Dan Misleh

How is your Lent going?

I ask because I fear our collective period of penitence may be heavy in our hearts. For starters, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently issued another dire warning about the dangers posed by global warming.

A key report takeaway: nations aren’t doing nearly enough to protect our planet from both current and future perils unleashed by climate change.

We aren’t changing our fossil fuel and other excessive consumption patterns, and there are consequences for all of creation.

“Unchecked carbon pollution is forcing the world’s most vulnerable on a frog march to destruction — now,” said António Guterres, the United Nations secretary general. “This abdication of leadership is criminal.” (And immoral, I might add.)

The dangers of a warming planet are clear and present: storms, floods and other extreme weather events displaced more than 13 million people across Asia and Africa in 2019. Heat and drought are killing crops and trees and putting millions more people at increased risk of hunger and malnutrition worldwide.

Then there is Ukraine and the dangers of petro-dictators. New York Times columnist Tom Friedman notes that the U.S. and other countries are funding Russia’s military by buying their fossil fuels.

But instead of seizing the opportunity to cut fossil fuel consumption, the U.S. is turning to Venezuela and opening the strategic oil reserves to try and reduce prices at the pump. Friedman calls this what it is: madness.

So how is your Lent going?

“It can be easy to be immobilized by fear and anxiety. The future seems quite uncertain,” writes Catholic Climate Covenant’s social media manager, Emily Burke, and advocacy intern, Henry Glynn.

But in a recent column Burke and Glynn said they found hope during a recent conversation with Pope Francis, and in the outpouring of support they received afterwards.

“It’s not too late. We must act, and we must act together. Read the IPCC report, but also read Laudato Sí. Watch our encounter with Pope Francis. Join our efforts,” they write. “The window of time to act might be closing, but so long as our hearts remain open, there is hope.”

Wise words, and a reminder that although climate change poses an enormous global challenge, solutions are available. And we must also commit to the common good through personal sacrifices as well as local advocacy, including within our own dioceses.

Today we have the technology to reduce energy consumption dramatically through energy efficiencies and renewable energy. These actions have the added benefits not only to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, but to save money, lessen global insecurity, protect the most vulnerable, save endangered plant and animal species, and show our gratitude for God’s good gift of creation.

As Easter approaches, I find hope in the words and events of our shared Catholic faith, and our young people, and our own transformations. Happy Easter to all of you. Happy Earth Day to all of you. May we all work together in newness to protect our imperiled planet.

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Dan Misleh is the founder of Catholic Climate Covenant, based in Washington, D.C. Learn more at CatholicClimateCovenant.org.