Global Warming – what should be done?

Global warming is a problem

Global warming refers to changes in the earth’s climate observed as rises in the
earth’s global temperature. Global surface temperatures have increased by 0.76ºC
since the 19th century and eleven of the last 12 years have ranked among the 12
hottest years since records began in 1850. The Inter-governmental Panel on Climate
Change or IPCC (a UN body consisting of 2,500 of the world’s top climate scientists)
predicts temperature rises of between 1.8°C and 4°C and perhaps even as high as
6.4°C by the end of the 21st century. Scientists tell us that if global temperature rise
exceeds 2 degrees, compared to pre-industrial levels, the consequences could be
disastrous. We’ve already seen rises of 0.7 degrees in the past 100 years so drastic
action is needed.

The ‘greenhouse effect’ is a natural process that keeps the earth’s temperature high
enough for us to live on it. When sunlight falls on the earth some of its heat energy is absorbed by the earth and then re-emitted as infra-red radiation. This re-emitted heat is then trapped in the earth’s atmosphere by ‘greenhouse gases’ such as carbon dioxide, water vapour and methane. These act like a blanket around the earth and enable life to exist on our planet.
However, there has been a dramatic increase in the levels of carbon dioxide and other
greenhouse gases in the atmosphere since the industrial age began. This has enhanced the greenhouse effect, trapping more heat and increasing the earth’s temperature. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, carbon dioxide in the atmostphere has increased by one third compared to pre-industrial years.
We burn fossil fuels (coal, gas, oil) to heat and light our homes, and for industry and for transport. It is widely accepted by the scientific community that it is the burning of fossil fuels which produces this extra carbon dioxide and is the main cause of this ‘enhanced greenhouse effect’.

Global warming has many effects on the earth
• Sea level rise – as the oceans warm, water expands leading to rises in the sea level, washing away communities.
• There is also the threat of polar ice caps melting leading to an even more dramatic sea level rise.
• Many regions are experiencing huge variations in rainfall leading to droughts, floods and crop failures. These lead to hunger and a sudden increase in malnutrition. Too much rainfall bringing floods washes away crops and homes and livelihoods.
• Extreme weather events – as weather patterns change extreme weather events are becoming more commonplace. Heat waves and floods are likely to increase in intensity and frequency, leading to an increased number of disasters.
• Increase in diseases e.g. malaria as mosquitoes spread to new areas

Other impacts: The changes outlined above are likely to lead to increased migration to
urban areas; conflicts over food and water; Climate change will also have a huge impact on plant and animal biodiversity.

Global warming is a problem NOW

The impact of climate change is one of the greatest injustices of our time. The
developing world produces a tiny fraction of the greenhouse gases that developed rich
countries produce – Latin America contributes only 4% of global emissions and Africa
3.5%. As a contrast, the US emits over 25% of greenhouse gases but only has 4% of
the world’s population. The world’s poorest people have contributed least to our changing climate yet they are hardest hit by the devastating effects.

Poor people are the least able to adapt to changes in their climate. They
_ are the most vulnerable to natural disasters
_ are the most reliant on harvests coming at the right time
_ tend to live on marginal and unsafe land
_ lack insurance and savings
_ find it difficult to move from affected regions.

According to the World Health Organisation, an extra 5 million serious illnesses and
150,000 deaths globally are already being caused by climate change.

Environmental refugees are people who are forced to leave their home to find food and shelter. Mounting pressure on vulnerable regions leads to tension and conflict. WHO predicts there could be 50 million environmental refugees by 2010 and 150 million by 2050 as a result of climate change.

Why Christians should care about Creation

1. God is a creator God with an active concern for all he has made. Psalm 104

2. God has created us in his own image to be responsible stewards of his creation.

Genesis 1:1-2:4 esp 1:26-28
26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

Human beings are to rule over the earth and subdue it – to take care of it as God’s representatives.

3. The New Testament attributes to Jesus an active and sustaining role in creation which we, as his disciples, are to honour. Heb 1, Col 1:15ff, John 1:1f

4. Loving out neighbours: ‘Love does no harm to its neighbour’ (Romans 13: 10). We
need to recognise our connection with the poor who are suffering most from climate
change. We should demonstrate our love and concern by taking action personally and
politically to tackle climate change.

So how should we respond to climate change?

DO NOT Jump on the “Creation Care is mission” bandwagon

“Christians need now … to accept the care of creation as integral to the theory and practice of mission.” (BMS)
To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth (one of the five marks of mission 1988 Lambeth conference)
It is so much easier to speak out prophetically about global warming than it is to confront people (especially of other faiths) with the gospel of Jesus Christ. There are plenty of well-funded secular groups campaigning about climate change. Christian missionary organisations should focus on helping people and proclaiming the gospel. Creation care is not an aspect of mission – it is an aspect of ethical Christian living.
God cares about saving the planet – but God cares about saving people more!

DO NOT Turn a blind eye – fossil fuels are running out – oil will soon be too precious to burn

DO NOT Burden the developing nations with the problem of global warming – China and India
CO2 emissions of China roughly the same as USA – but for FIVE TIMES as many people

DO NOT Pursue “solutions” which save the planet but hurt people e.g. bio-fuels
It is a scandal that there are places in Africa and South America where people are starving because affordable local food crops have been replaced by more lucrative crops for producing bio-fuels like ethanol.

What can we do?

DO Pursue sensible new technologies –
Hydrogen fuel cells
Nuclear fission power to bridge the gap until nuclear fusion power is achievable
The Government is RIGHT to pursue nuclear power and Tear Fund and some other Christian organisations are short-sighted to oppose it

DO CARE FOR THE VICTIMS of global warming
Helping those suffering in natural disasters
Helping communities prepare for and adapt to global warming



SAVING ELECTRICITY Turning off lights+ using energy saving light bulbs – if every house installed 3 energy saving bulbs it would save the total amount of energy used for all UK street lighing

TURN IT OFF! 8% of household electricity is used to keep appliances on standby – turn them off! = a month’s free electricity every year

TURN IT DOWN Domestic energy use accounts for a quarter of UK carbon emissions and 80% of this is for heating. So one fifth of UK energy is used on heating homes. Turn thermostat on central heating and hot water down . Washing machine and dishwasher at lower temperatures

GO SOLAR Try a solar panel or two – garden lights – mobile phone chargers etc

RECYCLE PAPER – burned paper releases greenhouse gases. Register with the mail preference service to cut out unwanted junk mail – 90% of which is immediately binned unread.

RECYCLE Recycle other things – almost anything has an energy cost in its manufacture.

SHOP WISELY: About 1/3 of all food shopping ends up in landfill – many foods rot to produce methane gas which has 21x the greenhouse effect of carbon dioxide

Think about how far food has travelled to get to you. Buy locally sourced produce and avoid foods shipped in by air. A kilo of apples from Australia costs a kilo of CO2 emissions. Of course you could always grow your own food?!

DRIVE WISELY Car travel creates 20% of all CO2 emissions in UK. Think about the miles we do and the fuel efficiency of the cars we drive. Drive wisely for maximum fuel economy – this can save 30% of emissions.

FLY WISELY: Think about how far we travel on holidays or business. A return long haul flight can DOUBLE your annual carbon footprint. Short haul flights are proportionally higher still.

Global warming is not just a future problem – it is a problem already in many parts of the world. Christians care about the planet because God cares about the planet. If we aren’t part of the solution we are part of the problem.

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