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How is ABM tackling climate change?

October 27, 2018

What do the following extreme weather events in 2018 all have in common: Typhoon Mangkhut in the Philippines, Cyclone Gita in Tonga, and floods in Kenya? What about these events in 2017: Cyclone Donna in Vanuatu, floods in Sri Lanka and drought across East Africa? What they all have in common is that they all became disasters, exacerbated (if not caused) by climate change. And the Anglican Board of Mission in Australia responded to all of them.

And it’s not just the headline-grabbing disasters that are exacerbated by climate change. Communities in some parts of the Pacific are impacted by steadily rising sea levels, with salt water seeping into coastal vegetable gardens and even into coastal houses and cemeteries! Every day, poor farmers in countries like Kenya, Zambia and the Philippines are finding rainfall patterns less predictable, meaning seeds and time spent planting can be wasted by rain arriving too late. ABM, through our Anglican partners, work alongside these coastal communities and poor farmers too.

It’s hard to turn a blind eye to the extreme weather events that are becoming more and more common across our shared planet. And if we care about the world’s poor, it’s hard not to notice that the world’s poor are being disproportionately impacted.

That’s why ABM in 2016 supported Pacific people to deliver messages on climate change to Australian parliamentarians and organised a ‘Life in Abundance’ conference and Ash Wednesday Climate Justice Forum. We published theological reflections on climate change from clergy like Brother Christopher JohnRevd Gerald Billings, and Revd Jo Inkpin. ABM in 2017 supported a climate adaptation program in the Solomon Islands and attended a meeting of Oceanic Anglican leaders which included much discussion of climate change. We included climate change as a key theme in our ‘WONTOK’ awareness-raising tour of Anglican schools around Australia and a key theme in a classroom resource booklet we produced that year. That’s why ABM in May 2018 launched the Climate Change impacts map, working with Anglican clergy and supporters around the world, and in September 2018 supported the Season of Creation campaign (for the third year in a row). And in October 2018, ABM played a leading role in preparing a Pacific-focused climate change position statement for endorsement by worldwide church coalition ACT Alliance.

Brisbane Wontok 2017
Students learn about climate change as part of the Wontok conferences in Brisbane. © ABM/Brad Chapman 2017

ABM acknowledges the global consensus of the scientific community, as expressed by the UN-backed Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), that human activity since the industrial revolution has been the primary cause of the rise in global temperature. The latest report of the IPCC, prepared by ninety-one experts and review editors from forty countries, has projected that global temperatures, which have already risen 1⁰C above pre-industrial levels, will reach 1.5⁰C around 2040 AD. If global temperatures reach 2⁰C above pre-industrial levels, the difference between 1.5℃ and 2℃ is expected to be catastrophic. 16% of plants that have been studied will lose half their climatically-suitable area (compared to 8% at 1.5℃) and coral reefs will be virtually wiped out (compared to ‘just’ 80% of coral reefs lost at 1.5℃). At 2℃, sea level rise would be 10cm higher than at 1.5℃ (meaning that, at today’s population levels, 10 million more people would be impacted).

ABM’s international partners are helping poor communities to build their resilience to climate change and disasters. For example, partners are introducing fuel efficient ovens and drought resistant crops, supporting tree-planting, providing training in first aid and in conducting rapid needs assessments, and helping communities to better prepare for hazards like floods or cyclones.

ABM’s soon-to-be-released climate change position statement does not change our course. It affirms our course. We will continue to play our role in raising awareness about the link between carbon emissions and climate shocks. We will continue to support partners as they provide disaster relief and build communities’ resilience. Thank you to our supporters in Australia and our partners internationally for showing solidarity with the world’s poor and for caring for creation.