Zim turns to God as climate change disrupts livelihoods

Jeffrey Gogo Climate Story
AS climate change brings unexpected challenges, with frequent, severe droughts and floods, Zimbabweans are beginning to look up to God — the maker of heaven and earth — for lasting solutions, disappointed at the slow pace of human scientific interventions.

This comes as Zimbabwe this year faces what could be its worst drought in 25 years due to El Nino, the third drought in straight seasons since 2013.

At least 1,5 million Zimbabweans will go hungry in 2016, says the World Food Programme, as the drought is expected to cut harvests by wide margins.

The string of droughts has also slashed hydro-power generation at the 750 megawatt-capacity Kariba electric power plant by more than two thirds, leaving households, mines and industry in the dark for hours on end every day.

Now, Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko has rallied the local Church to beseech God’s intervention in ending the drought; extreme events we humans call “natural disasters.” Others rightly refer to such as “Acts of God,” itself a humbling-pie-eating statement.

In a key admission by political leaders of the role played by the Church in combating adverse climate change impacts, Vice President Mphoko pleaded with the Church to intercede through 7 days of nationwide prayer, which ended yesterday.

Regrettably, the UN climate negotiation system has tended to downplay this important role, resting more on a species over-confident of its capabilities and abilities, which have failed to reverse climate change in the past 25 years of talks.

And yet, the Church and scientists agree on at least one thing: that the current changes in the global climate system are man-made.

They result from mankind’s poor environmental stewardship of the earth, a God-given (forget the Big Bang Theory) garden that must be tended responsibly, says Mrs Sarah Mwandiambira, spokeswoman, the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC).

“When God created the heaven and earth…He gave man the stewardship role to work and look after the earth,” she said, quoting the Bible, Genesis 2 verse 15, which says ‘And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the Garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.’

But mankind rebelled. Mrs Mwandiambira continued: “However, man started to dominate and became a bully who is destroying nature, through producing more of what he does not need.”

Uncontrolled Emissions

Climates have always been changing for millennia, but the acceleration of unsustainable human-induced change began with the industrial revolution in Europe more than 250 years ago, experts say.

The processes that built today’s highly industrialised countries thrived on the explosive use of fossil fuels like coal, high carbon-emitting fuels.

Climate change is mainly the result of higher carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane gas emissions from human activities.

By end of last year, CO2 concentrations were at their highest level since pre-industrial times.

According to the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere stood at a global annual average of 397,7 parts per million (ppm) in 2014, up from about 278ppm in 1750.

In 2016, this figure is likely to breach the psychological 400ppm mark, says the WMO.

The higher safe limit for atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations to avoid dangerous global warming is 350ppm, say scientists.

What this means is that left unchecked, or checked half-heartedly as is currently the case, climate change and global warming will ravage livelihoods at unimaginable levels in this century, particularly in vulnerable African countries.

Even the recent Paris conference, where a new climate deal was agreed, remains uncertain on the effectiveness of its own strategies.

In the final outcome, Paris promised to hold global temperature rise “well below” two degrees Celsius by 2100.

But the climate plans from over 160 countries which built the Paris treaty indicate that even with full implementation of those plans, temperatures would still rise between 2,7 and 3,5 degrees Celsius in this century, according to the Climate Action Tracker, a UN affiliate body.

Temperature rise must stay below 1,5 degrees Celsius for a livable world, says the UN expert panel on climate change.

End Times

In a world consumed by sin, Zimbabwe’s call to prayer might be a humbling lesson to those that question the efficacy of the Christian faith.

The climate challenge has become bigger than the human agents who fanned and continue to fan its acceleration.

“The Church looks at climate change as a serious social justice issue and humanitarian crisis, which is evidenced by food insecurity, water and energy shortages and loss of livelihoods,” said Mrs Mwandiambira, by email.

But the Christian faith does not entirely agree with science’s thrust on humankind as the absolute sole agent for change, for mitigating climate change. It must be a combination of human and Divine effort. Anything else is more than likely to fail.

“With combined effort and with the assistance of science we can curb global warming,” says Lister Dhlakuseni, founder and prophet at Miracles and Deliverance Ministries International, based in Chitungwiza.

“Remember the Biblical principle, faith without works is dead. Therefore, as we pray for Divine intervention, we ought to start taking action at the local and national levels.”

The costs of God’s exclusion will be dire, warns Scott Mudavanhu, founding bishop at New Covenant Tabernacle International in Harare. And it may be well that the increased frequency and devastation from extreme events signal the Biblical prophecies about the end of the world.

“These are (climate change and global warming) signs of the end times,” concluded bishop Mudavanhu, referencing his argument on prophecies contained in the book of Matthew.

The prophecies are wide ranging, but Matthew 24 verse 7 seems a fulfilment of existing climate-linked problems. “For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in different places,” it says.

Only prayer, repentance and the teaching of Biblical dominion will save the world, said bishop Mudavanhu.

But the Zimbabwe Council of Churches is not just waiting for Divine deliverance from a seemingly inescapable end.

The Council has undertaken various initiatives that build community resilience as well as raise climate change awareness, according to Mrs Mwandiambira.

It has participated in climate change policy formulation; lobbied Government for community adaptation funding and joined international movements that demand climate justice within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Zimbabwe is a Christian nation, with an estimated 90 percent of the population following the faith.

God is faithful.

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