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Presbyterians for Earth Care receives one scientist’s look at the most recent climate assessment


‘Our choices will reverberate for hundreds, even thousands, of years’

June 10, 2023

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Dr. C. Mark Eakin

Dr. C. Mark Eakin, a retired oceanographer with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told about 75 people attending a recent webinar that a recent climate assessment contains both bad news and good ideas for what Presbyterians and others can do to help restore Creation.

Eakin, a ruling elder at Warner Memorial Presbyterian Church in Kensington, Maryland, shared some highlights of the Synthesis Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Sixth Assessment. He spoke to Presbyterians for Earth Care, which he serves as a member of the Steering Committee.

Eakin called the report both “a consensus document” and “a solid document.” But “they tend to be, well, boring,” he said. “The science is good, and the document comes from a lot of great studies. But it’s writing by committee. As Presbyterians, we can understand how that happens.” The Synthesis Report is a compendium of “a whole bunch of reports,” Eakin said. Watch a video introducing the Synthesis Report by clicking the link above.

Because it’s a synthesis, the report contains little that’s new, Eakin said. But it does drive home “what we as human beings need to be doing.” Its central message is this, Eakin said: The pace and scale of climate action are insufficient to tackle climate change.

According to the report, extremes will become more widespread and pronounced with every increment of warming. “The hope is there are things we can do now,” Eakin said. “The problem is getting society, government, companies and individuals to do what’s needed.”

Eakin reminded those in attendance that Black and brown communities and people in less-developed communities are impacted by climate change the most.

Photo by Tobias Rademacher via Unsplash

As many other scientists have, the report calls on nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions by nearly half in the next seven years. “That’s a huge task. To be honest, there’s no way we’ll make it,” Eakin said. “But we have to come as close as we can.” He used the analogy of an athletic contest: “Losing by one point means you got most of what you tried to accomplish done.”

The report identifies urgent actions to take, including:

  • “Deep, rapid and sustained reductions” in greenhouse gas emissions.
  • A greater focus on adaptation.
  • The scaling up of financing.
  • Enhanced technical and international cooperation.

“There are tried and true options available now,” Eakin said. “We need to design and apply solutions in a variety of contexts, and we need to scale them up and apply them widely, which can be the hardest part.”

Fairness ought to be part of the solution as well, Eakin said. “Those who contribute the least to climate change are often the most vulnerable,” he said, citing one study that indicates a Buddhist monk living in the United States has a larger carbon footprint than the family of a business leader living in Africa.

Solutions won’t be easy, and they’ll be expensive. What’s needed is up to six times what’s currently being spent on battling the climate crisis, the report indicates. In addition, “we need to look at climate-resilient development” by improving people’s health and livelihoods, reducing poverty and hunger, and providing clean energy, water and air, Eakin said. “We need more emphasis on equitable solutions.”

Eakin completed his presentation with the final slide from the report: “Our choices will reverberate for hundreds, even thousands, of years.”

The General Assembly has been working on climate change in recent years, Eakin noted. In 2018, the 223rd General Assembly passed an overture on carbon pricingAn overture commissioners approved last year divested the PC(USA) from five fossil fuel companies “where engagement is not resulting in change.”

“You can also overture your presbytery,” Eakin said, adding National Capital Presbytery voted to divest from fossil fuel companies. “You can also have your church divest,” he said.

Mike Ferguson, Editor, Presbyterian News Service

Today’s Focus: Presbyterians for Earth Care

Let us join in prayer for:

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Angela Duffy, Chief Compliance Officer, Trust Services, Presbyterian Foundation
Amanda Dunphy, Business Administrator, Finance, Board of Pensions

Let us pray

Gracious God, we rejoice that you are generous with us. Keep us mindful that you have provided all that we need. Help us to be generous with our loaves, so that you might show us once more that what we perceive as not enough may be all we need, with 12 baskets of crumbs to spare. Amen.

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