If anyone were to analyze my over 700 blog posts to date, they would realize that while I have written about environmental issues, it only represents a fraction of what I do write about. The reason is simple – there are many other issues that interest me more and are as, if not more, pressing – imho.
But like anyone else with a social conscience, the environment and the elephant in the room, climate change, cannot escape my radar and I know ignorance is no excuse for not doing anything, especially if what my environment expert friend believes is true – the environment is humanity’s biggest issue that needs facing and climate change its biggest threat. It was with these thoughts in mind we met up earlier in the week over coffee to talk about these matters, fully aware that there are many other issues, and even on the issue of how best to tackle climate change, where we may disagree. But before that debate begins, we must establish the facts.
I have to begin by stating that my views on the environment, like any other subject, are also informed by my theology. Tantalizingly perhaps, the Bible does not answer the question posed in the title and if I were to be provocative it would indicate that humanity’s greatest threat is sin and rebellion against God and the greatest calling of Christians is to bring humanity back to God. Yet there is still plenty that would lead me to conclude that if a Christian were to take no interest in environmental matters then his/her theology is deficient. Right at the outset of the Bible we read: “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth… And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it” Genesis 1:26-28. It is regrettable that many Christians, especially those in my more conservative leaning constituency, should be so indifferent concerning these matters. Part of the reason for meeting my environmental friend was to clarify the facts so I can put the message out to such folk.
In the time we spent together, I learned a good deal and while I was aware of many of the points raised it was good to be presented with hard evidence, surely the pre-requisite to intelligent debate. I was presented with the consensus belief of most scientists that global warming, brought about primarily by the emission of greenhouse gases, was happening and if not checked would result in environmental catastrophe in the not too distant future, e.g. rising sea levels, leading to flooding, drought in the more impoverished parts of the worlds, adding to the already significant refugee crisis, and an increase in public health issues. I was presented with questions like what can replace coal and gas, which is economically viable, and how to reduce CH4, CO2 emissions as a result of organic, particularly animal, waste? It was all enlightening but then so what?
The challenge that faces us (and it is something that should concern us all), which many before me have recognized, is that if all these things are true, unless we reduce greenhouse gas emissions and take better care of our environment we are laying up trouble that the next generation will be hard pressed to deal with if we don’t do something now. I confess that of the many things I could do, I fail to do. I am an unapologetic meat eater; I use my car even when there are alternatives; I am at best a reluctant recycler; I get grumpy over road bumps; I rather like the idea of additional airport capacity; I have resisted moves up to now to install solar panels in my house or adopt non fossil fuel energy, etc. I am mindful of the political paradigm we operate in. Neither the UK nor the US administrations can be deemed as particularly environmentally sympathetic, yet justify why this is the case. For example, imposing restrictions to help the environment could be a threat to individual liberty and economic growth. And then there is the globalist agenda to which I am adverse to, and yet I am mindful that to get good solutions we need countries agreeing and cooperating to tackle the worse threats.
I have kept this article purposely short, realizing this is an enormous subject. My contribution to the debate is trying better to understand the issues; and here I have just begun. Another is to question what can I do in terms of changing my lifestyle in order to improve the lot of my fellow human? Another is to stimulate debate by firstly establishing the facts and consider how we go about improving matters, mindful I am more likely to have the ear of those who look upon environment issues with skepticism and indifference.
2 thoughts on “Climate change – humanity’s greatest threat!?”
I have been campaigning on environmental issues for 35 years and recognise that very many feel the way you do, or do indeed recognise the environmental catastrophe unfolding before us but feel powerless to do anything about it.
I have learned that very few people will make huge sacrifices, as advocated by the Vatican (walking gently upon this Earth and leading a frugal lifestyle), the vast majority of people want the issue addressed but feel embarrassed by speaking out when any letter or email we send in protest is tarnished by the sooty finger prints incriminated by the necessity of using fossil fuels in every aspect of our lives.
But the calamity before us is unprecedented in human history. We are told by bodies such as the World Health Organisation and many others that hundreds of thousands of people are already dying due to climate change. The biggest killer is the increased spread of disease in our rapidly warming world, killing around 340,000 infants every year. Extreme weather events are on the increase, agricultural production is already being disrupted, the Arctic is melting faster than many scientists predicted, droughts and floods are destroying livelihoods and homes.
The reality is that we need people to speak out on this topic and demand immediate change from politicians and business leaders. I argue that climate change magnifies all the other problems we face; including poverty and homelessness; indeed the climate refugee crisis will dwarf what we saw in Syria. The UNHCR warns that between 200 and 250 million people could become climate refugees by the year 2050 – just 33 years from now.
The climate catastrophe has the potential to make the lives of those alive today, who are under the age of 40, utterly dreadful.
So I have been putting it to the people of Essex for many years that it is deeply immoral to lead a life of selfishness, we must be better than that. We must demand that our politicians drop fossil fuels and move to a range of renewable technologies. We have all the low carbon technological solutions we need, including photovoltaic panels on roofs, wind turbines, battery electric cars and biogas for heating and cooking. When the wind doesn’t blow we now have the technology to bring electricity from Norway’s hydro plants and Iceland’s geothermal plants. With tidal power we could even become wholly self-sufficient in our energy needs.
There are no zero carbon fuels for some activities, like flying; so instead we need carbon capture and storage technologies (CCS) to suck out of the atmosphere an equivalent quantity to what we emit. But CCS is not cheap and could increase the price of a flight by as much as £50. But the argument I regularly use in public debate and local media is that if we are not willing to make these changes then we, one of the world’s wealthiest communities, says to those living in abject poverty that our right to enjoy luxuries like flying is more important than your right to life. Indeed we look our own children in the eye and say, “my right to life’s luxuries is worth making you immeasurably poorer”.
Thanks for your thoughts Jon. I can understand your frustration seeing so clearly what is going wrong and too few making the necessary responses. Without adding to what I said, I will be trying to do my part in ensuring we get a good response. While I feel I do my bit in helping the poor and marginalized, as well as living modestly in a world of want, I know more may be needed. Let’s keep channels of communication open – it is less a matter of recognizing what we are facing and more deciding the best approach to take in order to save our planet and the people on it.