New research has found that 9 out of 10 Christian teenagers surveyed are concerned about climate change, but just one in 10 believe their church is doing enough to respond to the climate crisis.
The report, called Burning Down the House - How the Church Could Lose Young People Over Climate Inaction was conducted by international aid and development agency Tearfund alongside the Youthscape Centre for Research.
A group of 630 British Christian young people aged between 14 and 19 completed the survey to share their views. Alongside the survey a group of 23 16 to 23-year-olds took part in a series of focus groups which explored the experiences of young Christian climate activists and young black Christians.
The survey also revealed that 86 per cent of the teenagers said their faith teaches them to care about injustice and 84 per cent said it's important that Christians respond to climate change.
Dr Ruth Valerio, Director of Global Advocacy and Influencing at Tearfund, said: “This survey is clear: young people want the church to listen and act now. If it does not, it will fail the living planet that God loves and calls us to protect.
“Churches must use their platforms to listen to their young people and stand up for the most vulnerable in the world who are facing the climate crisis head-on with life threatening consequences like droughts, famines and more severe weather events.”
The survey also found that 57 per cent had prayed about the climate in the last year and 84 per cent are willing to.
Dr Lucie Shuker, Director of Research at Youthscape Centre for Research, said: “We only need to look at Greta Thunberg and Vanessa Nakate to see the impact young people can have.
“Across the world, young people have been raising their voices and demanding action in response to the climate emergency, and now we know that passion is shared by Christian teenagers in the UK. Those surveyed have spoken - churches now need to listen and act.”
Tearfund works in around 50 countries through the local church alongside some of the world’s poorest people who are worst affected by the terrible consequences of climate change including famine, drought and floods.
Rebekah Wilson, 21, a medical student in Glasgow, who took part in the research, said: “By ignoring climate justice, or placing it lower on our priority lists, we are overlooking the very real concerns, livelihoods and lives of God’s children across the globe, who are currently harmed by climate change.
“We can no longer view climate change from our positions of privilege as an issue to postpone and solve for our children, but we must take urgent action to care for the people who are affected by it now.”
Tackling the climate emergency requires a whole society approach; this year the UK government has a crucial role to play in the fight against climate change, as it hosts both the G7 summit in June in Cornwall and the UN climate talks in Glasgow in November.
As the UK and other countries around the world seek to rebuild after the Coronavirus crisis, it is vital that we ensure all spending is in line with a net zero future.
Pete Greig, Tearfund ambassador and founder of 24-7 Prayer, added: “The climate crisis is killing more and more people. It’s undermining national economies, breaking delicate ecosystems and destroying homes. Many species are on the verge of extinction. We can no longer stay silent about its cause and effect.
“This survey makes sobering reading as a church leader but also as someone personally very concerned about the climate crisis. The numbers show us as leaders we need to be putting the environment to the top of our priority lists and ensuring we are doing all we can to respond.”
As a practical response to the survey, Tearfund, alongside other organisations, has designed the new Climate Emergency Toolkit for church leaders and congregations to respond to the climate crisis.
The kit gives clear steps to churches on how to declare their own climate emergency and take action, by cutting their carbon emissions and mobilising their members to influence their households, local communities and workplaces.
For more information on the toolkit log onto climateemergencytoolkit.org
For further information or interview requests call Mel Barnston on 07929 335 146. For out of hours media enquiries please call 07929 339813.
Dr Ruth Valerio, Director of Global Advocacy and Influencing and Dot Tyler, Head of Youth and Emerging Generation at Tearfund are available for interview.
Notes to editors:
Tearfund is a Christian relief and development agency and a member of the Disasters’ Emergency Committee. Tearfund has been working around the world for more than 50 years responding to disasters and helping lift communities out of poverty. For more information about the work of Tearfund, please visit tearfund.org
Youthscape is a national organisation that has been serving young people since 1993. The positive transformation of young people is at the heart of everything we do – especially those facing critical challenges and issues in their lives. We work directly with teenagers from our base in Luton and to develop innovative approaches, programmes and resources that serve the whole country.The Youthscape Centre for Research was founded in 2015 to create an evidence base for innovation in youth ministry. To find out more, and to download our research publications visit youthscape.co.uk/research
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