Caring for Creation

Why should we care for Creation and the environment?

All human beings, whether people of faith or not have a duty to care for creation, for the sake of everyone currently alive and for those generations still to come. This duty is particularly important today, given the unprecedented environmental damage that has taken place over the last few decades.

Put simply, we should all care for the environment of our planet because it is the only one we have, if we damage it irreparably we will not be able to replace it and we all depend on the condition of the environment for our lives. Environmental degradation has effects on all of humanity but its effects are most brutal on the poor and vulnerable.

What is the state of our global environment today?

An overview of the critical indicators of the state of our environment are:

  • Greenhouse gas emissions are at the highest rate they have been in history and they are continuing to rise.
  • Global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) have increased by almost 50 per cent since 1990.
  • Average global temperatures have increased by 0.85°C from 1880 to 2012.
  • Ocean temperatures have also increased, snow and ice caps have diminished and sea levels have risen more than 19cm in the last century.
  • As much as 40 per cent of the world’s oceans are heavily degraded by human activities, including pollution, depleted fisheries, and loss of coastal habitats.
  • Forests (30% of the earth) are essential for combating climate change but thirteen million hectares of forests are being lost every year.
  • Of the 8,300 animal breeds known, 8 per cent are extinct and 22 per cent are at risk of extinction.

Source: United Nations, Sustainable Development Goals

Source: NASA, Global Climate Change Vital Signs of the Planet

For a more detailed overview of the state of the global environment today, click here.

What is the state of our Australian environment today?

The Australia State of the Environment Report 2016 noted that despite the generally good condition of the Australian environment, the condition of the environment in certain areas is, however, poor and/or deteriorating.

An overview of the critical indicators of the state of our Australian environment are:

  • Australian average temperatures have increased by 1°C since 1910.
  • Climate change is affecting the structure and function of natural ecosystems, its impacts are increasing and may be irreversible.
  • The ongoing detrimental environmental impact of active and former mining sites is cause for concern.
  • Some coastal species’ conditions have deteriorated and the decline of migratory shore bird populations is noticeable.
  • Since 2011 there have been several extreme weather events including cyclones, heat waves and floods.
  • Record high water temperatures have caused widespread coral bleaching, habitat destruction and species mortality in 2011–16.

What has caused such environmental degradation?

The primary cause of environmental degradation is human activities which are harmful to the planet. Many of the results of climate change we have seen are due to unsustainable and environmentally damaging practices.

A leading cause of climate change is what is called the “greenhouse effect”. Certain gasses in the Earth’s atmosphere trap heat from escaping and radiate that heat back to earth causing a rise in temperature. The dramatic increase in the fossil fuels burned over the last century or so has created this effect both by increasing the amount of heat which needs to escape and by increasing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (which keeps the heat trapped on the planet). Forests and trees help reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but with forests being cleared, more carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere.

Many aspects of climate change are interlinked. For example a rise in average global temperatures has also lead to the shrinking of the ice caps and a rise in sea levels. As the natural habitats of those who live on the earth, in the ocean or in the atmosphere change, so do their practices sourcing food and migration, further impacting the ecosystem around them. Human responses to changes in the environment and diminishing food sources may also have a further contributory impact on environmental degradation.

For more information on the causes of environmental degradation click here.

What are the effects of environmental degradation?

Many of the effects of environmental degradation are already visible such as an increase in temperature of the atmosphere and oceans; more fluctuations in temperature and rainfall in different seasons; more frequent extreme weather events; and the extinction of many species of animal and plant life.

One cause of climate change which is expected to continue is the increase in temperature. The United Nations has stated “Without action, the world’s average surface temperature is projected to rise over the 21st century and is likely to surpass 3 degrees Celsius this century—with some areas of the world expected to warm even more. The poorest and most vulnerable people are being affected the most.”

More Information and Getting Involved

  • To find out more about what the Church teaches click here.
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