In Advent, we hope and wait. Climate change does not lend itself either.

(RNS) — Advent should be a time of anticipation and hope, but the threat of global warming brings me anxiety and fear.

Scientists have been warning us for decades that global warming is real and will lead to apocalyptic disaster, but we still go about our Christmas shopping as if nothing is happening. The problem is too far in the future to worry about. It doesn’t seem urgent.

Environmentalists thought people would listen to scientists, but alas, science doesn’t seem to count. People are driven by their immediate experience, not by something that might happen in the future.

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During the midterm elections, global warming wasn’t even an issue. We were worried about inflation, abortion, who won the 2020 election, and why transgender students use the bathroom.

American politicians pay attention to the latest news cycle and the latest poll, not something that can destroy us in 10 years, let alone 50 years.

Few voters care about the problems global warming is already causing outside our country, such as dying coral reefs. Few knew that Pakistan experienced the most devastating flood in its history. Few cared about those starving in Africa due to drought. Some were concerned about migrants at our borders, but refused to acknowledge what is forcing these families to leave their countries.

Even here at home, voters did not link the climate crisis to their choices at the ballot box. Republican leaders have voted against good climate policy either because they are in denial about reality or because they are hoping for partisan advantage. Yet voters in Florida, the state that will suffer the most from global warming and rising seas, just gave Republicans the green light to run their state.

On the other side of the aisle, Democrats passed the Inflation Reduction Act, the most important climate-oriented legislation in our country’s history. But the legislation does not go far enough to meet our international commitments to reduce our greenhouse emissions. Even if everything works perfectly (an unlikely event), we’ll still be contributing to global warming when we should be reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the air.

Nor has much hope emerged from this month’s COP27 global warming meeting in Egypt. Even as United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres warned that “we’re on a highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator,” delegates continued their bickering and achieved little.

They promised to set up a “loss and damage” fund to help those suffering from climate change, but put little money into it. Nor have they committed to further reducing greenhouse gases.

As a Catholic, I was pleased to see the Vatican delegation at COP27 continue to press for climate action as a moral obligation due to the humanitarian impact of global warming.

“Climate change will not wait for us,” said Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s secretary of state. “Our world is now far too interdependent and cannot afford to be structured into unsustainable isolated blocs of countries. This is a moment for international and intergenerational solidarity. We must be responsible, courageous and forward-looking not only for ourselves but also for our children.”

“Our political will,” the Vatican’s top official said, “should be guided by the awareness that we either win together or lose together.”

Pope Francis spoke openly about environmental issues in his encyclical “Laudato Si”. He was not the first pope to have these concerns. Pope Benedict XVI was dubbed the “green pope” after he installed solar panels on the roof of the papal audience hall. Both liberal and conservative Catholics should unite to follow the directions of these popes in responding to climate change.

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The generation that is born now is like a baby left in a bathtub with the water slowly flowing in. We parents are busy with other things and we think we will turn off the water in time. But the water is flowing faster every minute and soon it will be impossible for us to stop it. The child will drown and it will be our fault.

I fear that unless the current generation of leaders takes radical action to deal with global warming, young people will turn to eco-terrorism and revolution. When environmentalists stick to artwork to draw attention to the urgency of the threat, we ignore them, other than to criticize their tactics. This will likely prompt more radical action in the future. Violence rarely changes its mind; rather it leads to a reaction and even a police state.

Advent should be a time of hope. As a social scientist, I have little hope. As a Christian, I must have hope. This Advent I will pray for the conversion of hearts to an ecological mindset. I will pray that those born in the coming year will experience the coming of Christ and not the environmental catastrophe that scientists are predicting.

If we do not respect God’s creation, if we do not imitate Christ’s love and sacrificial service to humanity, we will continue down the road to climate hell.

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