Rising Seas, Storms, & Refugees
As Polar sea ice melts, ocean waters rise. All around the world, people on the coasts are being overwhelmed by higher tides, intense hurricanes, and storm surges. As seawater overcomes the land, it spoils with salt the soil and freshwater wells and lakes.
Island communities are hardest hurt, leaving the people no fresh water, soil for planting, or places to live. They have to leave, becoming refugees. The pollution of richer countries is causing the suffering of the poorest.
Forty percent of the world's populations live near a coast--eight of the world's major cities. The US is already feeling the pressure on its coastal cities, with tidal flooding and hurricane flooding pushing farther inland. Mitigation can only do so much, and it is very expensive.
We are called to gradually eliminate our contributions to climatic change, turn to alternative forms of energy, protect and plant trees, help coastal communities prepare, and welcome refugees.
"See How Pacific Islanders Are Dealing with Climate Change" in this National Geographic photo essay.
Watch this CBS video on rising seas, with Kiribati as an example of what is happening throughout the world, especially along the Pacific Ocean in places such as Palau, Micronesia, Guam, the Solomon Islands, and Tuvalu. The poor suffer first. The same fate, though, is coming to the US, as 2017 and 2018 storms and flooding showed.
Consider also the situation in Bangladesh.
As Polar sea ice and tundra melt, flooding Inuit and Greenlander villages, people are displaced and become refugees or economic migrants.
A rise in the sea level … can create extremely serious situations, if we consider that a quarter of the world’s population lives on the coast or nearby, and that the majority of our megacities are situated in coastal areas.…
How wonderful is the certainty that each human life is not adrift in the midst of hopeless chaos, in a world ruled by pure chance or endlessly recurring cycles!
The Creator can say to each one of us:
“Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you” (Jer 1:5).
We were conceived in the heart of God,
and for this reason “each of us is the result of a thought of God.
Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary.”
Pope Francis, Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home
What You Can Do
1) Work to reduce your own carbon footprint in the ways you can, and plant trees on your own and through programs.
2) Host discussion groups or awareness/action campaigns in your faith and larger community of how you can together reduce your impact. Here's an article on how Katharine Hayhoe, a marine biologist and Christian, engages in conversations about climate change and faith that can be adapted to other faith communities. You can resources from our faith web here and toolkits from Interfaith Power and Light.
3) Divest as individuals and as faith communities/institutions in industries based in fossil fuels and re-invest in those that are socially responsible and encourage life -- "put your money where your mouth" and heart are!
4) Advocate for alternative energy, carbon-lowering, and forest protection/restoration policies in your community, region, and nation. Advocate against continuation and expansion of coal mining, "fracking" for natural gas production, oil drilling, and other energies based in fossil fuel and nuclear mining, production, and use.