Some time ago, I found myself sitting in front of a very crowded room. I was part of a panel discussing Christian responses to climate science. Earlier in the discussion, a fellow panelist had told the group that he didn’t believe human activity was causing climate change; therefore, he saw no need for any particular Christian response. The third panelist and I had disagreed with his take. The room was divided—and emotionally charged. The moderators did their best to tamp down the shouting and wring questions for us out of long statements from the floor. We were just about out of time when someone asked a question that I thought was really provocative: “Given the fact that Canada’s CO2 emissions don’t make up a very large percentage of the global total, what would be the point in making any costly changes?”
The questioner was right. Though Canada ranks among the top ten global CO2 emitters, it is nowhere close to the US or China. Canada’s per-person emissions are quite high, but the national total amounts to less than 2% of the global output (here’s one helpful chart). Canada is a big country with a cold climate and an economy tied tightly to resource extraction, so it isn’t surprising that our per-person emissions are high. Yet the question stands: Why make sacrificial changes to address a relatively small contribution to a huge global problem?
This question is important because it is essentially an enlarged version of one all of us face constantly: Why should any of us put effort into living a more earth-friendly life when our personal contribution to the problem is miniscule and our ability to make a difference is near zero? This is especially challenging when the resources we might put into reducing our CO2 output could be used for other good causes.
[The full column can be found at the Mennonite Creation Care website.]