I wake at three. After several hours of darkness, the dawn ushers in a gray drizzle. I struggle to breathe.
The pale blue light in my palm chimes and vibrates, bringing me the laments of many friends in short bursts of text. The morning after the polls closed, how could we have done this? Is this who we really are?
Who are we now? Who am I now? Do I even belong here? Belong in this national story? In this political affiliation? In this religious tribe?
Friends and children all ask me the same questions: What does this mean for Muslims? For immigrants? For refugees? For the poor? For the disabled? For the uninsured? For political opponents?
But some ask more ominous questions: What does this mean for the survival of our species, for billions of our fellow humans? And what does it mean for countless other species and ecosystems? Could America have just voted humankind onto an irreversible course of decline, dragging an ark-full of other creatures down with us?
And could its white evangelicals have simultaneously sealed the fate of their religious movement?
Surely, no one has ever reacted to an election with such dire warnings. Perhaps I have gone totally overboard? I don’t think so. But you decide.
There is one planetary peril so dire that all 195 nations of the world have decided they must act now. In Paris last year, they came together to finalize an agreement by which we would all take specific steps to prevent the world from warming more than 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. Every nation signed, and enough have now ratified it to become binding. The measures included so far aren’t nearly enough to keep warming at 2 degrees. But everyone is expecting future sessions to increase world-wide ambition in reaching this goal.
And why is it so important to avoid 3-4 degrees of warming? For starters, heat waves would be simply unbearable for much of humanity – 100-year heat waves would occur during almost all summer months every year in many regions. Sea levels would rise more than 1 meter by the end of the century, and would accelerate further after that. Food production would decline as hot regions become dryer, and as intense storms destroy farmlands. The collapse of the marine food chain is also likely, as reefs die in warmer, more acidic oceans. And humanity – armed to the teeth with weapons of mass destruction – would have to decide who starves, and who lives.
The story is no fantasy. But it is a nightmare. 3-4 degrees of warming must be avoided at all costs. And the world agreed in Paris to do so.
But now, we have now elected Donald Trump, who has specifically promised to kill the Paris Agreement and the US initiatives that constitute our share of the climate-saving work. Here are a few of the steps he has promised to take:
- Abolish the EPA as we know it.
- Forbid any surviving portion of the EPA to regulate carbon dioxide.
- Halt funding for the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change.
- Cancel the Clean Power Plan.
- Build the Keystone XL pipeline and more like it.
- Stop any carbon tax or pricing mechanism.
So rather than strengthening the Paris Agreement as will be needed, our country has chosen a leader who has sworn to kill the global effort entirely. With the world’s greatest superpower thumbing its nose at its poorer neighbors, coal and oil pollution will continue to rise, as will heat, hunger and sea levels.
Humanity can adapt to changes, you are thinking? Well, for a while, especially the rich and mobile. And the world has seen a temperature change of 4 degrees before, about 100,000 years ago during the last ice age. But back then, the change occurred over thousands of years –not one single century. And time is everything when it comes to climate adaptation. Most species and people cannot adapt, much less evolve to thrive in the breakneck pace of change we’re causing.
Perhaps you aren’t concerned by this last item, but if you’re a Christian and think you have good news to offer the world, maybe you should be. Because white evangelicals were by far the strongest backers of Trump. They backed him by a higher margin than any other candidate in a generation – more than 80 percent.
So as the impacts of runaway climate change wreak havoc on the people of the world, let’s not even dream of the world’s people darkening the doors of our churches. Good news? Really? First you kill my source of survival, and then you offer me good news? If you’ve got a god, he’s the last thing I want to hear about.
For American White Evangelicalism, this looks like it could be the beginning of a very sorry end.