Rich Christians Must Act to Help Poor Adapt to Climate Change


Rich Christians must take proactive initiatives against possible displacement of 1 billion people in coming decades resulting from climate change.

"We estimate that, unless strong preventive action is taken, between now and 2050 climate change will push the number of displaced people globally to at least 1 billion," Christian Aid reported in a new study.

"Since the rich world is largely responsible for the increasingly cruel climate," the report said, "it is …our responsibility, as polluters, to help pay for the protection of those who will bear the worse consequences."

The official relief-and-development organization of 41 denominations in the United Kingdom and Ireland, Christian Aid's members include the Baptist Union of Great Britain, Baptist Union of Scotland and Baptist Union of Wales.

Christian Aid authors acknowledged there are no definitive figures about potential human displacement. Yet they argued that such a lack of certainty "must not lead to a neglect of what can be done now to prevent such displacement, and to help people who are affected."

The new report, "Human Tide: The Real Migration Crisis," noted "lightning speed" with which the market for biofuels is growing as a "carbon neutral" way to reduce global warming.

Citing examples in Brazil and Indonesia, Christian Aid warned against corporations taking land from the poor to create plantations for palm oil, sugar cane and soya, all sources of biofuels.

"Christian Aid's partner in Brazil, Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST), is vehemently opposed to the expansion of the biofuel industry," said the report, available for download on the agency's Web site. "MST does not want Brazil to become a factory to supply rich countries with cheap energy. It argues that the most important use of Brazil's land is to produce food for its people."

The report said, "Christian Aid believes that rich countries need to rethink their rush towards biofuels, and recognize how it will push millions of people from their land."

The report's conclusion said the poor "will suffer most as a result of climate change," but the world rich's people "are most to blame for it."

Consequently, the report recommended rich nations should create an annual fund of $100 billion to help the poor adapt to "sea-level rises, increasing drought and more extreme weather."

The fund should represent new aid money, not funding drained from existing aid programs, and should be viewed as "partial compensation for the damage done by climate change."

The report plays a helpful role in challenging the Christian community to think about the growing danger and consequences of climate change on the least among us in the global community.

It also tackles the two arguments that seek to evade moral responsibility for global warming, certainly positions found among Baptists in North America.

One attempts to shift responsibility away from rich countries, such as the United States, to developing countries, as if those nations need to bear more of the burden for addressing climate change. Christian Aid stated clearly it is the rich who are responsible and must act.

Another argument is that no action is needed without definitive knowledge about the exact impact of climate change on the poor. Christian Aid takes a proactive approach to preventing a crisis, rather than a reactive one.

Christian ethics has an inescapable expectation: Those to whom much is entrusted have much for which to be responsible.

Robert Parham is executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics.

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Tags: Climate Change, Environment, Robert Parham, TheGreenBible.org