Beyond a Prophetic Science

The Rev. John Fairbrother

31 January 2014


Australia has simmered under a heat wave. California has felt the effects of drought and lack of the regular snow melt. Globally cities suffer dangerous air pollution and large cyclonic events continue to damage coasts and threaten the existence of island communities. Such events have become normal.
The warming of the earth is a fact. Without doubt, we humans have used fossil fuels in a manner and at rates that chart a pathway to our own destruction. While political elites continue to conference, seeking ways to reduce carbon emissions, the politics of market advantage and compromise persistently frustrate effective accord for the good of all life.
The 'developed economies' have derived enormous benefits from industrial, agrarian and scientific advance. 'Developing economies' are well set on similar paths to become competitive in global markets. Those who remain relatively 'undeveloped' are often fought over by nations aligned with either or both of the above for little more than the earth resources within their lands and seas.
It is curious what constitutes an international crisis. In recent memory, the collapse of financial houses on Wall Street qualified, destroying the regime of Saddam Hussein likewise. In earlier times the great depression of 1929 and wars such as World Wars 1 & 2, Korea and Vietnam filled the bill. Self-destruction via human generated climate change does not seem to make the cut, yet.
Perhaps the reasons are twofold. Firstly, the excessive gases and carbon being emitted are invisible to immediate perception. Secondly, politicians are restrained, if not motivated, by the demands of constituencies requiring ever increasing standards of living.
Invisibility is a challenge. The study of climate change has been a prophetic science. It has served to indicate destructive changes that simply had not been apparent. Prophets of disaster are rarely welcome.
Governing decision-makers face enormous complexity. This January the World Economic Forum met in Davos. The participants, comprising political and business leaders, academics and others have been addressing The Reshaping of the World: The Consequences for Society, Politics and Business. A primary concern of the Forum has been the troubling consequences of globalisation along with the urgent need to reduce growing inequality. (
Given the record to date, what change might those who suffer realistically expect? In the short to medium term very little. Living standards around the world continue to be measured by means of wealth accumulation and exchange and management of poverty.
Low wages, competitive employment and education environments leave many distracted hoping and looking for relief from unrelenting daily struggle. Engaging in voluntary activity to alleviate climate change can seem remote, even if such a cause is life-saving.
The politics of slowing climate change will need more than government only led initiatives. The concern will need to take root in the hearts and minds of the majority of people going about their daily rounds. Until there is sufficient demand at the level of local communities, governing politicians will continue policy compromises in response to the lobbies that maintain electoral resources.
The struggle for reduction of greenhouse gases needs to move beyond scientists and organised protest. Necessary change will occur only when public opinion motivates politicians to respond with a sense of mandated purpose.  
Fortunately the internet enables information to confound borders and political control. Movements like ( the commitment of Churches to ethical investment and divestment of fossil fuels are current examples of change taking root.
The prospect of climate change being accepted as a genuine international crisis is a positive one. After all, it will require global co-operation across all levels of societies to achieve the required outcomes for reduction of greenhouse gases for the good of all life.
©John Fairbrother