How Much Shall We Give
KAIROS Regina invites you on a journey of faith, one that challenges our comfortable lives and changes the very buildings we worship in. On October 15, KAIROS Regina will host a one-day hybrid conference called, “Creation Care in our Places of Prayer: Energy Retrofits and other Faith-based Climate Action.” In the leadup to that session, they will offer six articles to prepare our hearts and minds for the deep transformation that is needed. This second article is by Russell Mitchell-Walker (diaconal minister) and Laura Stewart (climate activist), who serve on the Climate Justice Working Group for KAIROS Regina.
In last week’s blog post, we remembered Jesus’ words: “Do not be afraid.” As we notice the alarming signs of these times, we can also notice the precious gift of clarity and growing agreement about the need to act. In their 2021 ruling about the federal carbon price, the Supreme Court noted that “all the parties agree that global climate change is real. It’s caused by greenhouse gas emissions resulting from human activities and it poses a grave threat to the future of humanity” (from the SCC Case in Brief). Those points are no longer in question.
But who needs to act, and when, and by how much? This is where we may stumble.
For cutting emissions, we hear target dates of the end of the decade, or even the middle of the century. Yet all these dates are compromises. The true deadline to bend the curve toward zero was decades ago, as we can now see with our own eyes, as our neighbours around the globe are already suffering the effects of climate change, even at current CO2 levels. And still, the levels rise.
As climate chaos worsens, our own communities will struggle to cope with global supply disruptions and local extreme events. We will have less and less to spare for new projects to move away from fossil fuels.
The faster we act, the more of God’s Creation we may hope to save.
Every tonne of CO2 added to the atmosphere now will magnify future suffering. Justice means more than “reducing emissions.” Reducing is not eliminating; it’s another compromise. Some emissions continue, piling onto what’s already built up in the atmosphere. “Net zero” sounds more ambitious, but even that merely balances what’s being released with what’s being captured, leaving CO2 levels dangerously high. If we want to truly turn things around, we need to aim for “drawdown.” That means using every feasible tool to stop adding CO2, as quickly as possible in every sector, while also removing some of what’s already up there. We do this by boosting Nature’s ability to store carbon in places such as expanding forests, recovering wetlands, and regenerating soil organic matter.
When faith communities tackle emissions, we should ask whether the actions we are considering will put us on the path to drawdown, or whether they lead us astray. A more efficient gas furnace is still a gas furnace—at best, a temporary compromise. Even adding insulation might be wasteful if we end up later removing it to make way for extra framing to support even thicker insulation. We want solutions that will last into a decarbonized future. Some solutions available today will actually get even better as the world catches up with our mission: for example, electric heat pumps are already very efficient, and as the grid moves to renewable energy, heating emissions will fall towards zero. And the better we do at minimizing our heat losses through air sealing and insulation, the lower our demands on the grid will be—helping power utilities shift to renewables faster.
The goal of drawdown gives us a very different picture than asking whether a solution will “pay for itself.” Reflecting on this phrase, we may remember Jesus’ words, “if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you?” So let us give beyond what will pay us back, making the necessary sacrifices on the path toward drawdown. Let us give joyfully and with the greatest love, to bring about a safer future for Creation, our neighbours and our children.