General Synod to debate climate change and environment

A large group of organisations have joined together to welcome the debate on climate change and the environment taking place at General Synod on February 12th.

A Rocha UK, Christian Aid, Christian Concern for One World, Christian Ecology Link, Climate Stewards, CTBI Environmental Issues Network, the John Ray Initaitive, Operation Noah, Progressio, the Quakers, the Speak Network and Tearfund have joined together to encourage General Synod to address this debate with the utmost seriousness and support the proposed motion, and we commit themselves to supporting the Church of England and relevant bodies in their future endeavours.

The motion, proposed by Southwark Diocesan Synod, which will be debated on Wednesday 12th February is:

‘That this Synod:

(a) recognising the damage being done to the planet through the burning 
of fossil fuels;
(b) aware of the huge reserves held by gas, oil and coal extraction industries;
(c) committing itself to taking seriously our Christian responsibility to care for the planet (“the earth is the Lord’s”);
(d) acknowledging the financial responsibilities of the Church’s national Investing bodies; and
(e) noting that a review of recommended ethical investment policy with regard to climate change has been begun by the Church of England Ethical Investment Advisory Group (‘EIAG’):

(i) call upon the national investing bodies to ensure that their investment policy (including the option of disinvestment) is aligned with the theological, moral and social priorities of the Church which find expression in the reports “Sharing God’s Planet” and “Church and Earth 2009-2016” and in the “Shrinking the Footprint” campaign;
(ii) call upon the EIAG to publish the report of its review by the end of 2014; and
(iii) agree to the establishment of a General Synod Working Group on the Environment, to monitor this and other environmental issues.’

In the run-up to the debate congregations are being encouraged to get in touch with their Synod representatives to tell them about the joint statement and ask them to support the motion. (The list of members (Bishops, clergy and laity) can be found here and a helpful sample letter/email is given here.).

People are also taking to Twitter using #GSClimate and @CofEGenSyn to show the C of E the support they have for taking action.

You can follow the General Synod debate on twitter and through a live video stream.

Environment and Hope – latest edition of Anvil Journal

Revd. Margot Hodson tells us about the Environment and Hope project…

Serious issues about the environment seem to be in the news on a regular basis. This combined with the lack of progress on international climate change negotiations, have led many people with environmental concerns to lose hope.

Three years ago Margot Hodson and Ruth Valerio met up and realised that their hope was also running a little thin. As speakers, their hope had become less proximate and more eschatological. In other words it had changed from “we can fix it” to “it will all work out OK in the end”. Thus began the “Environment and Hope” project. They first gathered a small group of theologians, scientists and activists in Oxford in October 2011 to thrash out some ideas.

In May 2012, they held a much larger meeting called “Communicating Hope” at High Leigh Conference Centre, with 60 people, many of whom are involved in communicating the news about climate change and other environmental problems to Christian audiences. The keynote speakers included theologian Richard Bauckham, and Andy Atkins, the Executive Director of Friends of the Earth. We then needed to publish all this material, and it was Richard Bauckham who suggested that it could go into a special issue of Anvil, the theological journal.

The “Environment and Hope” volume was published online on 5th September 2013, around three years after Ruth and Margot Hodson began the process. All the papers are open access and are FREE to download at the journal website: www.anviljournal.org

Anvil (Volume 29, Issue 1, September 2013, pp. 1–129) contains the following articles:

  • Margot R. Hodson: Editorial: Discovering a Robust Hope for Life on a Fragile Planet.
  • Martin J. Hodson: Losing Hope? The Environmental Crisis Today.
  • John Weaver: Exploring Hope. Richard Bauckham: Ecological Hope in Crisis?
  • Archbishop Thabo Makgoba: Hope and the Environment: A Perspective from the
  • Majority World.
  • Andy Atkins: Communicating Hope in the Real World.
  • Bishop Geoff Davies: Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (SAFCEI).

Revd. Margot Hodson is author of Cherishing the Earth and Vicar of the benefice of Haddenham

Time for Creation: Climate Change Report

Written by Maranda St John Nicolle – CCOW

 Last week, after a final round of negotiations, Working Group I of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the “Summary for Policy Makers” of its report on the scienctific basis for climate change (full summary; headline statements).

The report is clear and concise:

  • “Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, sea level has risen, and the concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased.”
  • “Human influence on the climate system is clear. This is evident from the increasing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, positive radiative forcing, observed warming, and understanding of the climate system.”
  • “Human influence has been detected in warming of the atmosphere and the ocean, in changes in the global water cycle, in reductions in snow and ice, in global mean sea level rise, and in changes in some climate extremes. This evidence for human influence has grown since AR4 [the last report, published in 2007]. It is extremely likely [= 95 to 100%] that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.
  • Looking to the future, the report offers four emissions scenarios, representing possible concentrations of carbon dioxide by 2100. Current concentrations breached 400 ppm in 2013, up roughly 80 ppm in 55 years. The most optimistic scenario, which would require significant cuts in emissions, places 2100 concentrations at 421 ppm. The remaining scenarios place it at 538 ppm, 670 ppm, and 936 ppm by the year 2100. 

Under all but the first of the emissions scenarios, “Global surface temperature change for the end of the 21st century is likely to exceed 1.5°C relative to 1850 to 1900”; it is likely to exceed 2°C for the two highest emissions scenarios and more likely than not to exceed 2°C for the second lowest. Warming will continue beyond 2100 under all scenarios except the lowest.
  • Sea level rises of between .25m and .63m (about 1 to 2.4 feet) over and beyond the level from 1986 – 2005 are predicted by the end of the century (the worst-case emissions scenario would offer a higher rise), and seas will further acidify. Heat will also affect ocean circulation.
  • “Extreme precipitation events over most of the mid-latitude land masses and over wet tropical regions will very likely become more intense and more frequent by the end of this century, as global mean surface temperature increases.”
  • “Cumulative emissions of CO2 largely determine global mean surface warming by the late 21st century and beyond”  To have a 66% certainty of limiting the warming caused by manmade CO2 emission to less than 2 degrees centigrade, we need to limit the cumulative manmade emissions to between about 0 and 1000 trillion tonnes of carbon (or 800 trillion tonnes to account for other non-CO2 forcings). We had already emitted roughly 531 trillions tonnes by 2011. Assuming no change in our trajectory of emissions, we would have used up our “carbon budget” within two to three decades. (see this post for a good explanation)

There are no surprises in the general gist of the message: global warming and changes in the climate system are real; humans are the dominant cause of recent warming; and we have a choice – we can either limit our emissions or keep the earth on a trajectory towards ever more dangerous impacts. The level of certainty about human influence is greater than in past reports, though. And the emphasis on the total amount of CO2 emissions as the vital factor is also new to an IPCC report, as is the presentation of a “carbon budget.” (It is not however, “new” generally – see the work of Myles Allen here, here, and here)

How as Christians can we respond to this report? CCOW will have more on actions in their forthcoming weekly emails. But in terms of prayer, please pray:

  • in thanksgiving for the God-given intellectual gifts that have enabled scientists to understand the natural world and our impacts on it. Give thanks for the many scientists involved in writing and reviewing the IPCC report and for the truly global reach of their research.
  • in thanksgiving for the clarity of the report’s warning. Pray that more and more people will be prepared to engage with the scientific evidence
  • for all those who have already been affected by changes in climate systems
  • that the report may foster genuine and productive discussion among individuals, businesses and governments on mitigation (reducing risks by means such as reducing emissions) and adaptation (managing the impacts of climate change)
  • that this discussion will be informed by godly values and will aim to work out ways of j living within the capacities of creation that will be joyful, sustainable and equitable. At present the risk is that those who have contributed least to emissions will be left to deal relatively unaided with the worst of the impacts. Pray for climate justice.
  • that discussion will lead to action and to genuine change at all levels. Give thanks for recent moves in the US to reduce coal plant pollution.
  • that comfortable Christians in both wealthy and less wealthy countries will take the challenges of global warming as an inspiration to greater faithfulness in living the Gospel. Pray that:
  • we will live our lives in ways that express thanksgiving for God’s gifts and are determined by love of God and neighbour.
  • we will call for equitable frameworks that ensure that all people have enough to live with dignity
  • we will learn contentment and challenge the prevalent materialism that leads to overconsumption and to exploitation of both people and planet.

Further Reading: The excellent Guardian blog of  the report’s release and responses to it, CAFOD/CARITAS responses; What does the IPCC report mean for businesses and investors? (Guardian); Reporting from “Dot Earth” blog  with a focus on gaps between science and policy (New York Times),  Le Monde (which suggests IPCC may be too conservative), Wall Street Journal (good summary, and significant as the paper has been historically fairly cautious), Times of India, Nature.

Written by Maranda St John Nicolle – CCOW

Climate Week – 4-10 March 2013

Climate Week is a national campaign to inspire action on climate change. It culminates with thousands of events and activities taking place throughout the week of 4 to 10 March 2013, planned by organisations from every part of society. Showcasing real, practical ways to combat climate change, the campaign aims to renew our ambition to create a more sustainable, low-carbon future.

Shrinking the Footprint, the  Church of England’s national environment campaign, is supporting Climate Week 2013, and are calling congregations to take part on Sunday 10th March as part of their weekly worship. Here is how you can get involved:

  • Walk, bike, or car-share to worship – Encourage everyone to use alternative transport to get to your Sunday service.
  • Climate Week Swap – Hold an exchange event where everyone brings items such as clothes, books or children’s toys that they no longer want to trade for others.
  • Bubble & Squeak – Pass around a recipe from the Climate Week website for a low-carbon Sunday meal.
  • Green Roundtable – Arrange a discussion for members to talk about ways to lower your church’s carbon footprint

For details of how to run a Climate Week Swap and be part of Climate Week 2013 – visit www.climateweek.com, email info@climateweek.com or telephone on 020 3397 2601.

 

Operation Noah Lent Course

Operation Noah has published a 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 Operation Noah Ash Wednesday Declaration.

There are five sessions, each with handouts for participants and notes for group leaders – including:

  1. Does climate change matter? If so, why does it matter?
  2. How can I better celebrate creation as God’s gift?
  3. What is God asking of me?
  4. What do I need to change?
  5.  What can I do now to cherish God’s earth?

Available for downloading at www.operationnoah.org/lent-course

Creation Time 2012

Creation Time this year will be from 1st September until 4th October 2012.

Churches Together in Britain and Ireland have produced a range of resources for churches to use in Creation Time on the theme of sustainable energy to mark the UN Year of Sustainable Energy for All in 2012. CTBI resources include sermon notes, prayers, a discussion group resource, and The Gift – an outdoor, midweek, celebration of harvest.

Download all the CTBI resources here

Operation Noah have also prepared sermon notes and prayers for use during Creation Time. The notes are based around the Lectionary readings and combine insights from the bible passages with themes from Operation Noah’s Ash Wednesday Declaration regarding climate change.

Download the Operation Noah resources here

You can find other resources aimed at Creation TIde from previous years at: www.earthingfaith.org/creation-tide

Questioning the temperature

Phil Kingston, a retired Lecturer in Social Work at Bristol University, says, “…since having grand-children, I have been concerned about how the changing context of the Earth is likely to affect them. For about 5 years I have been learning about the relationship between economic growth and consumption on the one hand; and the overuse of Earth’s resources and ecosystem destruction on the other. The more I learn, the more I am disturbed about the effects of the former upon God’s creation, the poorest peoples of the world and future generations. My biggest concern these days is how the media, politicians and business generally not only do not engage with these relationships: they don’t even refer to them. Indeed my experience is that they avoid referring to them.”

Recently he found the media and governments lack of engagement with the information in the 2011 World Energy Outlook was an example of this, and here he shares why he is concerned with this recent report:

‘Potential breaking of the 2 degrees C. internationally agreed limit to average world temperature’

The International Energy Agency (IEA) published its 2011 World Energy Outlook last November ( www.iea.org/weo/ ). This well-respected publication has particular credibility because the IEA was set up by the 28 richest Western countries which form the Organisation for Economic Development and Cooperation. It is, so to speak, from the horse’s mouth.

The Executive Summary contains two statements which are likely to be of deep concern to most adults.

  • The first refers to the current policies in place by world governments with regard to limiting average global temperatures to 2 degrees Centigrade – i.e. the average temperature increase which governments agreed at Kyoto to stay below. The report states that with these current policies ‘we are … on …. track for a temperature increase of 6 degrees Centigrade or more.’ And that with policies already agreed but still to be implemented by governments, ‘the world is on a trajectory that results in a level of emissions consistent with a long-term average temperature increase of more than 3.5 degrees Centigrade.’
  • The second is the reference that ‘Four-fifths of the total energy-related CO2 emissions permissible by 2035’ (i.e. the emissions which may keep the temperature increase to 2 degrees Centigrade), ‘are already ‘locked-in’ by our existing capital stock (power plants, buildings, factories etc. ‘. (The term ‘locked-in’ means that the plant, once built, continues to emit CO2 throughout its lifetime). The report goes on to state that if stringent action is not taken before 2017, the new plant then in place will be such that its ‘locked-in’ CO2 emissions will have the world on a trajectory to surpass the 2 degrees C. increase.

If you would like to write to your local paper and to the relevant Government Ministries, below are draft letters you could use:

Phil Kingston

Paul Kingston is a retired Lecturer in Social Work at Bristol University, and writes here in a personal capacity.