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The disruption of the Earth’s climate shows every indication of being the most serious problem facing the human family in the 21st century. The scope of negative impacts that climate disruption will bring is far greater than most of us care to imagine. The terms “global warming” and “climate change” do not adequately convey what is already happening and what is almost certainly going to happen during our lifetimes.

At issue is not so much a warmer environment, but the disruption of a predictable climate upon which human civilization depends. Average temperatures are already rising, but the disruption of rainfall, drinking water supply, and agriculture are much more inconvenient than a warm spell...

- Deserts are becoming even dryer.
- Rainy seasons are delayed or curtailed.
- Storms are growing more intense and destructive.
- Agriculture of all kinds appears ominously threatened, which will certainly most impact the poor.
- The habitat, or home range, of our fellow creatures on Earth is changing far more rapidly than plants and animals can adapt in their behaviors. This puts further pressure on species already threatened with extinction.
- Global climate disruption threatens to unravel years of sustainable development work and to accelerate the erosion of Earth’s biodiversity.

DesertificazioneDeserts are becoming even dryer

Climate disruption is a social justice issue because those who have benefitted from burning fossil fuels (the advanced economies of Europe and North America) are in regions that have yet to witness the most serious impacts of climate disruption.

Surriscaldamento terrestreClimate disruption

The poorest countries tend to be clustered around the equator, and these are already experiencing noticeably altered climate patterns. Some small island nations are making plans to abandon their ancestral lands as they are swallowed up by the ocean’s rise.

Indigenous peoples in the arctic regions are among the most seriously affected. The permafrost is melting under their feet. Vast boreal forests are dying off. Without the protection of coastal ice, powerful ocean storms are dramatically reshaping fishing villages and their livelihoods.

Trends in the tropical and arctic regions confirm fears that we will see millions of climate refugees added to the stream of international migrants seeking a new home.

Our friends at Catholic Relief Services report that decades of painstaking economic development in the world’s poorest countries are being reversed by the disruption of historic climate patterns and tropical storms of unprecedented impact (recall the Pakistan floods of August 2010).

Fra Keith Warner, OFM

Question for Reflection:

Do you advocate for Climate Justice – especially for the poor? How?