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WIREs Clim Change
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Is climate change a new kind of problem? The role of theology and imagination in climate ethics

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Some scholars and activists assume that climate change is entirely sui generis: a brand new kind of problem that calls for new kinds of thinking and activism. Others communicate the seriousness of climate change by arguing that it is prefigured by the biggest events in human history, such as the moral crime of slavery or the political challenge of World War II. While the choice between these two frames for climate change is often implicit, it shapes the research and arguments that follow. This can be illustrated by examining Christian theology and ethics: Those theologians who see climate change as sui generis tend to embrace the inevitability of apocalyptic change, increasing instability, and an Anthropocene age that calls for new kinds of religion and spirituality. Those who see climate change as prefigured, by contrast, tend to emphasize the continued relevance of established religious traditions, in particular their commitments to social justice and their opposition to destructive political and economic structures. The two approaches offer different frames for climate change and different theological imaginations of the problem. When the question of whether climate change is new and the imaginaries that question inspires are explicit, arguments in theology and ethics are clearer and more defined. Interdisciplinary connections then suggest that this exercise of exploring how climate change is framed, characterized, and imagined will be relevant to a wide range of scholars and activists. WIREs Clim Change 2017, 8:e480. doi: 10.1002/wcc.480 This article is categorized under: Trans‐Disciplinary Perspectives > Humanities and the Creative Arts

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