'Signs of times have never been clearer' says churches group after UN climate report rings alarm bells

(Photo: Sean Hawkey/WCC)In November 2020, hurricanes Eta and Iota hit hard on the north coast of Honduras.

As people in many global regions suffer from record-breaking heat, devastating wildfires and extreme flooding, the World Council of Churches has called for prayers and urgently reacting to the latest scientific evidence that the global temperature is rising.

The call was made by the WCC deputy general secretary Rev. Odair Pedroso Mateus who spoke for the churches body after the Aug. 9 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

"The scale of recent changes is unprecedented in thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of years," said the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), releasing the report.

"Many changes due to past and future greenhouse gas emissions are irreversible for centuries to millennia especially changes in the ocean, ice sheets, and global sea level, says the report," the WMO said.

The most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an international body of scientists set up by the United Nations, confirms that human-induced climate change is accelerating and is fundamentally changing our only planetary home.

The report finds that humanity is precariously close to surpassing the relatively safe limit of 1.5° degrees Celsius (34.7 Fahrenheit) global temperature rise – in less than two decades -- with increasingly disastrous consequences.

"The signs of the times have never been clearer," said Mateus. "The report is a major alarm bell."

"Its concern is high on the agenda of the next assembly of the WCC," the highest governing body of the grouping of more than half a billion Christians next year in Germany.

He referred to a recently published text on the assembly theme – "Christ's love moves the world to reconciliation and unity."

In those words, an international group of theologians wrote that "for many scientists, the earth is today in a new period of its history, called the Anthropocene, in which the impact of human domination, especially during the past 200 years of industrialization, can no longer be reversed."


The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said, "Today's IPCC Working Group 1 Report is a code red for humanity," as he called for "stepped up efforts" to stem the effects of weather changes that have wreaked havoc on the world recently.

"The alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable: greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning and deforestation are choking our planet and putting billions of people at immediate risk."

"Global heating is affecting every region on Earth, with many of the changes becoming irreversible."

The report noted that human-induced climate change is already affecting many weather and climate extremes in every region across the globe.

The UN report emphasizes that the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement -- among them keeping global temperature increase this century to not more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels and striving for 1.5° -- can still be reached with immediate, bold, and sustained cuts in carbon emissions.

Pope Francis's encyclical on ecology, Laudato Si published in June 2015, says that climate change is real and mainly "a result of human activity."

The problem is urgent noted the Catholic Climate Covenant.

"Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last two hundred years."

We must all change our day-to-day actions to live more sustainably. "Reducing greenhouse gases requires honesty, courage and responsibility." On a larger scale, our leaders must be held to account says the document.

"Those who will have to suffer the consequences . . . will not forget this failure of conscience and responsibility."

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