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Climate change: we must do more

The Very Rev Dr Frances Ward, Dean of St Edmundsbury ANL-161103-110230001
The Very Rev Dr Frances Ward, Dean of St Edmundsbury ANL-161103-110230001

Last week, I was in London at a meeting of faith leaders, with two scientists from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

This is a branch of the United Nations, which produces solid scientific evidence, tracking the impact on the environment of climate change.

Because it has to convince all the nations who have signed up to the UN, its work is thorough and irrefutable. It has been through the most rigorous scientific scrutiny.

In March 2014, it produced the definitive report, upon which the December 2015 Paris conference was based.

We should be scared. Very scared. The evidence all shows that the Earth is warming at an alarming speed.

The seas are rising, threatening low-lying communities, and becoming more acidic as they warm.

Biodiversity is reducing, with species dying out as habitats are destroyed because of human need and greed, because of an inability to adapt to a changing climate.

Climate changes mean a lack of water in some parts of the world; too much water and more violent weather patterns in others.

The greatest cause of climate warming is the emissions of carbon into the atmosphere. CO2 is the greatest culprit; methane another.

Methane is produced from intensive agriculture; CO2 from fossil fuel extraction and burning.

And that’s down to us – our consumption of fossil fuels for energy. The word for it is anthropogenic, which means caused by humans.

The Paris agreements of December 2015 achieved a miracle – the agreement of all the nations to sign up to reducing global warming to 2 degrees – or lower – by 2050. We’re going to have to achieve this.

The way we are heading now is closer to 4 degrees by the turn of the century, which means catastrophic destruction to life as we know it.

Now we all know people who are in denial, either through self-interest, ignorance, apathy or an unwillingness to change.

But the greatest reason for denial is, to my mind, fear. Fear and anxiety.

As a Christian, I read the Bible, of God’s gift of a gloriously beautiful creation into human hands, and the injunction that we care for what we are given. That we are stewards of the rich resources that God gives.

Creation is not given to us to squander, to use and abuse, to exploit, to destroy. Creation is a gift of God that we are called on to revere, to cherish, to desire and care for as God cares for us.

The joyful thing about last Tuesday was the number of people of different faiths – Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Christians – who all share a sense and passion for the environment, for its safekeeping, for our responsibility as human beings to preserve what we have received for future generations.

What can we do? We can encourage the children we know to come with us on a nature walk, or to grow flowers and vegetables in the garden.

We can help them to cherish and care for the natural world around them. We can do other things, too.

We can actively reduce our reliance on energy sources that emit carbon into the atmosphere.

We can invest in new technologies that provide energy from renewable sources. We can join with others in going green.

-- The Very Rev Dr Frances Ward is Dean of st Edmundsbury


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