Minister’s letter for July and August 2019
With all the chaos of Brexit, and Tory leadership elections, it is easy to lose sight of the most serious issue facing humanity: the issues to do with the environment and climate change. Theresa May has recently committed the UK to net zero emissions by 2050. The Church believes that responding to climate change is an essential part of our responsibility to safeguard God’s creation. We need to address – in faith, practice and mission – the issue of climate change. So this is both a Minister’s letter and an article on the issue of climate change.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has. (Margaret Mead, Anthropologist)
Faith communities are places where those small groups of thoughtful and committed citizens are found. We are not perfect. We are not uniform. But we are communities of hope whose values lead us to work for change …to bring about a more sustainable world. (Steven Croft, Bishop of Oxford)
In a report published in September 2018, the world’s leading climate scientists made their starkest warning so far: our current actions are not enough for us to meet our target of 1.5C of warming. We need to do more.
It’s settled science that climate change is real, and we’re starting to see some of the ways that it affects us. It increases the likelihood of flooding in Mozambique and Miami and elsewhere, threatens the millions of people living along the Brahmaputra River in north-eastern India and disrupts the reproductive life of plants and animals.
Here are some suggestions:
- The number one goal? Limiting the use of fossil fuels such as oil, carbon and natural gas and replacing them with renewable and cleaner sources of energy, all while increasing energy efficiency. The road towards that transition includes daily decisions within our reach – like driving and flying less, switching to a ‘green’ energy provider and changing what we eat and buy.
- Changing how industries are run or subsidised doesn’t sound like anything we can influence… can we? We can. Individuals need to exercise their rights both as citizens and as consumers, putting pressure on governments and on companies to make the system-wide changes that are needed. Follow campaigns from Christian Aid, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace or other such charities and then write to our MPs.
- Other than that, what’s the best daily action I can take? One 2017 study, by Lund University, ranked 148 individual actions on climate change according to their impact. Going car-free was the number-one most effective action an individual could take (except not having children). Cars are far more polluting compared to other means of transportation like walking, biking or using public transport.
- Could I make a difference by changing my diet? After fossil fuels, the food industry – and in particular the meat and dairy sector – is one of the most important contributors to climate change. If cattle were their own nation, they would be the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, after China and the US. By reducing our consumption of animal protein by half, we can cut our diet’s carbon footprint by more than 40%. We don’t have to go vegetarian or vegan to make a difference: cut down gradually and become a ‘flexitarian’.
- How harmful are my flying habits? Planes run on fossil fuels, and humanity has not yet worked out a scaleable alternative. Although some early efforts to use solar panels to fly around the world have had success, we are still decades away from commercial flights running on solar energy. A normal transatlantic round-trip flight can release around 1.6 tonnes of CO2 – almost as much as the average yearly emissions of one person in India. There are groups of scientists and members of the public who have decided to give up flying or who fly less. Virtual meetings, holidaying in local destinations or using trains instead of planes all are ways to cut down.
- Should I be shopping differently? Most likely. That’s because everything we buy has a carbon footprint, either in the way it is produced or in how it is transported. So buy locally when we can. Check the labels
- What if I just can’t avoid that flight, or cut down on driving? If we simply can’t make every change that’s needed, consider offsetting our emissions with a trusted green project – not a ‘get out of jail free card’, but another resource in our toolbox to compensate for that unavoidable flight or car trip. The UN Climate Convention keeps a portfolio of dozens of projects around the world we can contribute to. To find out how many emissions we need to ‘buy’ back, we can use its handy carbon footprint calculator. We are all responsible for the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. Nearly everything we do, from driving a car to growing food, produces these gases. Calculate our climate footprint and then offset our emissions by buying United Nations-certified climate credits. https://offset.climateneutralnow.org
Whether we are fisherfolk in the Maldives, farmers in Zambia, residents of Wainfleet in Lincolnshire, or citizens in St Albans, climate change will have an impact on all of our lives. But the opposite is also true: our actions will influence the planet for the coming decades – for better or for worse.
Information taken from an article by Diego Arguedas Ortiz (a science and climate change reporter for BBC Future. )
A Prayer based on Psalm 102:5
‘In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the works of your hands.’ Thank you for the gift of your creation. As we travel through our lives may we take time to appreciate it, from each sunrise to sunset; to celebrate the intricacies of your handiwork, admire the changing of the seasons, recognising that this is a gift. And may we care deeply that as our climate is changing, future generations may not have this luxury of enjoyment, that people around the world now are already suffering from climate change. May our actions reflect a love for your world and justice for those affected. Give us a prophetic imagination for a world free from poverty and injustice. Amen
Rev. Rosemary Fletcher