Category Archives: Climate change

Advent blog 2 on Sleepers Wake

I am on Day 2 of Nicholas Holtam’s daily reflections book for Advent Sleepers Wake: getting serious about climate change. Today’s piece is a quick overview of some of the main issues about getting to net zero with a particular focus on the current strategy of the UK government. As a short piece the reflection is necessarily a very top level skate over these issues. Nonetheless what struck me is Holtam’s encouragement  to his readers both to be informed  about the real complexity and contestable character of proposed responses and yet also to be determined to highlight the pressing need for urgent action to achieve net zero. Local communities of faith like churches have a greater role than possibly even they themselves possibly realise in raising  awareness and engagement in their wider community.


“Subsidised capitalism”

“Conservatives oppose change and want things to remain the same. On climate, however, inaction means that things will not remain the same but will radically change—for the worse. Thus conservative politicians should join with social democrats and greens in accelerating the necessary actions to repair the ecosystem.” writes Paul Sweeney in the latest edition of Social Europe.

Read the full article here

Creation Time Day 4


Trees and humankind have a long, rich and complicated relationship. In evolutionary theories the separation of human species from other primates involved a move away from time spent in the trees. In modern human history, farming and the building of cities has required deforestation. The forest has come to symbolise a wilder, more pristine space; a place of danger even.

Yet trees have constantly inspired awe and respect,lifting human spirits with their majesty and beauty. Towering over the human form, their longevity and their capacity for re-generation has caused trees to be revered spiritually. In the holy scriptures shared by Jews and Christians, trees are metaphors of the blessings of life,health and prosperity;signs of the dependable presence of the divine in the world. Modern research has revealed that time amongst trees and green plants decreases measures of bodily stress and increases feelings of well-being in urban residents.

On the other hand,trees have been and continue to be vital for humanity’s existence in practical ways; source of food and medicine, material for building and industry; and for fuel. Still today millions of people in rural communities across the world are dependent upon daily access to firewood for domestic use. As well as demand for tree products, the demand for more land for extensive farming is driving the destruction of tropical rain forests at an alarming rate; destroying irreplaceable habitats which contain many unique and, no doubt, as yet undiscovered species of all kinds.

There is a growing public awareness, though still not strong enough, that trees and forests need to be preserved and protected; not only for the enjoyment and refreshment of the human spirit, but to prevent irreversible loss of biodiversity, and to sustain the balance of the global climate. Burning of forests worldwide is one of the main human activities contributing to global warming; but planting more trees can combat climate change. In the United Kingdom The Forestry Commission has made climate change a major focus of its policy; and the leading woodland conservation charity The Woodland Trust is committed to creating thousand of new native woodlands across the country.

Today’s photograph is a beech tree seen from the ground; captured in Edinburgh’s Royal Botanical Gardens.

“The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.” Rachel Carson.

Christian Aid’s campaign to get corporates to do more about climate change

Christian Aid campaign for mandatory carbon reporting by UK-listed firms

Britain’s share of world carbon emissions officially stands at 2%. But when the international activities of UK companies are included, its share rockets to 12-15%. We need large companies to provide an accurate annual carbon audit of their business activities. Former Labour environment minister Elliot Morley MP, ex-Conservative environment secretary John Gummer and Liberal Democrat MP Steve Webb are proposing a clause to the Climate Change Bill which would reinstate annual mandatory carbon reporting for UK-listed firms – a measure that the government first accepted but then later dropped. Christian Aid are urging supporters to email or write to their MPs to back the measure:


Church interventions in moral debates

Usually I don’t agree with Polly Toynbee, journalist and commentator on social affairs, because she is deeply secularist and generally disparaging of the religious vision of life; but for once I agree with her when she writes in The Guardian recently:

“On the great questions of war, climate and social justice, the cardinals and bishops never muster their heaviest artillery. They keep their powder dry for their own bizarre morality, focused as ever on sex and fertility – but why should those issues be sacrosanct for MPs’ free votes?” Full article here

Gordon’s Brown’s letter to MPs allowing them a free vote in the forthcoming embryology debate (on the three ethical issues relating to assisted reproduction and stem cell research not previously considered for legislation) doesn’t carry with it any compelling reason why these issues should be made the subject of a free vote rather than, as Toynbee points out, issues to do with war, climate change and poverty. Except that the Catholic Church has issued a clarion call to its members to fight against the Bill about these matters and there are Cabinet ministers who are Catholics.

Where I agree particularly however with Toynbee’s quote is how it points out that when it comes to Iraq, the environment or inequality in society the British bishops are never as vocal as they are on matters of human sexuality.

Maybe this observation is not quite as true of Anglican bishops as it is of Catholic ones. I think of the (Anglican) Bishop of London’s linking of Lenten discipline with cutting carbon; and the clear opposition of Rowan Williams to the war on Iraq. Nevertheless, the Church of England has allowed itself more clearly to be identified  as a body which opposes homosexual relations than as a body which opposes unjust invasions and poverty – though this is not necessarily the fault of the English bishops. 

However, note this comment from a letter by Bruce Kent, vice-president of Pax Christi:

“Polly Toynbee (Comment, March 25) says that on issues of war and social justice “the cardinals and bishops never muster their heaviest artillery”. In 2006 the Pope said that relying on nuclear weapons for security is “baneful and completely fallacious”. In the same year the Scottish bishops called on the government not to replace Trident. What does Polly want? The Angel Gabriel and trumpet?” See letters to The Guardian

Getting warmer

I have finally got around to reading Six Degrees: our future on a hotter planet-by Mark Lynas It was published last year but it’s been sitting around at home unread. Each chapter describes the scenario likely for each successive degree of global warming above current levels. It’s based on scientific papers he’s read; though written in a very racy style which tends to undermine credibility I think. His conclusions are very apocalyptic in tone. He paints a very scary picture of the future. This is not to say I don’t believe him. But psychologically. putting this kind of fear into people is not the way to promote action. This is one of the big problems with the whole issue of the gap between accepting it’s happening and doing something about it, both in society and personally. Its like trying to persuade teenagers not to smoke cigarettes by telling than it will give them shorter life-spans: it doesn’t work because they’re not bothered about what might happen 60 years in the future-its about what’s good now.

The same kind of problem exists with getting people motivated on climate change. George Marshall has some thoughts on this.

UK government still not taking serious action on climate change

The piece by Mark Lynas, climate change writer and activist, in this week’s New Statesman highlights where Chancellor Alistair Darling’s Budget speech fails to promise the actions that are needed; despite his avowal that climate change is the greatest challenge facing us all.

Government still needs pushing to put in place the measures which are needed if it is to achieve the carbon cuts it has said it want to see in the Climate Change bill and especially if the 2050 target is set at 80% as many experts are saying it needs to be.