COP26 was totally different to any other conference I have attended. I was excited to interact with policy makers, scientists from different fields, companies, NGOs, and protesters in a single event. I was there to focus on technical discussions, but was truly impressed with the breadth of topics and opinions.
This meeting came at a very special time: public awareness of global warming has grown rapidly in recent years, and the COVID pandemic has raised new concerns for the future of humanity. The informed world was waiting for this COP and many eyes were looking at Brazil and our national targets, especially because we are experiencing such a rollercoaster of government leadership and policies.
As the Director for Innovation at the Research Centre for Greenhouse Gas Innovation, in the University of São Paulo, my role is to foster the technology transition from the lab to new businesses. Brazil has strong industrial sectors that are key to a clean energy transition. Among the countries that are fighting climate change Brazil has the potential of becoming neutral, perhaps negative, in greenhouse gas emissions – but we have to play it right!
Going into COP26, I was excited to see what level of engagement I could be involved in, and to find out how my country’s plans would be perceived. Overall I am happy with the level of technical discussions we managed to have at the meeting. I also engaged with Christians back home, sending live messages every day. Some schools and churches used those messages for their weekly devotional and prayer groups. I felt humbled to be part of such a huge endeavour that could make a difference in our lives and that of our children. I felt joy and responsibility before God in caring for his creation, offering my career in science and technology to him.
I believe Christianity offers good reasons for us to take care of our planet. At the same time, my faith also reminds me that we will not ultimately redeem the planet through technology alone. I work for a better and cleaner environment, while knowing that only Jesus saves humanity and the rest of creation from its deepest dirty problems.
At Christmas time, we are exposed to this good news in different ways: a card, a crib, a song, a gift, preaching … But there is a great distance between knowing how to recite “the Christmas message” and understanding it as a transforming truth. Today, many try to scrutinize the veracity of the biblical story through scientific tests, as if it could be verified and proven through the magnifying glasses of science or logical reasoning.
For me, the beauty of the “saving message” is that it cannot be understood simply by our own means and methods. To put it bluntly, think about whether this message makes sense: “An almighty God, who created the entire universe, created human beings as special creatures and called them into a personal relationship with him. He was betrayed by humanity’s pride and rebellion. Yet God, the offended party, out of deep love provided reconciliation and forgiveness, offering his own beloved Son to die in the worst way so that the rebels could regain full life!” Who in their right mind would believe that!?
This illogical message is at the heart of the redemptive work of Jesus, the Messiah who was born in Bethlehem. It is a timeless truth that requires no theoretical or philosophical knowledge, no degree, no primary school, no distinction of social class, nationality, gender, or historical era.
Scientists are trained to engage with reality in search of knowledge resulting from systematic reasoning. The Christmas message scandalizes us by saying, “You will not be able to obtain this truth on your own, but it is a gift from God!”
My understanding of this extraordinary message requires a very special action, like a key in a lock. The most important news in my life was freely given to me when the Spirit of God opened my eyes, and I saw Jesus Christ as Lord of all the cosmos and my life. This is what we call the faith that opens our eyes: an invitation to a restored personal relationship with him, reconnected through the saving message of Jesus Christ.
In the face of climate change, my hope comes from knowing that God is in control of everything. He invites us to be part of his work in the created order. He invites us to take care of the planet, battling climate change for our own good and for his glory. I am comforted by knowing that we are limited players in the game board: he is the Master who created the rules. It is a joy to serve him in the game, but I can rest assured that his plans will never be frustrated.
Gustavo R. S. Assi is an Associate Professor in Naval Architecture and Ocean Engineering at the University of São Paulo, Brazil. He is one of the founders of the Brazilian Association of Christians in Science. Married to Lilian, father of Cecilia and Daniel, they live in São Paulo and serve at Ebenezer Presbyterian Church.