Tearfund’s landmark study on the attitudes of Christians towards climate change offers vital insights for healing a geographical and generational divide.
In 2021, Tearfund commissioned the most comprehensive study to date of Australian Christians’ attitudes towards climate change. (Register to be amongst the first to receive a copy of the full research report.)
They Shall Inherit the Earth, a seven-part study conducted by leading research agency NCLS Research, examined the views of young adult Christians and church leaders in Australia towards climate change and the role of the Church in taking action to address it. It also looked at how climate change - and creation care more broadly - fit within their understanding of the gospel, the mission of the Church and the living out of our Christian faith. The study’s key findings, due for release in March, provide both insight and hope for how the Church might grow and strengthen its response to this critical challenge.
A new conversation about climate change
Tearfund has been a vocal advocate on the issue of climate change for many years, amplifying the voices of our partners and highlighting the unparalleled threat it poses to decades of progress towards ending extreme poverty. Through our collaboration with other organisations within the aid and development sector, along with our leadership and involvement in community campaigns, we know there are many Christians from across the Church in Australia who share our commitment to see compassion and justice shape the collective response to this threat.
Yet, for many Christians, the issue of climate change doesn’t connect or sit comfortably with their faith. Whether it be for reasons of uncertainty, fear or otherwise, there is a hesitancy to engage, and silence and inaction result.
The consequences of failing to act have never been clearer. The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, released last August, shows that “climate change is already affecting every region on Earth.”1 Despite this, the combined commitments of world leaders still fall short of what is needed to limit global heating to within the safer and agreed target of 1.5 degrees.2
Tearfund's commitment to speaking out about climate change is an expression of the Christian love at the heart of our mission: pursuing justice on behalf of those living in our world's poorest communities, whose homes and livelihoods are being destroyed and who face deeper levels of poverty and hunger as a result.
What the findings of this research highlight is the growing levels of concern that young Christians in Australia have about climate change and their desire to see the Church doing more. Climate change will affect us all but how and how much we experience its impacts is greatly influenced by where and when we happen to be born. Those who are poor and those who are young bear the heaviest burden, despite contributing least to the problem. Silence and inaction risks being perceived as apathy to this injustice and exacerbates a geographical and generational divide.
Regardless of any hesitancy we might feel, now is not the time for silence.Now is the time for the Church to be speaking up with even greater conviction. And, for some, this means being willing to overcome fear or uncertainty or whatever barriers there might be to engage in a new - humble and gracious - conversation about what climate change means for the Church. Encouragingly, our research indicates that the necessary willingness is there. The divide we need to heal is more a matter of perception than it is attitude.
We know that God’s vision for a flourishing creation encompasses all people and the whole of creation.
The Christian atmospheric scientist and expert climate change communicator Katharine Hayhoe says that the most important thing we can do to fight climate change is to talk about it in ways that connect with the values and convictions we hold most dear.3 This is the conversation that we hope you will join us in this year as we explore the findings and implications of our research in detail.
We know that God’s vision for a flourishing creation encompasses all people and the whole of creation. By embracing that vision, our call as Christians within it, and approaching the climate change challenge through that lens, we have a unique opportunity to show Jesus’ love in action and to be a voice of hope - at a time when hope is what our world desperately needs.
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