Skip to content

Should Christians Care About Climate Change?

Climate change is happening. It’s not so much a question of “if,” but rather a question of “how much” and “when.” The American church is unfortunately very polarized when it comes to the issue. In the United States, Democratic and liberal-leaning Christians tend to more strongly emphasize science and what we can do to create change. Conversely, Republican and conservative-leaning Christians tend to more strongly distrust scientists and seek to keep the sanctity of church values about anything else. However, both sides should be able to find room to agree—climate change is real and it is happening. The question is, should the church care?

Top 8 Indicators of Global Warming

We know and can observe that the earth has been warming over time through a multitude of indicators:

  • Rising sea levels
  • Melting sea ice and polar ice caps
  • Glacial retreat 
  • Increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere
  • Global mean surface temperature is rising (land temp)
  • Ocean heating (sea temp)
  • Ocean acidification (oceans can absorb ~25% of CO2 released into atmosphere)
  • Extreme weather events

The average Christian won’t be going out and sticking thermometers in the ocean and flying around the globe to observe these patterns. But in lieu of trusting scientific, government, or research organizations (such as NASA or government reports), the average Christian can observe this last indicator: patterns of extreme weather. Katharine Hayhoe, professor and director of the Climate Center at Texas Tech, likes to use the term “global weirding” instead of the once popular “global warming.” Why? Our climate is getting weird. Naysayers can deny that global warming is occurring around the globe, but what about lived experiences and reports of changing weather patterns from parents and elders?

There have been observable and experienced shifts in our climate in just the past couple of decades. It’s important to note that it’s not always just “warmer temperatures” when it comes to climate change. There are many spillover effects from global warming. As an illustration, the human body hovers at an internal temperature of around 98.6 degrees F. A recorded body temperature that is say, three and half degrees higher (102.1 degrees F) would constitute running a fever. We know that a warm forehead is not the only symptom of a fever though—we simultaneously experience body chills, aches, coughing, runny nose, and so on. So it is with climate change.

“Global warming” is a blanket observation, but our earth and its climate systems are complex. Weather patterns around the world (floods, rain and monsoons, snow and thunderstorms, forest fires) are interwoven with many factors in play. La Nina and La Nino are examples of climate shifts brought about every 2-7 years through the abnormal cooling or warming of the eastern Pacific ocean (first observed by fishermen off the coasts of Peru). Likewise, global rising temperatures, the increase of carbon emissions in our atmosphere, and changing polar ice caps will manifest not just as “hotter temperatures” around the world, but as a whole slew of various climate changes.

The Theological Debate Over Genesis 2:15

Genesis 2:15 is a verse commonly quoted by evangelical Christians:

15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

In some translations, the Hebrew words that are translated to “work” and “take care of” (in the NIV translation) may also be interpreted to mean “serve” and “preserve.”

The interpretation of original Creation and the mandate to take care of it is a strong argument that Christians should care about climate change! However, an equally strong argument is looking at the Bible holistically and determining God’s heart towards justice, and how justice fits into the topic of climate change.

Justice Is a Key Component to Climate Change

God cares about justice. We don’t have to look far to hear from the prophets, King David, and Jesus himself. The prophet Isaiah has an eerie condemnation of the ruin God will bring to Israel for their sinfulness, idolatry, and lack of justice in chapter 24.

The prophet Amos: “But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” (Amos 5:24)

The prophet Micah: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8).

From King David: “The Lord watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.” (Psalm 146:9)

And finally, Jesus himself: “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.” (Luke 11:42).

Consistently through the Scriptures, God is addressing and holding us, the church, to a high standard of justice. God wants us to care for the foreigner, the vulnerable, and the widow. And the further we explore, the more we can see that climate change is very much linked to justice for the foreigner, the vulnerable, and the widow.

Climate Change and the “Foreigner”

A survey taken in 2019 by YouGov, with over 30,000 participants from 28 countries, reveals a clear power dynamic when it comes to countries on a global scale. 71% of respondents from India think human activity is the main reason climate change compared to only 38% of people from the US. 75% from the Philippines say climate change will significantly impact their life versus only 24% in US. Across the board, we see that Western and developed countries have a lot less urgency to act compared to their Middle Eastern, African, and Asian counterparts.

A study from the Yale Program on Climate Change also confirmed that countries most affected by climate change also believe it to more harmful. Sarah Ray, professor from Humboldt State University, asserts that “privilege, whether in the form of race, gender, income, or education), can insulate individuals from feeling the true threat of climate change.” As a so-called “Christian nation” (we’re not really, but the American church still has a role to play), we are called to care for the foreigner among us. In other terms, we are called to care for those with less power and protection than ourselves.

Climate Change and the Poor and the Widow

What does climate change have anything to do with the poor and the widow? This report from the UN concluded that for a number of social, economic, and cultural reasons, women are more vulnerable to climate change than men. A major statistic supporting this is that 70% of the world’s 1.3 billion people in poverty are women. That means that a high percentage of poor communities who are dependent on local natural resources for their survival and livelihood and survival are women. Women contribute 50-80% of the world’s food production but own less than 10% of the land. In the Near East, Latin America, and Caribbean regions, women are the ones mainly responsible for time-consuming and labor-intensive tasks, or the ones engaged in subsistence farming, horticulture, and raising small livestock.

Similarly, climate change and spillover effects on natural resources and even basic human habitability in certain regions will have the most impact on those unable to relocate or turn to alternative sources of income. Rising sea levels alone would be disastrous for at least 3 million Pacific Islanders, 43 million Chinese in precarious coastal locations, 32 million in Bangladesh, and 27 million in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta. WorldVision lists droughts, withered crops, and natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods, and droughts among the reasons that the poor will be most disproportionately affected by climate. There are plenty of secondary and tertiary reasons why those without financial stability or adequate healthcare will be hit hardest by climate change.

Climate Change and (All) Future Generations

We already see that climate change disproportionately affects those who are already marginalized in society. But more than that, we have to remember the biggest injustice of all: that towards all future generations that will inhabit this earth, regardless of status or privilege. Let’s remember that in the huge swathe of human history, accelerated global warming due to human activity is a relatively recent phenomenon. The first link between carbon emissions and warming global temperatures wasn’t discovered by a British scientist until 1938. It was 1965 that the term “Greenhouse Gas Effect” was coined by the US President Science Advisory Committee when they brought up their concerns. And the first Earth Day wasn’t held until 1970. It’s sobering to think that we, the people alive today, constitute some of the generations most responsible for climate change. Or at least, most responsible to act and to change.

So, Should Christians Respond to Climate Change?


Broadly speaking, there are three main camps of responses to the issue of climate change:

  1. Denial
  2. Deferral
  3. Determination (to act)

I would guess that most people probably self-identify into camp #2. We acknowledge that climate change is real, but we don’t feel any urgency or the need to act. But the difference between #2 and #3 is a heart posture—do we truly believe that God cares about climate change, and therefore we should care? At the very least, we see the impact that climate change will have on our fellow brothers and sisters around the world. Even as we do start to act, we must refrain from feeling self-righteous, posturing with our actions, or blaming others for lack of action. The American church has been slow to respond, but we are called to reflect God’s heart for the world and his people.

Isaiah adds his indictment of the church and lack of care for justice in an eerily relevant passage in Isaiah 24:

1 See, the Lord is going to lay waste the earth
    and devastate it;
he will ruin its face
    and scatter its inhabitants—
2 it will be the same
    for priest as for people,
    for the master as for his servant,
    for the mistress as for her servant,
    for seller as for buyer,
    for borrower as for lender,
    for debtor as for creditor.
3 The earth will be completely laid waste
    and totally plundered.
The Lord has spoken this word.

4 The earth dries up and withers,
    the world languishes and withers,
    the heavens languish with the earth.
5 The earth is defiled by its people;
    they have disobeyed the laws,
violated the statutes
    and broken the everlasting covenant.
6 Therefore a curse consumes the earth;
    its people must bear their guilt.
Therefore earth’s inhabitants are burned up,
    and very few are left.

No, the prophet Isaiah wasn’t talking about climate change. But he was addressing the culturally relevant issues to the people of Israel at the time. So it is with us today. We, as the church that is alive today, have a responsibility to care (and then act!) regarding climate change and all the ways that it impacts us, God’s creation, and all of God’s people.

Do you want a FREE eBook?


Unsubscribe or manage subscription anytime!

Published in#article

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *