Unusual weather events have become more common and generally are a result of the earth’s changing climate. The science of climate change is incredibly complex with extensive consequences, yet many want to describe it or deny it in very simplistic ways. The term global warming is defined by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) as “the rise in global temperatures due mainly to the increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.” Climate change is a more broad term and defined by the USGS as “the increasing changes in the measures of climate over a long period – including precipitation, temperature, and wind patterns.” In short, global warming is one outcome of climate change.
The scientists who specifically study the changing climate are climatologists. Since the atmosphere, the ocean, and all land ecosystems are impacted by a changing environment, the expanse of scientists who investigate causes and consequences of climate change is vast, complex, and crosses disciplines. Last October, the most significant scientific exploration of the changing Arctic climate, named the MOSAIC Arctic expedition, was completed after 13 months of snow, ice, atmospheric, oceanographic, and biological measurements. A total of 442 researchers took part in the project, assessing the region of the world hardest hit by climate change. Funded mainly by Germany, the country’s Federal Minister of Research explained, “The experts retrieved a unique wealth of data, which generations to come will profit from: gathered at the epicenter of climate change, it will help to fill critical gaps in our understanding of the region, allowing us to re-assess and more accurately evaluate our current climate models.”
The well-known climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe, who has created short videos and podcasts to explain many aspects of climate change, expresses her faith view, “Climate change is a humanitarian issue; it is an issue of loving our neighbor, of loving others; as Christ loves us.” One of her recent podcasts called “What happens in the Arctic doesn’t matter, right?” explains the importance of studying the most impacted part of the globe. She suggests all forms of life in the Arctic are “canaries in the climate coal mine.” (https://www.npr.org/podcasts/961315153/global-weirding-with-katharine-hayhoe) I highly recommend her short videos and podcasts on climate change.
More frequent and unprecedented severe weather continues to remind us of our ailing planet. The more we understand the stressors, the changes, and consequences, the better we move forward to reduce environmental damage; we also learn to adapt and avoid additional forms of disaster (security, economic, etc.). Every individual has the opportunity to adopt more sustainable lifestyles (for example: conserving energy, cutting back on driving and other fuel-burning activities, choosing sustainable products, using less, etc.), and to unite in the community to be part of the solutions. Many faith-based groups are acting on the climate threat. Here are a few ways to learn more and take action: Catholic Climate Covenant, The Global Catholic Climate Movement, Interfaith Power and Light, Faith and Climate Action, Interfaith Climate, and Green Faith – check out Sacred People, Sacred Earth day of action.
Julie Peller Ph.D. is an environmental chemist (Professor of Chemistry at Valparaiso University ) and she leads the Environmental Ministry at Nativity of Our Savior in Portage IN. Julie has been writing a weekly column for church bulletins for the past ~6 years called the Green Junction and is helping to move the call of Laudato Si to action forward. Her Research Interests are in Advanced oxidation for aqueous solutions, water quality analyses, emerging contaminants, air quality analyses, Lake Michigan shoreline challenges (Cladophora, water, and sediment contaminants), student and citizen participation in environmental work.