice Commission.
During the seminar, clergy talked about the effects of global warming.
“Nepal is very much affected because of this climate change,” said Ratna Rai, general secretary of the Nepal Baptist Church Council.
Rai pointed out that the older people recognize the shift in temperature with summers being hotter and winters being colder.
“Rainy season there is no rain. There is drought,” he said, adding that malaria and other diseases were on the rise in his country.
Located between India and China with many of the highest Himalayan peaks in Nepal, Rai’s comments about the spread of vector-borne infectious diseases underscored one of the results of global warming—malaria is spreading to elevations once safe from mosquitoes.
Bangladesh’s “main problem is that sea level is getting higher,” said Leor Sarkar, general secretary of the Bangladesh Baptist Church Fellowship. In the “next 20 to 25 years, one-third of our land will go under the sea.”
Speaking about the frequency of cyclones, Sarkar said, “During the cyclone time, the sea water that is coming … [It] is destroying the fields. We can’t cultivate the land.”
He also pointed out the increased flooding from rivers to the north of Bangladesh in India and Nepal—rivers with headwaters in the Himalayas where glaciers are melting.
“There are 40 million refugees in the world,” responded Les Fussell, national director of Baptist World Aid Australia, to Sarkar’s comments. “With climate change happening in Bangladesh with rising sea levels, there will be 60 million climate refugees just in Bangladesh.”
Fussell said, “It is the poor that can’t run away. It’s the poor who have to try to cope with these gigantic effects in climate change.”
Using slides upon which An Inconvenient Truth is based, Rod Benson, a public theologian with the Tinsley Institute at Australia’s Morling College, and I led the two-hour climate change seminar. We had been trained over a three-day period last October by Al Gore and his non-profit The Climate Project.
The seminar ended with participants wanting the BWA to have education resources on climate change and a presence at the Copenhagen meeting.
Robert Parham is executive editor of EthicsDaily.com and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics.