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Responding to Overwhelming Climate Change

Published: Sept. 17, 2021


Greetings to Friends everywhere:

As Trustees of Quaker Institute for the Future we are moved to share with Friends our concerns about the urgent need to respond to planetary climate change. The world has gone from climate change to climate crisis to climate emergency. The time in which nations and citizens of the world can yet act to mitigate the worst effects of climate change is rapidly vanishing. In the spirit of Quaker tradition, we have prepared this epistle in the hope that it may inspire Friends in solidarity with truth seeking and in their discernment on witness and action.

Scientific information about climate change is rigorously tested and clear. In 2018 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported a window of only twelve years for the nations of the world to make dramatic cuts in the burning of fossil fuels to prevent climate change from becoming catastrophic. However, the International Energy Agency reported that greenhouse gas emissions in 2022 and 2023 are certain to rise to the highest levels ever recorded. And now the Sixth Assessment Report of the IPCC, released on August 9, 2021, reiterated their warning in the starkest terms.

We are all witness to the record temperatures causing persistent and lethal heat waves; prolonged droughts; water reservoirs at a fraction of their capacity; crop failures; regional food system collapse; melting icecaps; increasing ocean temperatures; rising sea levels; dying coral reefs; massively destructive forest fires; an unprecedented increase in flash floods; increasingly destructive storms sweeping over human settlements; all leading to a perilous increase in refugees, poverty and social violence with ever more people seeking sustenance, safety, and shelter wherever they can find it.

All areas of human relationship, wellbeing, and the common good are imperiled by the continuing deterioration of Earth’s habitability. Human settlements, livelihoods, and food and water provisioning are increasingly disrupted. Health disorders, especially from stress and trauma, are already on the increase. Ethnic, racial, political, and economic violence, displacement and migration mean cruel hardships that trigger even more of the same. It is clear: the long-presumed right to an earth capable of sustaining life is increasingly imperiled.

Nevertheless, the nations of the world and their citizens are failing to act with appropriate measures. What needs be done to prevent the worsening consequences of climate change is not being done. This is the crux of the matter. At this point, effective intervention depends on action by governments with the support of engaged citizens doing everything possible at a personal and civic level to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The required speed and level of active collaboration are now being compared to the response during World War II, when, virtually overnight, the U.S., Canada, and other countries repurposed their economies. 

Fortunately, contemporary school children and young people of the world are not slow to comprehend the reality of catastrophic climate change. Students in the villages, towns, and cities of the world have joined in climate action strikes— “Fridays for the Future.” Young people are distinctly aware they are inheriting a climate catastrophe.

As nations begin to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a great push to reopen the economy” and get back to normal.” But an effective emergency response to the climate crisis will have no such return to normal.” There is no normal” to return to. We are on the other side of a changing climate. Can catastrophic change be averted? If not, what are the consequences? What can we do?­

Here are some things we can do:

  1. Support young people in their efforts to protect their future.
  2. Communicate the climate emergency message to governments at all levels from local to national.
  3. Seek out and work with organizations and community efforts to spread the climate emergency message.
  4. Volunteer to make presentations to religious, cultural, civic and other community-based organizations.
  5. Support the climate change witness and ecojustice work of your Yearly Meeting.
  6. Follow COP26 online.
  7. Connect with Quaker Earthcare Witness. QEW will provide reports from COP26 in Glasgow in November 2021.
  8. Connect with Earth Quaker Action Team. EQAT works to build a just and sustainable economy through nonviolent direct action with a focus on transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy.
  9. Connect with Friends Committee on National Legislation. Every letter, email, phone call, and visit to government representatives on this issue ramps up the sense of urgency.
  10. Support the Quaker United Nations Organization in their quiet diplomacy work with the negotiators at COP26. Like the other Quaker organizations, the QUNO website has excellent resources on Climate Change.

Ye have no time but this present . . .     George Fox, 1652


from Judy Lumb, Quaker Institute for the Future (9/15/2021)