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A Political Theology of Climate Change
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A Political Theology of Climate Change


Eerdmans 2013

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Much current commentary on climate change, both secular and theological, focuses on the duties of individual citizens to reduce their consumption of fossil fuels. In A Political Theology of Climate Change, however, Michael Northcott discusses nations as key agents in the climate crisis.

Against the anti-national trend of contemporary political theology, Northcott renarrates the origins of the nations in the divine ordering of history. In dialogue with Giambattista Vico, Carl Schmitt, Alasdair MacIntyre, and other writers, he argues that nations have legal and moral responsibilities to rule over limited terrains and to guard a just and fair distribution of the fruits of the earth within the ecological limits of those terrains.

As part of his study, Northcott brilliantly reveals how the prevalent nature-culture divide in Western culture, including its notion of nature as “private property,” has contributed to the global ecological crisis. While addressing real difficulties and global controversies surrounding climate change, Northcott presents substantial and persuasive fare in A Political Theology of Climate Change.

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Key Features

  • Offers ethical and theological literature on climate change
  • Discusses nations as key agents in the climate crisis
  • Addresses controversies regarding climate change


  • The Geopolitics of a Slow Catastrophe
  • Coal, Cosmos, and Creation
  • Engineering the Air
  • Carbon Indulgences, Ecological Debt, and Metabolic Rift
  • The Crisis of Cosmopolitan Reason
  • The Nomos of the Earth and Governing the Anthropocene
  • Revolutionary Messianism and the End of Empire

Praise for the Print Edition

This book offers us a new level of seriousness in developing a theological ecology. . . . Michael Northcott has the unusual intelligence to be able to see the link between ‘soft’ green issues on the one hand and ‘hard’ issues of international relations theory on the other. . . . If we are not once more to resort to an oppressive mode of imperialism which is only likely to speed up global warming, then we have to discover a more cultural and consensual mode of international collaboration, within a horizon of virtue. Since any such collaboration must take a substantive form, the role of the church here remains crucial.

John Milbank, professor in religion, politics and ethics, University of Nottingham

Michael Northcott has devoted the best part of his career to understanding the problems of the environment and climate from a theologian’s viewpoint, but this is no repetition of what he has said before. A Political Theology of Climate Change is the book he has been working towards, and he here achieves a powerful synthetic integration of scientific findings and policy questions with a theology of creation and eschaton and with philosophical and political critiques of modernity. This is a book to persuade us that the climate is not just a problem to be solved, but a question to be reflected on deeply, searching deep into the relation between mankind and its creator.

—Oliver O’Donovan, professor emeritus of Christian ethics and practical theology, University of Edinburgh

In this wide-ranging, compelling book Northcott shows why it is a great mistake to think that weather is a topic of concern only to farmers and gardeners. Anthropogenic climate change—and all the pain and suffering it will bring to humanity and fellow creatures—is a profound challenge to theological reflection in all of its forms because what is at stake is nothing less than hope for life that honors the gift of creation and gives glory to God. Drawing on the latest scientific research on climate and energy, Northcott develops an ambitious political theology that has the potential to bring healing to our lands and our communities. This book is a wake-up call.

—Norman Wirzba, professor of theology and ecology, Duke Divinity School

Drawing on the vast resources of Christian spirituality and of the much more recent climate sciences, Michael Northcott continues to bring alive the most implausible hybrid—a carbon theology! By reawakening the dormant meaning of Incarnation, he also provides new energy for an ecological movement that could learn to thrive on the long tradition of political theology. This book helps us understand how all the outdated values of the past might be our last chance to still have a future.

—Bruno Latour, professor, Paris Institute of Political Studies

Product Details

  • Title: A Political Theology of Climate Change
  • Author: Michael S. Northcott
  • Publisher: Eerdmans
  • Publication Date: 2013
  • Pages: 345

About Michael S. Northcott

Michael S. Northcott is professor of ethics at the University of Edinburgh. His previous books include The Environment and Christian Ethics and A Moral Climate: The Ethics of Global Warming.

Sample Pages from the Print Edition

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