Category Archives: Christian Aid

Why the Church of England’s decision for Net Zero 2030 is wrong.

Why Net Zero 2030 is doomed to failure and despair

2030
Summary; The Church of England has entered discussions on Net Zero for Carbon. At the meeting of General Synod on 12 February 2020 as proposal for the church to be Net zero by 2045 was rejected and Net Zero 2035 was narrowly passed.
If carried out, this will be extremely expensive and bankrupt some local churches. Further those who proposed this did not consider either the implications or how it can be implemented.
Here I argue it is fundamentally wrong, and no more than virtue signalling.

When I first heard of Global Warming (before its name change to Climate Change) in about 1990 I was sceptical. This was just two years after James Hansen’s warning of danger in the USA. My reasons were geological or rather glaciological. I was aware how the earth’s temperature had fluctuated with glaciations in the Precambrian, Ordovician, Permian and Pleistocene. I have worked on the Precambrian (600my) glaciation and the latest ones ending 10,000 years ago. I was also aware of historical fluctuations with the Little Ice Age and the warming since about 1810, which I found apparent when walking in the Alps, especially the recent retreat of glaciers. Thus I was fully aware how the earth’s temperature had fluctuated for the last billion years.

It took until 1998 when Sir John Houghton personally convinced me what was happening. I later wrote a survey of evangelical responses to Climate Change up to 2010. By then I was convinced of the seriousness of Climate Change and that we should change our energy use among many other things in the future. Ironically I finished that chapter on April Fool’s Day 2011, the day a Mag 2.3 tremor occurred at Cuadrilla’s fracking site in Lancashire. I never felt it though I was only 10 miles away, but it changed my outlook.

Soon afterwards an election leaflet was delivered by a certain political party to our house. I liked all the suggestions on better cycle routes etc and I decided to vote for them, until I read the risible comments on the risk of damage from earthquakes. From a position of being hostile to fracking I started to study it carefully and found that claims by anti-frackers were fallacious. I also found that Christian green groups were simply repeating them as Gospel and had no wish to listen to the science! Outside the churches the two worst offenders for misinformation were Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, as FoE found out to their embarrassment in early 2017.

It was clear that green groups were singing from the same hymn book with anti-fracking, anti-GMO, anti-nuclear along with a blind faith in renewables as the cure for everything energy wise. They also took the most extreme and apocalyptic understanding of climate change.  As the decade progressed the evils of fossil fuels and divestment came to the fore, but this was not accompanied with a presentation of what alternatives should be used, nor with a partiality to precision. Few acknowledged the intermittency of renewables, highlighted on 23/1/20 when lack of sun and wind resulted in little energy from renewables (see below). With an almost sectarian zeal any who did not accept this outlook were dismissed as a climate denier and thus the way was opened for Extinction Rebellion in late 2018. Green groups were clear what they were against – fossil fuels (and often nuclear) – but did not provide an alternative, except simplistic appeals to renewables. The actual aim is better seen in the anticapitalism which marks such activists as Naomi Klein or Extinction Rebellion.

To get back the General Synod resolution. The government target of Net Zero 2050 is, in fact, ambitious and unless new techniques of energy production or carbon capture are developed, very hard to fulfil. The aim of Net Zero 2025 by Extinction Rebellion is simply absurd and impossible to fulfil without killing lots of people through hypothermia.  The target of 2045 is more challenging than realistic, but could be doable for the church, because so many aspects of energy in industry are not considered. However the amendment from Bristol Diocese for Net Zero 2030 is beyond absurd. It is clear that the implication were not thought out, whether practical details or cost. On paper it could possibly be done, as the church could opt to use only renewables, but the cost is prohibitive and my rough calculation  of moving over with a considerable use of heat pumps is –

A backofenvelope calculation is that cost for my diocese -Blackburn would be £15 million and thus £600 million for the whole Church of England. That is each parish must raise extra £8000 p.a or £160 per week .

One could quibble over details but this is the right order of the financial implications. I look forward to this being sent to the parishes by the various Diocesan Boards of Finance!

And so the amendment was passed for 2030;

“The rest of the morning session was devoted to a debate on the Climate Emergency and Carbon Reduction Target. The motion as originally proposed was amended, most significantly when “2045 at the latest” in paragraph (a) was replaced by “2030”. This amendment was quite narrowly carried by 144 votes to 129 with 10 recorded abstentions. At the end of the debate, the amended motion below was carried on a show of hands.

Here is the amendment;

That this Synod, recognising that the global climate emergency is a crisis for God’s creation, and a fundamental injustice, and following the call of the Anglican Communion in ACC Resolutions A17.05 and A17.06;

(a) call upon all parts of the Church of England, including parishes, BMOs, education institutions, dioceses, cathedrals and the NCIs, to work to achieve year-on-year reductions in emissions and urgently examine what would be required to reach net zero emissions by 2030 in order that a plan of action can be drawn up to achieve that target;

(b) request reports on progress from the Environment Working Group and the NCIs every 3 years beginning in 2022 and;

(c) call on each Diocesan Synod and cathedral Chapter to address progress toward net zero emissions every 3 years.”

The account on the  CoE website

https://www.churchofengland.org/more/media-centre/news/general-synod-sets-2030-net-zero-carbon-target

 

The Bishop of Manchester expressed his unease at the way the motion was got through.

https://viamedia.news/2020/02/14/general-synod-the-highs-lows/

I’d hoped the Environment debate would be a highlight, and in some ways it was. We heard passionate pleas for the Church to work to eliminate its carbon footprint. My one speech in the chamber this time was to support an amendment from the chair of the Finance Committee to set up the structures we will need to produce robust intermediate targets, identify specific solutions and oversee the work well. The crucial issue of selecting the year by which all this will be achieved was moved from a perhaps under-ambitious 2045 to a date of 2030. Whatever ones views on the urgency of the climate crisis, it felt unsatisfactory that this was achieved through an amendment which was decided after less than ten minutes debate, by a majority of 15, with a turnout that meant fewer than a third of Synod members voted in favour of it. Many, I suspect, were caught in the tea room, not having expected a close vote. 2030 maybe the right year, but the process felt flawed.

Perhaps a 2/3rds majority was needed………

The case for a 2045 target was laid down in  GS 2159 1

GENERAL SYNOD CLIMATE EMERGENCY AND CARBON REDUCTION TARGET

https://www.churchofe20Climatengland.org/sites/default/files/2020-01/GS%202159%%20Emergency%20and%20Carbon%20Reduction%20Target.pdf

It would be difficult to object to the general tenor of this report, unless one had no concern for the environment, which is to devalue God’s creation. However, it does reflect the general weakness of most recent Christian thought on the environment, in that it is weak on energy and mineral resources, with a tendency to appeal to renewables as a panacea and an implicit disdain for mining. Of course, those like Naomi Klein would agree as this is to reject all forms of “extractivism”. The term is pejorative and prevents one from seeing how much of everything in life is dependent on what has been extracted from the ground. Apart from food, most things we use have been extracted; fossil fuels, Uranium for nuclear, clay, gravel and stone for construction, every metal from Iron to Aluminium to rare Earths and Lithium which are needed for electronics and batteries.

My eco-friendly bicycles, which cover 4,500 miles, a year, are made as a result of “extractivism”; frame – mostly aluminium, fork – Carbon-fibre (very energy intensive), tyres –from petroleum, most parts are from a mixture of plastics, metals etc all from the ground. So my bicycles are dependant of fossil fuels! But the saddle is made of leather!

This “ethical” disdain of “extractivism” is apparent in the Church Times brief statement of Bishop Urquhart;

The Bishop of Birmingham, the Rt Revd David Urquhart, has said that the Church Commissioners chose to invest in mining, despite the ethical considerations, because “it is important for everyone on the planet.”

Church Times 14/2/20

Ultimately mining and quarrying are messy businesses. They cannot be anything else·. But then so is farming, forestry and house building. Having worked half a century ago for an international mining company in various parts of Africa I saw the mess. One of the great concerns are tailings dams, but in Uganda I lived a few hundred yards from two, which were just above a river in the Ruwenzori mountains, which flowed into a National Park. The water below the dams looked pristine and pure.

Surely there are ethical considerations of any investment in any industry?  Mining when uncontrolled is awful, but that was not my experience of most mines I visited. However I was concerned when I visited an opencast Wolfram Mine in Uganda as there seemed to be no procedure, safety or otherwise, in place. At the time I thought it a cowboy outfit in contrast to my company, of which I was often critical.

Perhaps a cause of the Bishop’s disdain, which reflects that of most Green groups, Christian or not, is that it shows a simplistic green outlook, which does not grasp that all human activities are in some way polluting.  Hence there is a tendency for a kneejerk reaction regarding all mining and fossil fuels as unethical. For energy the “ethical” response is renewables, but then failing to ask where all the materials to make them come from. Some responses are examples of the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

It makes me wonder whether I should admit that before ordination I worked in mining and whether I should repent of having been in mining!

From GS2159

Summary There is a climate crisis; indeed, a crisis for creation. Our response is driven by our call to mission, specifically to the fifth mark of mission. This motion encourages all parts of the Church of England to recognise this and to take coordinated action toward a target of Net Zero by 2045. The urgency and significance of climate change and the degradation of the environment cannot be over-estimated. The Church of England’s Environment Working Group (set up by General Synod in 2014) issued a Call for Action1 in November 2019, and this motion follows from that call.   “It becomes ever clearer that climate change is the greatest challenge that we and future generations face. It’s our sacred duty to protect the natural world we’ve so generously been given, as well as our neighbours around the world who will be first and worst affected. Without swift decisive action the consequences of climate change will be devastating.” Archbishop Justin Welby

 

Background 1. The recent International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report warned that humanity has 11 years to take emergency action in order to prevent global heating greater than 1.5°C 2. Above this, the risks to humanity of floods, droughts, extreme heat and poverty become much greater, impacting on hundreds of millions more people. Increasingly, the national discourse is one of climate emergency and climate crisis.

The report gives five possible targets; the first is the 2009 church one, which as they say is passe. The other two align with the government at 2050 and the Climate Coalition at 2045.  Both are hard but in the realms of possibility . The government one is also politically acceptable, even if grudgingly.

Here are possible targets from the Government’s 2050 to Extinction Rebellion’s 2025;

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Both the targets of 2050 and 2045 are sensible, and it is understandable that the Climate Coalition as an activist group should go for an earlier date.

However after the decision for 2030 the response of Christian members of the Climate Coalition raises questions. It does seem that they prefer 2030 and also support Extinction Rebellion.

Thus the response on Twitter and elsewhere on 12th February;

12/2/20 from JRI “Well done to @synod on going for the 2030 target. It is NOT going to be at all easy, and it will cost a lot of money, but it is the right thing to do.”

Andy Lester A Rocha “a positive message from CofE…we will need to keep some pressure on to make sure there is a genuine delivery alongside the genuine intent.”

https://www.tearfund.org/en/media/press_releases/tearfund_reacts_to_church_of_england_2030_net_zero_commitment/

Valerio from Tear Fund ““The church must continue to take courageous steps to cut its carbon emissions ensuring it reaches net zero as soon as possible, protecting the world’s most vulnerable people and the wider natural world.”

https://operationnoah.org/news-events/press-release-operation-noah-welcomes-church-of-england-decision-to-set-2030-net-zero-target/

Green Anglicans on FB 13/2/20 The Church of England takes a prophetic stand and commits to net zero in ten years

Congratulations!!!

I wonder how much behinds the scenes lobbying went on.

The paper pushes for more than 2050 and explains why a 2045 target is essential. When you take into account that the Church of England is a limited body – no attached industry! – 2045 is similar in challenge to the Government’s 2050.

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This is a very balanced argument for 2045 with a serious warning of aiming too high i.e 2030

2045 is achievable but hard; it is a possible target, which, most importantly, should get most on board.  It is vital to get almost everyone in the church on board, as even a small opposition group could derail the whole process.

2030 is set to fail. This is mostly because it is an impossible target as Bishop Holtam said in a veiled way. It is already getting a lot of criticism both from naysayers and others. It will attract a lot of tabloid attack, as well as losing allies. It will be unsellable to most PCCs.

I consider that it is a sad day for church. Whereas the original motion would have been tough, even if not enough for some, but going for 2030 will result in a serious loss of support, which will result in abject failure and then no chance of achieving 2030.

Getting all on board for 2045 would need much effort and persuasion and from experience I know that many PCCs would simply disregard it as something else from the “diocese”,  and then scoffed at and dismissed.

The target 2030 is far more challenging than 2045 with an immediate high financial commitment. I wonder whether all clergy would push for it as the cost becomes clear.

There are other concerns. There is a danger of a negative press (as clergy are often warned about!). Those church members who can be seen as “passive uncommitted” will reject 2030 and becoming vocal and stroppy, but would have gone along with 2045. This is absolutely vital as wither motion depends on parish and PCC support to have a chance of success.

The target of 2030 breaks any coalition of environmentally minded, as it only appeals to the left of environmentally minded Christians. Some will go into opposition and refuse to support 2030 in any shape or form.

I feel this is the worst kind of virtue signalling , which is going to cause major problems for the Church of England.

Were I still a vicar I’d simply refuse to take part.

 

This recent article by Peter Franklin outlines the range of views on the environment.

https://unherd.com/2020/02/bigger-than-brexit-the-new-politics-of-climate-change/?=frbottom&fbclid=IwAR0vGsA1Qnn3VsII1hN0Kp_vhs7eiu8FJQ8L0aCqCI4GFqc1PmCPfzsQ8DQ

It is a provocative article and stresses how we are divided between the Climate Left and the Climate Right

The Climate Left are dominated by Extinction Rebellion and their calls for Citizens Assemblies and System Change – yes, they are anti-capitalist and anti a few other things. It is hard not to see Christian Greens as aligned to them and Christian Climate Action most clearly is. The Climate Right, so often called Climate Deniers, are a varied bunch and thrive by picking holes (an easy task) in the Climate Left, and how costly even Net Zero in 2050 would be. One figure is £3 trillion. I would suggest neither the Climate Left or Climate Right have much to offer, and I find neither very constructive.

As Peter Franklin writes, “So, if the climate Left is mad and the climate Right is bad, then we desperately need an alternative to both. This is provided by the Climate Centre.

Climate centrism takes the science seriously — enough not to indulge in scare tactics or to pretend that business-as-usual is a responsible option. It rejects the accelerated timelines demanded by green new dealers, not because action isn’t required, but because haste makes waste. Achieving net zero in the space of a single decade would divert scarce resources into the creation of a command state, when what we need is more of what’s been achieved so far through competitive markets supported by smart government.”

This century the governments have been a snail’s pace Climate Centre, and have made many advances which are denied by the Left. Who in 2000, and even more so in 1990, would have thought coal has become almost redundant for electricity generation? Neither Delingpole nor Monbiot did that! Being of a certain age I have witnessed environmental changes for over half a century, including the last pea-souper of 1963 which stopped just short of our house. It has been loss and gain and definitely far better than the Climate Left claim. In the 70s and 80s any environmentalist was a bit of a nutter!! I was the green nutter then!

To return to the General Synod support of Net Zero 2030. This is very clearly of the Climate Left, as that seems to dominate Christian discussions on the environment. Few Anglicans would dare to admit they were on the Climate Right or even Centre, and us climate Centrists are often either silent by nature or muted. Perhaps more will come out when the implications of Net Zero 2030 become apparent.

The proposal from Bishop Holtam was much more central and with a target date of 2045 was more or less achievable. It also had the virtue of including many more supporters –  including the semi-committed who probably make up the bulk of the Church of England. Further it was a narrow vote and some were distinctly unhappy about the result. For this vote a 2/3rds majority should have been required in each house as the matter is of such importance.

The amendment was very much in line with groups like Christian Climate Change, and thus Extinction Rebellion who call a nationwide Net Zero by 2025. These are groups are clear in what they oppose and see a grim future. They also throw in anti-capitalism with appeals for a system change. However like many protest groups they are good at calling things out and stating what they want, but totally fall short on how to achieve it.

As well as involving political compromise a plan for achieving Net Zero, whether in 2030 , 2045 or 2050, must go beyond wishing it and actually giving detailed plans on all the technological issues along with costings. There needs to be plans on how to discard all fossil fuel heating in churches, vicarages and schools and how to provide a suitable replacement. My observation is that activists groups like those mentioned, whether Christian or secular are highly skilled at rhetoric, repeating simple appeals to be renewable, but do not have the engineering grasp or knowledge to begin to effect it. Here those actually knowledgeable, with a few exceptions, realise it is a long and slow process and that even 2050 is a tall order. Even worse, they realise that fossil fuels will still be need at mid-century.

Too often the climate Left resort to scaremongering https://www.forbes.com/sites/rogerpielke/2019/09/26/its-time-to-get-real-about-the-extreme-scenario-used-to-generate-climate-porn/#75a19d7c4af0

There were several reports in the Church Times for 21st February. First is a general report https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2020/21-february/comment/opinion/net-zero-carbon-by-2030-is-do-able

Bishop Holtam was mentioned in a report but Canon Martin Gainsborough, who moved the crucial General Synod amendment, explains his hopes in an article. Nowhere does he consider the cost implications and difficulties that any parishes will face, beyond saying it “require a significant injection of money” (I suggest nearly half a billion pounds), but instead gives bland advice on what can be done to start;

“The charity Climate Stewards recommends six steps that churches can take to lower their emissions: carrying out a carbon-footprint audit and reducing emissions where you can; switching to a green energy supplier; registering for the A Rocha Eco Church scheme; joining in with the LiveLent campaign; engaging with your diocesan advisory committee; and offsetting unavoidable emis­sions. (The point about net zero is that it allows for some offsetting.)”

Apart from the first, which would make you look hard at energy use and “other carbon use” none will reduce emissions. If a church, or family or other group, has already been frugal and looked to waste it will have already reduced emissions. Obviously there will always be room for improvement. (I would argue that every individual or organisation should being doing this continually, whether on direct use of fuel or embedded use. I do.) His article may convince the faithful, but not the hard-headed grounded in the reality of delivering technical solutions.

Gainsborough has not convinced me that it is do-able. His article was far more wishful thinking than giving any real idea how Net Zero 2030 could be achieved. What was needed was to explain the steps and the costings. It seems that the amendment was brought to General Synod without considering either. That is not a responsible way of doing things.

**********************************************

Appendix

Some comments on Bishop Holtam’s General Synod paper GS 2159.

I’ve picked out a few sections which raise important aspects .

  1. We are now in a position where we could, with the right encouragement, and with no less than the current national resources and funding as well as strong support at diocesan and local levels, make great progress. It is important both to achieve net zero carbon emissions in the long term, and to make early and significant reductions in the amount of CO2 we produce.

The concept of Net Zero is not always helpful as it does not consider Carbon (in fact Carbon Dioxide) emissions for things other than energy. Many items are made using coal or petroleum , for example these from Natural Gas

20454

These are often overlooked in the wish to be Carbon-free.

As well as that there is the energy used in manufacture, which is often left out of the equation.

One aspect overlooked is the energy used for making many products from bricks to paper. This makes Net Zero almost impossible to achieve, unless products made with non-fossil fuel energy can be sourced. This is taken from the late Paul Younger’s wonderful book “Energy”. Paul, a Christian, died tragically young two years ago.

20455

In fact, almost all the materials we use rely on Carbon, either in their make-up or their preparation. As we get to 2030 should we only use bricks, concrete, paint etc which are Carbon-neutral? That was not considered.

I shall resist the temptation of suggesting our diets go Carbon-free.

  1. To achieve a net zero target much would need to happen, including, as examples,

the following;

  1. a) Energy use for heating and lighting would need to radically reduce in all our

buildings, through, for example, the installation of LED lighting where not yet in

place, extensive programmes of draught-proofing and insulation.

Many of these have been encouraged for years, especially on an individual level. We have been using low-energy bulbs since 1986. LEDs will only make a minute contribution compared to what is needed.

We need to start with the following

  • Woolly jumpers (serious suggestion!)
  • Thick socks
  • Heavy curtains where possible
  • Draught-proofing
  • Lowering ceilings
  • Insulation
  • Trees and shrubs in the built environment to reduce windchill of buildings

If people insist on wearing summer clothes in winter, they’ll either feel cold or switch up the heating!

They mere fact that these have been listed shows how far as a nation we have not come. Most have been around for decades and many of us have followed them.

 

  1. b) The heating of our 16000 churches, 4700 schools, clergy housing and diocesan

offices would need to move away from gas and oil, to electric heating powered

by green electricity and focussing more on heating people rather than heating

spaces.

The Key Flaw is that it rejects gas and oil, and probably nuclear, in the energy mix. (Many Greens today reject nuclear as strongly as fossil fuels.) Most forecasts for future energy supply include fossil fuels at least up to 2050. It also overlooks the fact that heating by electricity is the most expensive form of heating. All serious (non-doctrinaire green) scenarios include gas to 2050 unless dictated by ideological or political concerns

This also ignores oil, gas and coal as source of materials – not just plastic. Further coal is necessary for some industrial processes. Of course new methods will come in, but there is a considerable time lag from discovery, through development to delivery.

I am puzzling how to heat people not spaces, as the only way is heated clothing!!!  As it is February we have the heat on (gas) with thermostat to 20 deg. The house is cool warm! I am wearing a fleece, thick socks and feel a trifle cool. For me a few more degrees is too warm. I am also fairly cold-resistant. To have the air temperature of 10 deg or less is too cold for most people to sit around or work at a desk. It is also dangerous for the sick and elderly. The older you get the less you can withstand cold, as I have found out!

500 years ago many wore hats in the house and probably gloves. Gloves would prevent manual tasks. If too cold one needs gloves! This I found out on Seatsandle in the Lake District in the snow. I was warm but eating sandwiches with bare hands in subzero temperatures was painful.

This statement assumes plentiful, reliable and non-intermittent green energy, but at present renewables produces about a third of electricity demand and has a totally intermittent nature. Thus on 23/1/20 renewables were producing less than 10% of electricity but in the February storms it has shot up to nearly 50%. Economical battery storage on a large scale is not yet available. Further present batteries lose 20% of electricity on storage.

It also overlooks the fact that if we move from fossil fuels to electric then the grid must provide THREE TIMES the present electricity i.e tripling power stations and grid networks.  But that excludes other uses of energy in transport and industry. When you factor that in, you need another THREE TIMES as much energy  – thus to replace fossil fuels we need to increase energy from other sources TEN FOLD.

This wouldn’t really apply to the church, but to go totally electric many of our buildings would have to have a major upgrade of electrical circuits.

A very useful site  is https://gridwatch.co.uk/ And its twitter feed. To take an example take the details on 14/2/20 .These show immense variation from various fuel sources, with renewables being yo-yos and gas used to make up the shortfall

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Grey is nuclear which is constant. Blue is wind and orange is gas. When wind is insufficient gas (orange) is ramped up. At night gas is used less due to a lower demand, but when there is no wind, gas comes in as it did round 23rd January where there was  virtually nothing as no wind or sun.

But with the February storms there was a lot of wind power, with winds of 25-30 mph and stronger gusts. (I won’t go out on my bike!). But if the winds are too strong as it was on 15/2/20 wind Turbines were only operating at 50% capacity because of 80 mph winds, meaning they needed to be feathered back.

The concern over fossil fuels often ignores the drop of emissions in the developed world, which are declining this decade but rising elsewhere.

20457

And the change in 2018-9. (Japan’s reduction would be greater if they had not rejected nuclear.)20458I’ve left out clothes, and many long-term use of petroleum-based materials:i.e not single use plastics.

This pie chart from 2019 shows UK emissions in comparison to the rest of the world. Note UK population is 70 million and China 1,400 million i.e 20x greater, but Chinese emissions per capita are higher as are USA, Canada and Germany. So far reduction in emissions is limited to “Western” countries, but many Africans have no access to energy. (I am baffled why Christian Aid opposes any development of drilling for oil and gas in Africa. If nothing else it would slow deforestation.)

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Now what about Costs?

Heat pumps £6,000-£18.000  https://www.evergreenenergy.co.uk/heat-pumps/much-heat-pump-cost/

Solar  https://www.evergreenenergy.co.uk/heat-pumps/much-heat-pump-cost/

Need 4K/W for an average house – £4,000-£6,000 but a vicarage is larger. Let’s call it £10K

The cost for a church or school is far more and in the order of £20K.

Now that would put up Parish Share for each parish!

One aspect overlooked, and mentioned above, is the energy used for making many products from bricks to paper. This makes Net Zero almost impossible to achieve, unless products made with non-fossil fuel energy can be sourced.

 

  1. c) This would in turn require the church’s electrical supplies to be robust enough to

support electric heating, and the National Grid to support this increased

electrical loading.

How’s this going to happen?

The National Grid is not up to electrification of heat and transport. We need a doubling or tripling of generation and grid network, if this is for the whole nation.

To move to 100% electricity for heating in building would require major rewiring. To give an example, in one church in about 2004, the cost was prohibitive just to improve the wiring to install brighter lighting. If I remember right the figure was over £5K as opposed for a few hundred to ensure just adequate lighting. For financial reasons we ended up with lighting which was only just adequate. As that church was in the middle of a field oil heating was the only option.

  1. d) The travel and transport of staff and volunteers would need to move away from petrol/diesel powered vehicles (even in our rural dioceses).

There is no mention of bicycles for local journeys.  Why shouldn’t clergy use cycles around the parish? I can ask this question rather smugly as I often did. I reckon bikes are ideal in a parish and very evangelistic. You can actually stop. As a result of that several people started to come to my various churches.

Again there is a cost consideration. Apart from the tiny Twizzy there is no EV below £17,000  https://www.autoexpress.co.uk/best-cars/99735/the-cheapest-electric-cars-on-sale  but you can buy a Dacia for £7000!!

Further EVs are not in the breakthrough stage and carbon benefits are not clarified as much carbon emissions occur in manufacture, not to mention mining for electrical components which are more than a hunk of steel /alloy for the engine. But you never know when the change will come. After all, Randolph Churchill ridiculed electric lighting but within ten years it had taken off. 

  1. e) We would need to think about our international travel, recognising that there are

very strong connections with the rest of the world but also developing ways of

nurturing those relationships which are more sustainable, and offsetting flights

when necessary.

Most don’t travel by air except for holidays. Perhaps the church should limit frequent fliers, including bishops!!

  1. In addition to carbon output, we must also protect and enhance biodiversity across

our land and buildings, including churchyards, glebe land, and investment assets.

The Church needs to build ecological awareness into everything we do. Caring for

creation is an essential element of our mission and ministry.

This is very much needed, but is inhibited by inertia and a desire for tidiness. Many parishes are more concerned with a tidy churchyard than a green one. I will never forget a farmer churchwarden going around a churchyard spraying every wild-flower with roundup.

There is a tremendous amount that could be done on church land in the way of planting, and to encourage all churchmembers to do the same.

An inspirational read on this is;

204510

It gives lots of fun and hope.

My own brief case for the Christian and the environment, written as a beginners’ article

https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2018/01/03/gods-creation-and-the-environment/

The Church of England and Divestment; July 2018

Divestment and the Church of England
In July 8th 2018 the General synod of the Church of England are meeting to discuss divestment from fossils fuels. They had one bite of the cherry in 2015. Reading the GS (General Synod) papers things seem to be moving to total divestment and not just from coal and tar sands.
https://www.churchofengland.org/sites/default/files/2018-06/GS%202093%20-%20Climate%20change%20and%20investment%20%28A%20Report%20from%20the%20NIBs%29.pdf
Needless to say green groups are at full throttle on this with “position papers” being published. Most active is Operation Noah who have published both a paper and petition. I will consider these rather than the other multitude of voices for divestment

opnoah

Here is the petition
https://campaigns.gofossilfree.org/petitions/disinvest-the-church-of-england-from-fossil-fuels?bucket=&source=twitter-share-button
The introduction is;

1. We ask the National Investing Bodies of the Church of England to make an explicit commitment to disinvest from companies involved in the extraction of oil, coal and gas, as soon as possible.
2. We urge the National Investing Bodies to increase their investment in clean alternatives to fossil fuels.
3. We call on the Church of England to take a leading and influential role in the national debate on the ethics of investment in fossil fuels.

This goes much further than any motion at General Synod and seems to want total divestment. Further it takes up the false dichotomy of clean (renewables) vs dirty (fossil) fuels, and thus ignore the devastation caused by mining for all the minerals needed for renewables, showing that they are also dirty! THERE NO CLEAN ENERGY.
The third point on Ethics seems to be virtue signalling as it defines a priori that fossil fuels are unethical.
After that are six reasons why it is important to divest. Rather than deal with each I shall consider reason no 5.

5. The vast majority of known fossil fuel reserves must remain in the ground if we are to have any chance of meeting the Paris Agreement targets. The reserves in currently operating oil and gas fields alone would take the world beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming.

This is in two parts. The first is a sweeping statement on the Paris Agreement and fails to make any distinction between the 3 fossil fuels. The fact that emissions of CHG from coal are vastly greater than oil, which is turn is greater than gas is simply ignored as is the proportion of each fuel which should be left in the ground. This seems to be a rewrite of the Paris agreement and rather alters the meaning. Further no one has put it that baldly. The original source on keeping fossil fules in the ground comes from a paper in nature for UCL researchers. They distinguished between the three fossil fuels
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/01/150107131401.htm
A third of oil reserves, half of gas reserves and over 80% of current coal reserves globally should remain in the ground and not be used before 2050 if global warming is to stay below the 2°C target agreed by policy makers, according to new research by the UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources.

guardianunburnable
This puts things in a very different light both on the timeframe and which fuels are to be left in the ground. In other words, coal needs to be left there but oil and gas will be used to 2050 – and will have to be simply to keep the lights on. There is clear to anyone who understand than energy transitions take DECADE not YEARS.
The second sentence which is very authorative comes from a polemical report and from ON’s position paper

. A report from Oil Change International,12 written with Christian Aid and others, shows that the potential carbon emissions from the oil, gas and coal in the world’s currently operating fields and mines would take us beyond 2°C of warming. Even the reserves in currently operating oil and gas fields alone (without coal) would take the world beyond 1.5°C.

http://priceofoil.org/content/uploads/2016/09/OCI_the_skys_limit_2016_FINAL_2.pdf
This is hardly unbiased, and conclusions from an advocacy group should not be seen as definitive.
(Most of the photos in the paper are of the worst of coal extraction/devastation rather than oil or gas production. This is a dubious way of appealing to emotions ) Compared to open-cast coal or the slag heaps of deep coal, oil or gas wells look like an English country garden.
I checked out the website and note that it is a group which is opposed to any fossil fuels. Accuracy is not its forte as I found with the section on fracking
http://priceofoil.org/campaigns/extreme-fossil-fuels/no-extreme-fossil-fuels-fracking/ As well as making unsubstantiated claims many of the links could not be opened. This prevents any fact checking
It is insufficient simply to cite those of a similar perspective as if they are universally held
To discuss the remaining points would take time as I would need to “fact check” each claim as I have done for my previous points.
In fact both the ON petition and paper fall down when you actually “fact check” and it is difficult not to see it as truth shaving as well.

More on Operation Noah. In 2013 (revised 2015) they produced a report Bright Now arguing for divestment. http://brightnow.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Bright-Now-Report.pdf On the surface this seems a good report with good theology, sane economics and sound science. It is not. The report is highly biased and ignores any voice which does not call for immediate divestment and an immediate move to renewables aka clean energy. In other words references only reflect their bias. The section The scientific case for disinvestment is remarkable for its high standard of technical and scientific error. This is not surprising as they looked to unreliable sources, and ignore reliable ones like the British Geological Survey and others. Operation Noah have been effective within all churches in Britain but their bias and inaccuracy should cause concern.
This week (mid-June 2018) Operation Noah have produced another document, presumably in readiness for the General Synod. It is excellently produced, well-written with a wealth of references. The report is Fossil free Churches: Accelerating the transition to a brighter, cleaner future http://brightnow.org.uk/resource/transition-report/ and has some excellent testimonials. So what is it like?
Before looking at the content, consider the references. I remember a university teacher saying the first thing he looked at in an essay are the references as that indicates the essential strengths and weaknesses of the essay. If a student uses bad references the essay will be bad too! It is salutary to do that on Fossil Free Churches. Over half are by advocacy groups, which often have a less than through approach to accuracy – truth shaving -, like Friends of the Earth,(who were pulled up the Advertising Standards Authority in 2017), Ceres, 350org among others. In fact, the references are slewed to support divestment rather than even considering other viewpoints, which regard natural gas as a fuel which is far better than coal, and thus good at the present time to reduce emissions. Thus references 46 and 47 are from the IEA (International Energy Authority) but they fail to cite a paper which goes contrary to what they advocate; https://www.iea.org/newsroom/news/2017/october/commentary-the-environmental-case-for-natural-gas.html . Some reference should be made to the work of Lord Deben in the DECC, or even positive references to the need of natural gas in IPCC reports. Surely readers should be able to make their own mind and not simply fed a one-sided view. It is almost a case of no-platforming.
This one-sidedness comes out in both the Advisory group and “experts” consulted;

ADVISORY GROUP: Nicky Bull, Darrell Hannah, Ruth Jarman, Alex Mabbs Those who have contributed to this report and whose input is acknowledged below do not necessarily endorse the content of this report. We would also like to thank the following experts for their advice, input, ideas and suggestions as we developed the ideas in this report (though all errors and omissions remain the responsibility of the author): Stephen Edwards (Operation Noah), Martin Poulsom (Operation Noah), Reggie Norton (Operation Noah), Tom Harrison (Sainsbury Family Charitable Trusts), Sian Ferguson (Sainsbury Family Charitable Trusts), Luke Sussams (Carbon Tracker), Katharine Mansell (European Climate Foundation), Jeanne Martin (ShareAction), Greg Muttitt (Oil Change International), Simon Bullock (Friends of the Earth), Ric Lander (Friends of the Earth Scotland), Keval Bharadia (Christian Aid), Monique Nardi (Mission 2020), Rachel Mash (Anglican Church of Southern Africa), John Weaver (John Ray Initiative), David Pickering (United Reformed Church Synod of Scotland), Joel Moreland, Hugh Lee, Kevin McCullough.

There is simply no diversity of thought here and are almost entirely divestment and anti-fossil fuel advocates. This prevents any balance or serious grappling with issues and essentially presents divestment as a fait accompli, which in the paper is buttressed by theological virtue signalling. At least one expert vandalised the DECC building in 2015. Further there is no engagement with those who may be called practitioners in energy. As this is a Christian document, I know numbers of Christians who work in the fossil fuel and nuclear industry or who have other necessary expertise, which was needed here. Among Christians in the UK, this study has ignored Lord Deben, late Prof Younger, Dr Nick Riley. This is ignoring many fine secular experts.
Sadly many who read this paper, will not be aware of alternatives to immediate divestment. Over the last decade green Christians have sung from only one sheet, cutting out other voices. Here they show the characteristics of fundamentalists. Too often in the Christian press alternative voices are either ignored or suppressed.

The paper starts with an Executive summary stating “the vast majority of fossil fuels need to be left in the ground.”
If we are to meet the Paris Agreement targets, the vast majority of fossil fuels will need to remain in the ground. This means that fossil fuel companies run the risk of being left with ‘stranded assets’ – worthless fuel reserves that regulations will prevent from being burned or that can only be consumed at unimaginable cost to us all. Fossil fuel companies’ predictions of future business
I dealt with earlier in the blog, but this is unfounded dogmatism. As I wrote before it is, 80% coal, 50% gas and 33% oil . That is very different.
All this needs a proper discussion using a wide range of sources giving full details of the issues and any controversial aspects. It is thus too emotive and biased to be a useful guide.
Along with there is no discussion of relative dirtiness of the various fossil fuels or the dirtiness of so-called clean energy. It is too slick to contrast “clean” and “dirty” energy and ignore the DIRT of renewables, e.g. mining for rare earths, wrecking of peat bogs for wind turbines, difficulty of recycling obsolete turbines and solar panels
The appeal to stranded assets sounds convincing and would be if fossil fuels have only a few years left but all projections including WWF reckon fossil fuels will still being used in 2050
There is an appeal to rapid developments, but until they are developed they cannot be used! Ultimately there is a blind faith in renewables, more hope than reality. Thus renewables cannot replace fossil fuels in the foreseeable future

But renewables still marginal and will be in the timeframe suggested by ON for a transition
This graph from BP highlights the problem. Renewables are only providing some 3% of the world’s total energy. Note this is TOTAL energy and not just electricity generation where the percentage is higher. This on 14th June 2018 wind power was producing 33% of the UK electricity having only produced a few per cent for several weeks. By the evening it had fallen back and thus I was able to out for a cycle ride without being blown off. And then at the end of June 2018 solar actually outperformed gas for a short time during the day, but once the heat wave is over solar will be reduced in significance

bp

The graph below shows the annual mix for electricity production in the UK. Note that dirty coal is almost phased out, nuclear (hated by many greens) runs at 20%, wind and solar now at 20% and gas ruling the roost at 40%. This does not consider the intermittent nature of renewables which produce nothing on a frosty, windless night. This graph shows just electricity but that is only part of energy useage in the UK as for heating, industry and transport. That is almost entirely fossil fuels (including electric cars.)

elec

The theology in the paper seems reasonable BUT must be grounded in the science, which it is not.
The ON material falls down when “fact-checked” and this is due to an in-built bias, which should not be practiced by Christians. The authors simply select what reports they wish to use and ignore swathes of good material As a result we can see them as examples of inadequate fact-checking with truth shaving.

What is needed both by the Christian Church and all people is not truth shaving whether from “climate deniers” or ardent greens but truth sharing and a ruthless pursuit of truth, even when that is uncomfortable.
I can expect to be accused of being a Climate Denier having written this!! To me there is no question that Anthropogenic Climate Change has been happening for well over a century, and if nothing is done then the consequences will be dire. However the apocalyptic nightmares peddled by greens like Greenpeace, Friends of the earth, 350.org and McKibbin, Naomi Klein and others do no good and may well discourage people from taking any action. It does not help when such apocalyptic visions are accompanied by truth-shaving and, at time, sheer inaccuracy.
The solutions to the whole climate issue will not be a simple divestment but a diverse approach not only concerning fossil fuels, and fuel conservation but farming practices, re-afforestation, restoration of peat lands and wetlands.
As Oscar Wilde said, “to every complex question there is a simpe answer – and that is wrong.” !!!!
My final point is to say that in 1982/3 I tried to get concern for the environment put on the agenda of the Liverpool Diocesan Board of Social Responsibility as I was a member. My appeal fell on deaf ears and was not even recorded in the minutes.

 

“Evil” GE foods and “eco-friendly” organics

Far too often Green Groups – no names of course –  oppose GMOs as dangerous and organic is the best. Yet as we found with Friends of the Earth the claims are simply false. This blog deals with the issues and should shame those who misguidedly support them as the answer for food, whether for the affluent west or the poorer countries.

I do hate their virtue signalling

GMO EU action

co5erk4w8aafvln

 

 

Evil GE foods and eco-friendly organics, Misrepresentations by radical greens promote myths of GE dangers and organic benefits, eradicate food poverty, genetically modified foods

Source: “Evil” GE foods and “eco-friendly” organics

 

Why Christian Aid, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth & other NGOs are wrong to oppose GMOs. They will help starvation

I am baffled why so many NGOs who claim to care about starvation and malnutrition in the world should be so opposed to GMOs. It is as if they give with one hand and take with the other.

goldenrice

Meme made by Peter Hess, author of Catholics and Science.

The official policy of Christian Aid is hostile to GMOs, though slightly muted from 15 years ago. They seem unwilling to accept that MOs, Modifed Organisms, have enabled greater productivity in farming for millenia. Of course, this was at the whole animal or plant level as with Lord Delamere in Kenya in the days of Happy Valley. The local cattle were not very productive so he did experiments crossing local cattle with British ones and produced more productive cattle. GMO is only a scientific extension of selective breeding.

Thus we have GM papaya in Hawaii saving a devastated industry, yet  attempts to introduce golden rice have been thwarted.

It seems odd that these groups accept the science of climate change and then want to adopt extreme measures which will do more harm than good, yet reject the science of GMOs and do their damnedest to thwart them.

This article about Uganda brought it home to me, having spent nearly a year there many moons ago. As I was an exploration geologist I lived in the back of beyond, miles from anything like electricity. I mostly ate local and soon learnt how to find the local butcher. You went into a village or town, looked up to see where vultures were circling and then driving to be right below them. Sure enough there was a shacked with cows being hacked up. The waste bits were thrown outside and the vultures did their duty. The meat was cheap, but as I asked for no bones I paid twice the going rate. It was a bargain. However my workers could not afford meat. I had no fridge and once my “cow” went off, so my cook stewed it for himself. To him it was wonderful, but I will never forget the smell. My workers were better fed than most and I went past some “shambas” (subsistence allotments) were the food available was minimal.

Clearly more food is needed and agricultural research and innovation is needed.

This article describes anti-GM groups including   Climate Action Network-Uganda (CAN-U). This is part of the international  Climate Action Network, and members of the the Europe section include Friends of the Earth , Greenpeace, Christian Aid, tear Fund, RSPB, Oxfam and CAFOD.

What GMOs have to do with Climate Change I do not know.

However this is a serious matter and I wonder how many supported of the development NGOs I listed above are aware that they oppose scientifically base agricultural improvements.

I find it shocking.

The food and famine crisis is finally bringing to a head the clash between anti-GMO activists, mostly European based, and the science and farming communities.

Source: Uganda: From scorching drought to ravaging worms, poor pay the price for missing out on a biotech solution

Uganda: From scorching drought to ravaging worms, poor pay the price for missing out on a biotech solution

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Over 1.3 Million Ugandans are experiencing some form of hunger as a result of prolonged drought that has caused massive crop failure leading to famine. Hardly had the sight of flourishing new crops brought hope to the subsistence hungry Ugandan households when the armyworms, a corn pest, struck. These worms are not the ordinary armyworms that come and go in a week. It is the fall armyworm, a type not seen before that causes extreme damage to a crop, more than the usual worms–attacking both the young shoots and the hardened leaves.

Billions of shillings from Uganda’s budget have been diverted to fighting hunger and now to controlling these worms. Government programs, for examples, elections of local leaders; and providing provisions of sanitary towels to poor girls to keep them at school have been suspended. Sections who feel aggrieved for the diversion of resources towards addressing hunger are pushing the government to the edge.

Drought tolerant crops perhaps could not have addressed the issues of prolonged drought but insect resistant transgenic maize is seen flourishing beside ravaged local maize varieties. The problem is that these resistant varieties are still confined in guarded fields because the Catargena Protocol that Uganda ratified demands there must be a biosafety law in place before farmers can access the insect resistant varieties. The Anti GMO activists have fought a battle to keep the legislators from enacting the biosafety law so that farmers may not access these “evil crops” that could save farmers from famine. Will Uganda be able to resist the activists’ assault designed to prevent the adoption of a regulatory framework.

Ugandan anti GMO activists and scientists agree on key clauses of the Biosafety Bill

Uganda is one of the leading biotechnology research companies in Africa. Despite years of research work by scientists, there has not been a comprehensive Biosafety law that would enable commercialization of GM products. The anti GM activists believed enactment of the law would open doors for GM cultivation–something they wouldn’t want. Most members of the activists group believed the bill was meant to promote GMOs and needed to be overhauled.

The committee of science and technologies of the Uganda’s Parliament has been collecting views of various stakeholders on the Biosafety Bill. After meeting the stakeholders they convened a meeting of both pro and anti GM activists, scientists, legislators and policy makers. The meeting was meant to generate consensus on key clauses of the bill.

The anti GM civil society organizations represented were: Southern and Eastern African Trade Information and Negotiations Institute (SEATINI); Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (PELUM); Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (ACODE); Pan-African Club; and Climate Action Network-Uganda (CAN-U).

The pro or neutral organizations included: National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO); Cotton Development Organization (CDO); National Environment Management Authority (NEMA); Makerere University; Pharmaceutical Society of Uganda (PSU); National Drug Authority (NDA); African Biosafety Network of Expertise (ABNE), Uganda National Council for Science and Technology Uganda Biotechnology (UNCST); and Uganda Biotechnology and Biosafety Consortium (UBBC).

Consensus

The major areas that the anti GM activists had issues with included; the title of the bill, which they wanted changed from the National Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill; The Competent Authority to be different from the current one proposed in the draft bill, which is the Uganda National Council of Science and Technology; and the content of the bill to cover other forms of biotechnology other than GMOs; and labeling. The two sides agreed to maintain the title of the bill but that where there is GMO in the Bill should be replaced with Modern Biotechnology or targeted Biotechnology; to have the newly created Ministry of Science and Technology become a competent authority on issues of biosafety to oversee the National Biosafety Committee; the national Focal Point which acts as link between the country and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) would remain the Ministry of Environment.

Status of Uganda’s Biosafety law process

Uganda passed a national Biotechnology and Biosafetyy Policy in 2008with a main objective of harnessing benefits of biotechnology in all the sectors. Uganda then went on to draft regulatory framework 10 year later (2012). Since 2012 up to now, Ugandan legislators have not yet enacted this law and farmers cannot access the transgenic crops that could help address the current issues of drounght and insect. There has been several consultations and counter consultations on why Uganda should and should not embrace biotechnology. The role of collecting views have been that of the parliamentary committee for science and technology. These committees have done lots of consultations that included benchmarking with countries like Brazil, India and South Africa that have grown GM crops for years. There last activity on consultations was bridging the gap between issues that were being raised by those who thought the Biosafety Bill was so bad and was meant to promote all sorts of GM products.

Prime Ministers suggestions to activism challenges

Speaking at a the same consensus building roundtable meeting, the Prime Minister pointed out at the two major obstacles that are responsible for the delay of GM crops adoption: the Innocent Ignorant farmers and “Some groups who want Uganda to remain backward and dependent”. He continued to say the latter category’s dominance in Africa is threatened and that they do not wish Africa well.

Uganda’s premier’s suggested two solutions to these challenges. The solution to those that do not wish Uganda and Africa well was that Africa must be ready for such people and must confront and stop them. He however did not delve into how the “stopping” would be carried out. The ignorant innocent farmers are to be senstized.

Whether the Prime Minister will confront the issues by mobilizing members of his party which are a majority in the house will soon be seen, since the committee is ready with its report. The President has also on several occasions publicly endorsed the need to make biotech crops availability to farmers. As we wait for this, Over a million subsistence farmers are becoming hopeless as they see their crops eaten away by the unique armyworm. Their plight will eventually result in the reallocation of finances from other key sector like health and education, and is likely to cause both social and  political unrest.

Isaac Ongu is an agriculturist, science writer and an advocate for science based interventions in solving agricultural challenges in Africa. Follow Isaac on twitter @onguisaac

Is Christian Aid’s push for Divestment undermining the poor?

Over the last 10 years the ultimate Green concern of many Christians is Climate Change, which for many means Divestment from fossil fuels and the adoption of “clean” renewable energy. This has become the official stance of groups like Christian Aid, Tear Fund and Cafod, along with Christian Green groups, like a Rocha, Green Christian, with John Ray  Initiative sitting uncomfortably on the (barbed wire) fence. Within the mainstream churches if you do not agree with this consensus, you are clearly not green!! This is despite the majority not buying into it.

Apart from the Bishop of Chester, Peter Forster, who has a Ph. D. in chemistry, few challenge this consensus and thus it has become the default position of the churches, with frequent calls for divestment and a Bigswitch to “clean” energy.

This article in the Church Times  10 August 2017 by Joe Ware of Christian Aid is both strident and inaccurate, and seems to think the main solutions to environmental issues are Divestment and taking part in the Big Switch to “renewable” energy. One gets the impression nothing else really matters.

Until about 1990 care for the environment was hardly mentioned in the churches of the UK.  This was not because of a desire only to save souls or following the daft ideas of Dispensationalism as Joe Ware claims. More socially minded Christians were concerned about Apartheid, the inner city and urban issues and racialism. In the 70s Bishop Hugh Montefiore was one of the few who waved a green flag, but to speak of a divide between the church and environmentalism due to Dispensationalism is simply wrong. Very few believed in Dispensationalism and the over-riding view on the environment was simply apathy, as I found in 1982 when I tried to get Liverpool Diocese Board of Social responsibility to consider environmental issues. I was ignored and my request was not even minuted. I rejoiced when in the 90s churches began to go green. My joy is now muted as the focus has been narrowed down to Divestment and “clean” energy, as if any energy is clean.

Before 1990 the environment simply did not figure. Now it is foremost and many green christians are pushing for divestment from fossil fuels and are strongly opposed to fracking, so that the only thing that matters is fighting Climate Change, and that from an extreme perspective. Ware wrote favorably of McKibben, who has pushed for Divestment and anti-fracking for many years, but his enthusiasm is not tempered with accuracy or realism. Renewable energy makes up less than 10 per cent of total energy usage today and thus fossil fuels and nuclear must be used to make up the deficit and both will continue to be used for at least half a century. At best Divestment is simply virtue signalling. Apart from ideological greens, all informed commentators on energy argue that fossil fuels, preferably gas (thus fracking) must be used in the greenest way possible. This includes gurus those like Ware look to.  Thus we should read  the late Sir David Mackay, Dieter Helm, Lord Deben/John Gummer, Mark Lynas, the late Stephen Tindale (formerly of Greenpeace) and others. All accept the pressing issue of Climate Change, but differ on how it needs to be tackled. However the silent majority in the churches seem to be letting this happen, though many do not buy into this strong green agenda.

The result of the single-minded focus on Climate Change means that other issues are almost ignored (unless they can be blamed on Climate Change. In fact to say it is caused by Climate Change is often seen as a full explanation!).

Other issues in the environment are manifold.

Apart from blaming flooding on Climate Change, very little is said on reducing flooding, whether tree planting, peat restoration, or minor modifications in towns e.g. criticising hard surfacing front gardens.

My own diocesan environment group seems to ignore these but have been very forward on fracking, producing three (inaccurate) papers on the subject.

It would not be unfair to say  that  Christian Aid et al adopt much of “left-wing Junk science” and are not only anti-fracking but also anti-GMO, though they are more more muted than they were. Consider this statement;

Doubt about GM’s ability to
increase yields is not the only worry
about its use. The IAASTD warned
that GMOs in the human foodsupply
chain in the form of animal p93
feed ‘might threaten human health’.
GM’s potential environmental
impact is also a cause for concern,
with the evidence again patchy. p93-4

http://www.christianaid.org.uk/images/hungry-for-justice.pdf

It is sad for an august organisation siding with negative critiques of GMO. Here is a critique of Christian Aid going back to 2003 http://www.agbioworld.org/biotech-info/articles/biotech-art/christian_aid.html

More recently it has taken to opposing fracking.   http://www.christianaid.org.uk/ActNow/blog/2013/scc-fracking-action-drilling-fossil-fuels.aspx

and

http://www.christianaid.org.uk/Images/The-Big-Shift-QandA-august-2015.pdf

Does Christian Aid support fracking?
Christian Aid opposes fracking because shale gas is a fossil fuel and will therefore
exacerbate global climate change. Research conducted by the International Energy Agency shows that, whilst gas is a lower carbon fossil fuel than coal, exploiting the world’s reserves of unconventional gas, such as shale gas, could lead to a global temperature rise of 3.5°C.
This is far higher than the 2° rise that the UK and other developed countries has said is necessary to avoid dangerous climate change.Investing in shale gas exploration could also reduce the finance available to invest in renewable energy.

 

This statement completely ignores the difference between fossil fuels; Coal is the worst with the highest CO2 emissions (and other nasties, mostly particulates) ; oil is better  and as we now know petrol is better than diesel. Gas is the cleanest with the least CO2 emissions. (Of course we are told “fracked gas is worse than coal”, but that  only considers the papers by Robert Howarth which are contradicted by the other 05% of papers on the subject.) I can’t comment on his reference to the IEA as he gives no detailed reference. I suggest the operative word is “could”.

By making Divestment and the Big Switch the shibboleths to be a Green Christian, Joe Ware and others have introduced a new fundamentalism where Penal substitution and biblical inerrancy are replaced with Divestment and anti-fracking, and if you do not agree you are not welcome in this green fundamentalism. Sadly other  important green issues are often left to one side due to the adherence to a narrow agenda.

It is sad that Christian Aid is adopting such a narrow agenda as they will prevent many
countries from developing their own (allegedly dirty) energy supplies. Thus the potential
oil and gas in the Western Rift of Uganda could well make Uganda energy sufficient thus
limiting deforestation by replacing would burning with gas. If not exactly clean, it would
be cleaner. To me, having worked in that area as an exploration geologist (for metals)
that would be a great improvement reducing deforestation and smoky huts.
To follow Joe Ware will mean that we will give with one hand and take away with the
other. If this policy is applied throughout the world, many people will be denied access to
energy.
I hope we can follow wisdom and realism and give with both hands.

 

Here is Joe Ware’s article in the Church Times, interspersed with my comments.

Church and tree-huggers, unite!

11 AUGUST 2017

 

The frost between the Church and environmentalists is thawing, says Joe Ware

ALAMY

Protesting: church leaders on 5 December 2009, including the Archbishop of Canterbury at that time, Dr Rowan Williams, wear blue gloves as part of a wave of support at Stop Climate Chaos’s The Wave event, in London

TEN years ago — long before the historic UN Paris agreement on climate change (News, 14 December 2015), and a full year before Barack Obama became President of the United States — the UK’s Environment Agency asked 25 leading environmentalists which five things needed to happen.

Of the top 50 suggestions, second on the list, behind improving energy efficiency, was that religious leaders should make the environment a priority for their followers. In a review of the list, The Guardian’s Alison Benjamin was baffled by the part that these green visionaries saw faith as playing: “I fail to understand how religious leaders’ making the planet their priority will make a sufficient difference to warrant its ranking at two,” she wrote.

No doubt, Church Times readers are more aware that we in the UK live in an oddly secular bubble: for most people in the world, from Brazilian Roman Catholics to Bangladeshi Muslims, faith plays a key part in their lives.

What these environmental champions had identified was the frosty relationship between the environment movement and religion or, more specifically, the Church. The perceived divide between a gang of godless tree-huggers, on the one side, and an institution that cares only about saving souls at the expense of ecological destruction, on the other,

I would love to know when this frosty situation was. In the 70s and 80s few in the churches were bothered. The concern of many was not for the environment but for Race relations and apartheid and the problems of inner cities. This social gospel was at the heart of many Christians’ understanding of the gospel in practice. It was not tree-huggers vs soul savers.

 

caused a damaging impasse in which both creation care and evangelism suffer.

The good news is that this cold war is beginning to thaw.

This misses so many thing. Few before the mid-80s emphasised the environment and they were lone voices and often got nowhere.

In fact, both groups share much common ground, which has huge potential for the Kingdom of God. Like the arrival of Aslan in Narnia’s perpetual winter — the invention of a Christian nature-lover, C. S. Lewis — spring is coming.

 

THE divide between the Church and the environmental movement is a recent one. It arose in the 1970s through the influence of dispensationalist theology, which often taught that at Jesus’s return the earth would be burnt up, and was therefore dispensable,

This is baseless. Christians in the 70s were little concerned about the environment. Yes, some Evangelicals followed Lindsell The Late Great Planet Earth, but it had little or no effect in the wider church. The environment was largely ignored as the focus was on apartheid, Inner city etc.

 

despite the biblical mandate to care for creation and its inhabitants.

Most read Gen 1 vs22 as dominion (good or bad) rather than creation care. This biblical mandate (however interpreted) only came to the fore in about 1990

The dualist second-century heresy of Gnosticism also played a part. Although rejected by the Church, this unbiblical belief that physical matter is evil and only the spiritual is important remains influential, and implies a disregard of the natural world.

This is very sweeping and  was never held by Christians

What is often forgotten is that the modern environmental movement owes its history to Christians.

There was a broad moving towards environmentalism in the 19th century and not only among Christians. One such was Darwin.

The Scottish Presbyterian John Muir, who had memorised the New Testament by the age of 11, established the world’s first National Park in Yosemite, California.

 

John Muir was a great pioneer but reading his biography scarcely shows that Christianity figured large for him as he was more in awe of nature than God.

It was Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley, with Octavia Hill, a devout churchgoer, and Sir Robert Hunter, a broad-church Anglican, who founded the Nation­al Trust in 1895 to con­serve the Lake Dis­trict. As the environ­mental theologian Pro­fes­sor Mi­­chael North­­cott commented, it wasn’t so­­cialists or tree-huggers who started that: it was Anglicans.

This is just picking out two people. There were more and part was the general rejection of killing for collection. An example was Charles Darwin and part may be a realsiation that some species were getting rarer. One forbear was the Rev F O Morris, an ardent anti-evolutionists who founded the Society for the Protection of Birds , which got its Royal Charter in 1904. Northcott’s assertion is dubious.

In fact, Christians and secular environmentalists have a similar world-view.

This is a very limited perspective and makes no mention of God or Jesus Christ.

They both believe that our pristine planetary home has been spoiled by human selfishness (and they are both criticised for being preachy and using guilt to shame people into action).

 

How many believe the earth was never pristine, whatever that means? Many today hold that humans are spoiling the earth, but that is often realism not some starry-eyed departure from a pristine condition.

 

Christians seeking to share the gospel will find that any­one angered by environmental destruction is al­­ready cognisant of human sinfulness and the need for restored rela­tionships throughout creation. A Christianity that empha­sises care for creation will get a ready hearing. As the late evangelist Rob Frost put it: “When Christians take the earth seriously, people take the gospel seriously.”

 

THE campaigners who spoke to the Environment Agency in 2007 effect­ively admitted that they needed help from the Church. The good news is that the Church is responding.

This assumes that these are these are the most important environmental responses. As it is, they focus only on divestment and the big Switch

 

In managing their funds, host of de­­nom­ina­­tions and Christian organ­isa­tions have disinvested from fossil fuels, a movement led by the Methodist campaigner Bill McKibben of 350.org (Interview, 25 October 2013).

It would be more accurate to say some. This is simply assuming that all Christians should follow the lead of McKibbin. Perhaps we should be aware that many of his claims are more emotive than factual.

Thousands of churches in the UK have also switched to 100 per cent renewable electricity through the Big Church Switch scheme, under which more than £1 million in electricity shifted away from fossil fuels (News, 2 September 2016Comment, 15 April 2016).

Is the Big Switch a good idea? It depends on the supposed distinction of clean and dirty erenrgy and makes no distinction between coal (dirty), oil (cleaner) and gas (cleanest fossil fuel) and the fact that “clean” energies aint clean. further it ignores the inaccurate sales talk of some firms eg Ecotricity who blythely claim that they can provide all the gas the UK needs from grass grown for biodigesters. Most experts reckon that biogas like this will top out at 10% – unless we put all National Parks down to grass :). £1million in electricity is minimal as it represents less than 2000 households. What must be asked is whether it is possible to move ALL customers over to renewables. The answer is simply NO, as Sir david Mackay argued in No Hot Air, and will remain NO until at least to the end of century. At best this is virtue signalling and little more than kidding oneself.

 

And, of course, Pope Francis released his encyclical Laudato Si’, which put care for our common home at the heart of RC teaching, and ignited a wave of interest in climate change before the signing of the Paris Agreement in 2015 (News, 26 June 2015). After President Trump’s decision to withdraw from this agreement, a stand by the Church has never been more needed.

The Church has a crucial part to play in helping to accelerate the world’s much-needed low-carbon transition. If it can pull it off, and unite all those that care for God’s creation, then both heaven and earth will be able to rejoice.

The implication is that those who do not accept his arguments, which are shaky to say the least, do not care for God’s creation. That is unjust in the extreme and rather cultic in the way it excludes those Christians who do not agree. It is simply a Green Fundamentalism. Rather than harnessing the whole church’s resources this is simply dividing Christians and will result in less being done.

Joe Ware is a journalist and writer at Christian Aid. He is on Twitter at @wareisjoe.

The Church Times Green Church Awards – Buildings