With a major U.N. report warning that the effects of climate change are spreading to every corner of the world, a Christian environmental group says those who are being hit the hardest are the poor, the young and the elderly.
"[C]limate impacts have and will continue to hit the poor the hardest, those least able to cope with the consequences, especially children and the elderly. Pro-life Christians should be especially concerned about what these conclusions will mean for young children and the unborn. Pollution impacts young children and even developing children in utero," the Rev. Mitch Hescox, president and CEO of the Evangelical Environmental Network, warned in a statement shared with The Christian Post on Monday.
"There will be whole peoples who will be unable to adapt to the way we are polluting God's creation. Especially those living on some Island nations and those in parts of the world where adaptation will be too expensive to implement," he added. "Christians have a responsibility to know the stories of those who are and will be impacted by climate change throughout the world and where possible intervene."
The report, "Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability," by Working Group II of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, was released Monday in Japan. The extensive report says that climate change impacts on both natural and human systems have reached all continents and oceans in the past few decades.
IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri told journalists at a news conference, "Nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change."
The summary for policymakers states that in many regions, changing rain, snow and ice patterns are altering hydrological systems, which affects the quantity and quality of water resources. Climate change is also said to be contributing to the continued shrinking of glaciers; permafrost warming and thawing; and disruption to many terrestrial, freshwater and marine species.
Humans may be able to adapt to some of the wide-ranging effects, but not all, the report says.
"Throughout the 21st century, climate change is expected to lead to increases in ill-health in many regions and especially in developing countries with low income, as compared to a baseline without climate change," the report reads, warning that people could face a greater likelihood of injury, disease, under-nutrition, as well as food and water-borne diseases.
Some positive effects from climate change that are identified include reductions in severe cold-related deaths, reduced capacity of vectors to transmit diseases, and a geographical shift in food production. Overall, however, the negative impacts were projected to outweigh positive ones.
Dr. Saleemul Huq, one of the lead authors in the report, argued that even before the U.N. body's analysis, scientists knew about the many ramifications of climate change, but now they have "overwhelming evidence that it is happening and it is real."
The Evangelical Environmental Network is urging Christians to participate in a "National Day of Prayer for Climate Action" on Thursday.
"Even though the news is becoming stark, we have hope. Hope that God will empower us to develop the next generation of technologies and adaptations to address climate change. Hope that God will work through His people to provide better outcomes for the unborn and the vulnerable," EEN said in a statement.
Young Evangelicals for Climate Action, meanwhile, stated that "the writing is on the wall."
"We can now see the impacts of climate disruption growing in our country and all over the world. This is a moral issue that requires our church and political leaders to wake up and step up," said Ben Lowe, the group's national spokesperson.
"The decisions they make today affect not just the present, but also the rest of my generation's future. As young evangelicals, we're praying that our leaders will seize this opportunity to protect life, care for the poor, and create healthy communities, clean energy, better jobs, and a more stable climate that allows us to flourish."
Christian groups that have challenged the grave outlook on global warming and climate change pointed to other scientific reports such as that of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change, which looks at evidence that the IPCC ignores.
The NIPCC report, "Climate Change Reconsidered II," states, "The human impact on global climate is small, and any warming that may occur as a result of human carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gas emissions is likely to have little effect on global temperatures, the cryosphere (ice-covered areas), hydrosphere (oceans, lakes, and rivers), or weather."
Offering an alternative to the "alarmist" reports of the IPCC, the NIPCC says that marine and freshwater species will not be negatively impacted and human health will not worsen, among other things.
Some of the points raised in the NIPCC report: "Warmer temperatures lead to a decrease in temperature-related mortality," "concerns over large increases in vector-borne diseases such as dengue as a result of rising temperatures are unfounded and unsupported by the scientific literature," and "the ongoing rise in the air's CO2 content is not only raising the productivity of Earth's common food plants but also significantly increasing the quantity and potency of the many health-promoting substances found in their tissues."
"IPCC entirely overlooks the positive effects of rising levels of atmospheric CO2 on human health. Carbon dioxide fertilization has been shown to enhance certain health-promoting substances in plants, such as antioxidants, vitamin C, and fatty acids, and promote the growth of plants such as St. John's wort used for the treatment of a variety of illnesses. In this way, global warming portends great health benefits for humans. IPCC makes no mention of these benefits."
E. Calvin Beisner, founder and national spokesman for Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, also noted to CP on Tuesday, "What most people won't know but is crucial is that the amount of warming to be expected from increased CO2 is turning out to be much less than the IPCC has anticipated for the last 25 years.
"If the warming is less, so are any harms associated with it. Even the IPCC quietly acknowledged this."
Beisner found that the latest IPCC report was actually not as alarmist as previous ones.
The report is a "welcome retreat from the hyped up alarm of past reports," because it scales back earlier claims about looming damage to human societies and natural ecosystems," he said.
Genesis 1:31 and 8:22, he noted, show that "an infinitely wise God designed, an infinitely powerful God created, and an infinitely faithful God sustains the earth. Scientific 'conclusions' change all the time; the Word of the Lord stands sure forever."
Secretary of State John Kerry, meanwhile, is looking to take action.
He said that waiting to act is not an option and argued that the whole world needs to urgently respond to the damage being done to ecosystems, wildlife, glaciers, and other natural habitats.
"The United States is meeting this challenge through President Obama's Climate Action Plan and we're committed to reaching an ambitious agreement to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions with other countries in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change," Kerry stated.
The full IPCC Working Group II report can be downloaded on the official website.