Hurricane Matthew and The Church of Ireland's response


Hurricane Matthew was the first category 5 hurricane in the Atlantic since 2007. Several countries were impacted but Haiti, receiving a direct hit, suffered catastrophic damage. Over 1000 lives were lost, fifty thousand people are in immediate need of clean water and shelter. The UN World Food Programme has arranged to feed up to 300,000 people. There is also fear of a cholera outbreak. Damage in Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere, is estimated to be in about 1 billion dollars.

The Church of Ireland Bishop’s Appeal has responded to this disaster by joining with Christian Aid and highlighting the Haiti emergency appeal. You can give online at the appeal website.

Christian Aid and Tearfund both encourage churches to do more for suffering people. This means responding to appeals for disasters and working to tackle the root causes of those disasters – like climate change.

But did climate change cause Hurricane Matthew? Well, in general hurricanes just happen, but scientists have shown that hurricanes are getting worse as the oceans warm. The number of category 4 or 5 hurricanes in the North Atlantic has roughly doubled since the 1970s. Sea levels off Florida have risen about 12 inches since the 1900s which makes storm surges, where waters rise around 2-3 metres, able to penetrate much further inland.

Climate change is accelerating because of man-made CO2 emissions from transport, heating, energy production from fossil fuelled power stations, agriculture and industry. The aid agencies advocate for churches and individuals to reduce their emissions. They also advocate in investing in renewable energy and removing investments in fossil fuel companies.

The irony is that the Church of Ireland does continue to invest in fossil fuels – the cause of climate change. In fact, the Representative Church Body in an article on its investments and climate change says, “ethically motivated exclusion of all coal and petroleum companies based on their products alone would not be appropriate at this time.”

So the Church of Ireland Bishops’ appeal is asking you to give to those suffering because of this disaster, please do, but the Representative Church Body of the Church of Ireland continues to invest millions in the fossil fuel industry that causes climate change and helps to generate stronger hurricanes.  There is something wrong in that.

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