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Environmental Issues - Climate Change

The Church of England "Shrinking the Footprint" campaign published a special Climate Change Issue of its e-News April 2014

It included news about the February 2014 General Synod debate on care for the environment 

and the following statement from Philip Fletcher, Chairman of the Church of England's Mission and Public Affairs Council 

in respect of the 2nd of 3 reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

‘The report helps make clear that climate change will have serious consequences for all of us, but particularly for

those most vulnerable to such changes. A rise in global temperatures of even 2 degrees centigrade exposes us to

greater volatility and the risk of extreme weather events. Adaptation measures are required. But if we fail as citizens,

nationally and internationally to take the mitigating steps needed to avoid even higher temperatures, we face

a high risk of irreparable damage to ecosystems and to those societies already living on the edge, often as subsistence

farmers. Christian Aid and other development agencies have made clear how serious that damage could be.

The Church of England is committed to take seriously our Christian responsibility to care for the Earth. It is making

its own contribution to minimising carbon emissions through energy conservation and other measures as part of its

Shrinking the Footprint campaign.

General Synod recently passed overwhelmingly a motion which asked the Church’s Ethical Investment Advisory

Group to develop for the Church’s national investing bodies a climate change ethical investment policy aligned with

the theological, moral and social priorities of the Church.’

At the 2015 DAVOS gathering of world leaders, Al Gore gave a very clear and informative presentation  with some up to date information about climate change,  plus an up-beat message about how it can be handled.  It is a 27 minutes long video clip. The lead Bishop for the Church of England on environmental issues, The Rt. Revd. Nick Holtam, Bishop of Salisbury, has asked for this link to Al Gore's presentation at Davos to be circulated to Diocesan Environment Officers and diocesan websites.  

The national church environment group, under the auspices of the Shrinking the Footprint campaign will keep the wider church posted on developments of the global creative events initiative on 18th June 2015 announced in Al Gore's presentation by American singer-songwriter,Pharrell Williams.  

The Royal Society has published a very readable and informative guide to climate change. and at the start of 2014 Exeter University launched a free 8-week study course on climate change, which continues to be available for anyone to interact with online.  

Operation Noah has drawn up the "Ash Wednesday declaration" which is an excellent resource for all churches concerned about the impacts of climate change. They have also produced an associated course which is designed for use as a Lent course – though it is also appropriate for use at any time of the year. It is targeted for use with Church and house groups and the content is based on the Ash Wednesday Declaration. 

Pray and Fast for the Climate November 1st 2014 saw the launch of  a prayer initiative to help Christians engage in regular prayer in advance of the major international COP21 conference in Paris 2015. A special service in Lancaster Roman Catholic Cathedral marked the launch in the North West, alongside others in the Midlands and London. The Green Alliance of NGOs and charities, including Christian Aid have produced an excellent booklet on the importance of the Paris 2015 conference for the future well-being of the planet. Under the auspices of the World Council of Churches, several Christian denominations are planning to make pilgrimage to Paris in conjunction with this conference as a way of encouraging world leaders to act courageously in the interests of global justice and environmental sustainability, both of which are essential elements of the Christian calling to advance the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Bishop David Atkinson, Assistant Bishop in Southwark Diocese, and formerly Bishop of Thetford, has written a paper for Operation Noah called "Climate Change and the Gospel".  A summary document of this theological analysis of Climate Change and the way Christians are challenged to engage with it may be found here.

Shrinking the Footprint, the national Church of England Environment group has produced a helpful background paper for the forth-coming climate change conference to be held in Paris 2015., and the following information sheet:

CLIMATE CHANGE a simple primer 

The Earth is the Lord’s (Psalm 24:1) is a foundational truth for Christians and God has uniquely entrusted the stewardship of creation to the human race (Genesis 1: 26-30). What we do, we do as God’s agents; we have a privilege and a responsibility to act not only responsibly, but generously in this role. To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth is one of the Five Marks of Mission developed by the Anglican Communion. This care of creation is integral to evangelism and mission.

The issues to do with climate change are still debated by some and not easily simplified. There are no shortages of projections, but turning these into ‘definites’ is not easy. However, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is unequivocal that climate change is occurring and confirms that there is 95% certainty that human activities are the principal cause. There is also a very high level of agreement that if we do not succeed in limiting global warming to less than 2 degrees C, it is likely there will be consequences which risk serious damage to the earth and human prosperity and wellbeing. Because this is a prediction rather than a certainty there are still those who suggest we do not need to make climate change a priority. Where there is such evident risk of danger we should act with great caution in our care for creation. To avoid exceeding the 2degree ‘guardrail’ we must stop adding carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. With only the equivalent of ten more years burning fossil fuels at our collective current rate, we urgently need to make the transition to a low carbon economy.   

Health The UK’s Department of Health has outlined a number of implications if climate change continues unabated. Negative health effects will not be evenly distributed. Poorer people and those living in inner cities are likely to bear the brunt of the burden.

Injustice Globally, many are already experiencing the effects of climate injustice as climate change alters the probabilities of extreme events. This has become a priority for development agencies such as Christian Aid, Tearfund and CAFOD. Hurricanes in the Philippines, farming communities in Fiji unable to grow crops as a result of salination of the land, the loss of hunting lands of North America's indigenous people now suffering the highest rate of suicides in the country, whilst the indigenous communities of Northern Argentina are torn apart by massive deforestation. There’s flooding in Mozambique and Zimbabwe whilst the farmers of Nambia are losing their cattle in the drought. 

Migration Scarce natural resources such as drinking water are likely to become even more limited. Many crops and some livestock are unlikely to survive in certain locations if conditions become too hot and dry, or too cold and wet. ‘Food security will become even more challenging. People will have to try and adapt to this situation, but for many this will mean a conscious move to another place to survive.' UNHCR 

Biodiversity is being heavily impacted and also has an important role in climate change adaptation and mitigation. Soils, forests and oceans hold vast stores of carbon. The way habitats are managed and protected to maintain healthy ecosystems is vital to human well-being. 

What we can do 

Carbon in its various forms is absorbed in a variety of carbon reservoirs such as forests and seas, but about half of the CO2 remains in the atmosphere. The two major ways to reduce the amount of carbon being produced involve decreasing the amount produced generating energy by reducing our dependence on fossil fuels  and increasing our use of renewable energy such as wind and solar. We must also increase our energy efficiency. Remedial personal action can also be taken, reducing energy consumption, utilising renewable energy sources  (changing to a green energy supplier) and conserving energy all contribute to slowing the rate of climate change. Walking and cycling instead of motorised transport have health benefits and improve air quality. Changing our diet and eating less meat as well as reductions in food waste will reduce methane emissions, and save money.

Involving Faith Climate change affects everyone. All Faiths care for God’s creation. Among Christians there is an ecumenical consensus about Climate Change. The Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Protestants have developed similar theological statements. There are opportunities for us to work together with Christians of all denominations and worldwide. The Papal Encyclical ‘Laudato Si’ identifies the possibility of working with people of other faiths and with all people ‘On the Care for Our Common Home’. 

What the CofE is doing 

The Archbishop of Canterbury has made it clear that addressing climate change is a priority for the Church of England. 

General Synod in July 2015 re-affirmed the Church of England's commitment to play a leading role in the effort to prevent dangerous climate change, including through the Church's ethical investment activities. The CofE’s own national campaign Shrinking the Footprint aims to enable the whole Church to address – in faith, practice and mission – the issue of climate change. 

The Church Commissioners’ policy on climate change drawn up by its Ethical Investment Advisory Group has a divestment and engagement strategy targeted at the highest polluting parts of the fossil fuel industry. The Commissioners have made significant low carbon investments including forestry, green office buildings and environmental investment funds. 

The Lambeth Declaration is a CofE initiative supported by a large number of faith leaders which calls on faith communities to recognize the pressing need to make the transition to a low carbon economy and to fast and pray for the success of key international negotiations. The Pilgrimage2Paris will set out from St Martin-in-theFields on 13 November to walk the 200 miles to Paris to call on the world leaders to agree a fair, ambitious and legally binding climate change deal.

Climate Change is a Spiritual issue

'I used to think the top environmental problems facing the world were global warming, environmental degradation and eco-system collapse, and that we scientists could fix those problems with enough science. But I was wrong. The real problem is not those three items, but greed, selfishness and apathy. And for that we need a spiritual and cultural transformation.’

Gus Speth, US Environmental lawyer and former Dean of Forestry at Yale addressing a group of religious leaders 

'Science cannot say what is right and what is wrong. Science can inform but it cannot arbitrate. The whole point about climate change is that, despite having been revealed by science, it's not really an issue about science, it is an issue about what sort of world we want to live in. What sort of future do we want to create?’ 

Prof. Chris Rapley, University College London. Author: 2071 The World We’ll Leave Our Grandchildren

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