Waves crash over Winthrop Shore Drive as Hurricane Sandy comes up the coast on Oct. 29, 2012 in Winthrop, Mass.
The false controversy created by climate change deniers has stymied government action on environmental issues and is a contributing factor to the deafening silence on climate change in the presidential election debates for “the first time in a generation.”
A Halloween week hurricane, dubbed a “Frankenstorm” by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has just changed that.
Deny it or not, violent, erratic climate events are happening and they are destroying lives and property. Climate Central a Web site devoted to the science and effects of climate change, observes this giant “Frankenstorm” hurricane named “Sandy” is blocked in to land and not being pushed out to sea because of “blocking patterns [which have appeared with greater frequency and intensity in recent years” due to changes in the jet stream. When I was a kid growing up in the New York City area, there were certainly tropical storms and hurricanes but they were mostly pushed out to sea.
Now, some scientists have suggested, new patterns have emerged that could be linked to 2012’s record Arctic sea ice loss. This exposes more open water to the sun’s energy and this heat absorption is affecting the jet stream, making it “wavier.” Thus there are “steeper troughs and higher ridges. Weather systems are progressing more slowly, raising the chances for long-duration extreme events, like droughts, floods, and heat waves.”
These kinds of changes are better called “global weirding,” as I note in my book, “Dreaming of Eden: American Religion and Politics in a Wired World,” rather than “global warming. “We need to give up on the nice-sounding, gentle-seeming, bathing-suit wearing weather kind of language that ‘global warming’ implies and get to the weirdness of it all.”
“Snowmageddon” was the term used for the record storm that hit the East Coast, and especially Washington, D.C., in February 2010. This was another freakish “global weirding” event due to the erratic and dangerous patterns resulting from warming oceans meeting cold weather. That week I wrote “Snowmageddon a sign of ‘global weirding.’”
I wrote in that On Faith post about the “sin” of refusing to see the effects of violent, destructive climate change, what I think should be called “global weirding,” that are right in front of us, killing and injuring people and causing enormous property damage.
Faith communities aren’t waiting for their political leaders to figure out that global weirding is happening right now. They get. Green Faith, an interfaith partnership on leadership education for faith leaders on environmental awareness and action is partnering with local worship groups as well as seminaries like Chicago Theological Seminary and others to educate the faith leaders we need to call attention to what is happening to our planet.
In fact, environmental action is one of strongest areas of interreligious cooperation, especially among the “Abrahamic” faiths (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) because of the commitment to the care for the earth in the sacred texts of those religions. Many faiths have strong religious reasons for making protecting the earth a sacred responsibility.
Evangelicals, through “Creation Care,” have lifted up environmental stewardship as a core faith issue. See “Climate Change: An Evangelical Call to Action.”
There are clear choices in this presidential campaign on whether direct action to reduce the worst effects of climate change and to prevent this rolling catastrophe from getting worse is warranted.
Politicians go where voters demand they go. As you sit in your darkened house this week, wondering when the power will ever come back on, hearing howling winds and praying and hoping that no more lives will be lost to “Frankenstorm,” you might think carefully about how you will vote. Is this the “new normal” and are you okay with that? Violent and erratic climate change is upon us.
A wounded earth is speaking, are you listening?
Former president of Chicago Theological Seminary (1998-2008), the Rev. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite is professor of theology at Chicago Theological Seminary and a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress