The past few weeks have seen British politics (or at least the media/reporting scrum around our politics) entering one of it’s regular phases of hullaballoo around the issue of Europe, and in particular the UK’s relationship with the European Union. This latest chapter of self-examination was given further impetus by the results of a recent round of local government elections, which saw the Euro-sceptic UK independence Party (UKIP) gain ground. This appears to have triggered off a round of in-fighting over the Europe issue inside the Conservative party who form the largest part of the governing coalition.
With all the parliamentary debates, votes, opinions and reporting it would be easy to think that Europe is the most important issue facing Britain today. But it isn’t. Down among the lower ranked stories last week was a piece of news which for me was far more important and urgent, and should have provoked far more discussion and debate. This was the news that the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide has now officially passed 400 parts per million. Monitoring of CO2 has been taking place at the Muana Loa observatory in Hawaii since 1958, and the results present an alarming picture. (You may remember this being part of the presentation in Al Gore’s award-winning film An Inconvenient Truth). CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere have been on an upward trend ever since monitoring began. NASA climate scientist James Hansen has argued that a CO2 level of 350ppm is the highest concentration possible if we are to “preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted.”
Rob Hopkins, the founder of the Transition movement, has recently reported a conversation with someone connected high up with climate activism in the UN, who indicated that within the next two years the focus will have to move from mitigation measures (trying to reduce CO2 emissions) to adaptation and defence – basically admitting failure in our efforts to change.
Joe Romm of the organisation Climate Progress commented that, “as we hit 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time in human existence, with not even a plan to avoid 600 ppm, 800 ppm, and then 1000 — not even a national discussion or an outcry by the so-called intelligentsia – it is worth asking, why? Is there something inherent in homo “sapiens” that makes us oblivious to the obvious?”
As a Christian I feel I can answer that question: We have a broken relationship with creation. Humankind was given co-responsibility for the planet right back in the first chapter of the Bible, and we have made a bad job of it. But even those of us who understand this, acknowledge our responsibility and decide to change, often find ourselves still contributing to the problem! Climate change is bad news, and particularly bad news for the poor and marginalised who have little means to adapt, so as well as it being a stewardship issue, it’s also one of justice.
I’m not giving up the struggle quite yet. There’s still a chance we can make a difference if we challenge and encourage one another. So here’s what we need to do: radically reduce our CO2 emissions – stop flying, reduce your car use, insulate your home and reduce home energy use; eat less meat, eat local; consider carefully where you work and how you get there. And pray for others to do the same