Category Archives: Renewable Energy

Lithium: Brines, batteries and bottlenecks

An excellent blog on lithium from the Geological Society

Mentions issues “The Lithium mining and processing industries have a huge challenge ahead in terms of delivering a steady supply as demand booms. Many expect that supply will not build as smoothly as expected. Global politics and trade are likely to add complexity going forward with the potential for trade wars in the future. There is no shortage of Lithium in the ground, but the issue around supply comes in terms of what can be extracted economically. Lithium mining operations need to ramp up considerably from the 200,000 tonnes mined annually at the moment to the 1 million tonnes needed by 2025 if they are to meet demand.”

Geological Society of London blog

Atacama Desert, Chile. (Copyright: Wikimedia Commons)

In early April, The Geological Society hosted a flagship meeting as part of the 2018 Year of Resources on Lithium: From exploration to End-user. The meeting was a fascinating insight into this increasingly important metal, all the way from exploration and extraction to its conversion into high-purity battery grade Lithium for its use in Li-ion batteries in everything from smart phones to electric vehicles (EVs) to energy storage. In this post, we delve into some of the background to the increased demand for Lithium, what it’s used for, where its extracted and the various concerns around supply security.

What is Lithium and where do we find it?

Lithium is a very reactive, soft, silvery-white metal. It is the lightest metal in the periodic table and the lightest solid element. It is this lightness along with other properties that makes it so well suited…

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Fracked Gas is worse than Coal. Whoops, another paper claiming that is retracted!!

Coal-power-plant-sunset-retire-XL_721_420_80_s_c1So often we are told fracked gas is worse than coal for emissions. Here is a peer-reviewed article which claims just that.

Oh dear, it has been retracted for errors which showed just the opposite

Retraction of Peer Reviewed Report Indicates Need for Smear Review
Posted on March 4, 2018 by Tom Shepstone
penneast pipeline – Tom Shepstone ReportsTom Shepstone
Shepstone Management Company, Inc.

Thanks

http://naturalgasnow.org/retraction-peer-reviewed-report-indicates-need-smear-review/
A retracted study that had been peer reviewed indicates the danger in relying on it to ensure sound science when it comes to fractivist applauded reports.

Back in 2015, this is how an Akron, Ohio newspaper headlined some methane leakage research then being conducted by the University of Maryland:

Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Natural Gas Wells
Are Increasing & Traveling Far Downwind

 

 

A new University of Maryland study shows a steep rise in greenhouse gas emissions from natural gas wells produced by fracking in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The emitted gases travel far downwind from the producing states, suggesting the need for regional cooperation in monitoring and reducing emissions from natural gas production, say the authors.

The preliminary reporting turned into a study released in April, 2017 as a peer reviewed document. Now, the study has been retracted. It’s a lesson in the risk of depending on the words “peer reviewed” as a measure of credibility.

 

 

Here’s more from the early reporting on the preliminary research conducted by the same University of Maryland team that produced the subsequent retracted study:

Emissions linked to hydraulic fracturing, the method of drilling for natural gas commonly known as “fracking,” can be detected hundreds of miles away in states that that forbid or strictly control the practice, according to a new paper published in the journal Atmospheric Environment. The study, conducted at the University of Maryland (UMD), is among the latest data presented in the ongoing debate over fracking’s long-term effects on the environment.

The team used years’ worth of hourly measurements from photochemical assessment monitoring stations (PAMS) in the Baltimore, Md., and Washington, D.C., areas to identify the sources of organic carbons in the region’s air. Starting in 2010, the data didn’t seem to make sense…

Preliminary research revealed that there was nothing happening in Maryland that could account for the steep increase. Maryland does not currently permit fracking, but when Ehrman’s team compared the rise in ethane to the extraction of natural gas from the Marcellus shale play in neighboring states, they found a month-to-month correlation. After running a wind rose analysis – a tool used by meteorologists to track the wind direction, distribution and speed in a specified area – they felt even more confident that Maryland was receiving the tail end of emissions originating from Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio…

“The question you start to ask yourself is, if ethane levels are going up this much, and it’s only a small percentage of all natural gas, how much methane and other, more reactive emissions are escaping from these wells?” says Ph.D. student Tim Vinciguerra, the paper’s lead author. “Following the fracturing process, the well undergoes completion venting to clear out fluid and debris before production. A substantial amount of hydrocarbons are emitted as a result of this flowback procedure.”

These new findings on natural gas emissions also are consistent with established findings by University of Maryland scientists showing westerly winds can carry power plant emissions and other pollution from states like Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania to the Washington, D.C., region and elsewhere on the East Coast of the U.S.

Thus was a false story born. The University of Maryland team that effectively generated it went on to conclude, in the retracted report, the following (emphasis added):

We estimate the mean ± 1σ CH4 leak rate from O&NG operations as 3.9 ± 0.4% with a lower limit of 1.5% and an upper limit of 6.3%… Although recent regulations requiring capture of gas from the completion venting step of the hydraulic fracturing appear to have reduced losses, our study suggests that for a 20 year time scale, energy derived from the combustion of natural gas extracted from this region will require further controls before it can exert a net climate benefit compared to coal.

There was just one problem; the University of Maryland team had made a critical error, revealed, to their credit, by themselves in the subsequent retraction:

The article… has been retracted by the authors because of an error in wind measurements used to calculate methane emissions in the southwestern Marcellus Shale region. The error was discovered by the authors in October 2017 upon their installation of an improved, differential GPS, wind measurement system onto the aircraft used in this study. The original wind measurements led to an overestimate of methane emissions from oil and natural gas operations.

A reanalysis with corrected winds reduced the total estimated emissions by about a factor of 1.7, with a correspondingly larger reduction in emissions of methane attributed to oil and natural gas in the southwestern Marcellus Shale area.

This is expected to reverse a conclusion of the paper, which had asserted that leakage from oil and natural gas extraction in this region results in a climate penalty compared to the use of coal.

The authors are in the process of submitting a new manuscript based on an updated analysis that will describe the process to correct the erroneous wind measurements used in the original manuscript, provide a more accurate estimate of the methane emissions, and assess the implications of the fossil fuel production from the Marcellus Shale.

If your wondered whether the Akron Beacon Journal covered the retraction with the same enthusiasm as the original research, the unsurprising answer is a simple “no.” That almost never happens, of course. The public was told something that was blatantly wrong and it is now ingrained in memory as part of a big picture on fracking that is one gigantic distortion because of a rush to judgment in a mad dash for political correct publicity and research dollars. Correcting the false impression, as usual, is no easy task and will require years of explanation.

Who’s at fault? Well, we can blame lots of folks, but most of the discredit has to go those who gave the 2017 a peer reviewed imprimatur. Here’s how Tim Benson at the Heartland Institute summed it up:

Jordan McGillis, a policy analyst at the Institute for Energy Research, says with so much potential to affect public policy, it’s troubling the initial paper passed peer review.

“That an error of this magnitude made it through the publication process is unfortunate,” said McGillis. “It is not difficult to imagine the paper’s startling conclusions influenced the public against hydraulic fracturing, against gas infrastructure, and against gas generally.

“Misinformation perpetuates anti-energy bias in our culture and can result in real harm,” McGillis said.

McGillis says state governments in two regions near Marcellus energy operations have limited pipeline development because of environmental activists’ opposition.

“Consider the fact the New York and New England regions should be benefiting from the Marcellus Shale’s proximity but are instead hamstrung by pipeline opposition,” said McGillis. “Just this winter, ISO New England [the regional electric power transmission provider] produced a report citing insufficient gas infrastructure as a leading factor in their prediction of future fuel insecurity and operator-imposed blackouts.”

And, who were those peers? We’ll never know because their names aren’t provided. There’s no accountability with much of peer review today and these are the fruits of such lax publication and university policies. Peer review today now requires smear reviews to get to the truth.

 

 

Big oil stops selling oil

I nicked this blog as it sums up the daftness of the KEEPITINTHEGROUND policy on fossil fuels.

I often do not agree with Luis, but this is very good

http://daysgt.blogspot.co.uk/2016/04/i-read-news-today-oh-boy.html

I Read the News Today, Oh Boy!

Tired of being demonized by the green fringe and by the media in general, a secret meeting of the most important oil companies CEOs took place during the weekend.*

They decided enough is enough so, unilaterally they have suspended all oil deliveries immediately and for an indefinite period of time.

The world’s reaction was swift and brutal. The news services are currently overwhelmed so we only know a minute part of what this decision has triggered. Here are some of them:

 

Airlines do plan to operate their flights on Monday, but no new bookings are being accepted at this time. Among other things, this means travelers are being stranded all over the world with no easy way to go back home. The revenue of the airlines will quickly drop to zero and their financial position will deteriorate rapidly if the oil flow is not restored fast.
State oil companies are not all participating in the boycott but the price of oil has skyrocketed already. Frantic traders have pushed the price above $250 per barrel but the ceiling is nowhere near. At least in the short term, Saudi Arabia and Iran seem poised to benefit from the chaos.
Stock markets all over the world plummeted by more than 20% but the floor has not been reached. Markets are essentially in free fall.
Long lines at petrol stations are being observed all over. Violence has broken out in several instances.
Car sales have ground to a halt. It seems nobody wants to buy a product that cannot be fueled.
Absenteeism at companies and schools reached an all time high. It is expected this metric will further deteriorate and by the end of the week the whole economy would have come to a halt.
Food shortages are beginning to alarm. Most of the food bought worldwide is transported by truck or ship and there is a serious risk riots will break out in all major cities. Price gouging has already began. The prices of some staples have already reached levels never encountered before.

 

Additional updates:

World leaders condemn the decision of the oil companies and urge their CEOs to immediately reconsider their actions.
In a joint press conference called by the executive director of Greenpeace and the president of Sierra Club both begged oil companies to reconsider. They both came close to apologizing for their previous unfair attacks on the oil companies.
Layoffs at many companies have begun.
All sorts of services gradually begin to shut down as people cannot commute to their jobs.
Trash begins to accumulate in cities around the world. Public health officials fear epidemics will be triggered at any moment.

 

More updates:
While the world spirals toward an uncontrolled economic depression, the main oil CEOs stand firm and have not yet reversed their decision.
Panic, riots, violence, despair have erupted all over the world. This truly looks like the end of the world. Ironically, this catastrophe was not caused by CO2.
Stock markets globally have lost more than 50% of their value.
Supermarkets begin to close as they have nothing left to sell.
Motor vehicles begin to run out of fuel and are being abandoned wherever they shut down.
Even though ambulances have fuel priority, they cannot go anywhere as abandoned cars block almost every street and avenue. People are now dying.

 

Overnight, almost eveybody has turned into a pauper. Despair is rampant.

Stay tuned for more updates…

 

 

* Obviously, what is mentioned here is fiction but moving away from fossil fuels before the time is right would be catastrophic for humanity. Let’s be responsible and not advocate medicines that would be much worse than the illness.

 

 

Scaremongering on health effects of fracking in Lancashire

17th November 2017. Today Gina Dowding and 11 others were found guilty of obstructing the public highway outside the fracking site on Preston New Road in July 2017. Of these 12 3 were various councillors and all argued about their concerns for health and water contamination and appealed to the slogan #wesaidno. dowding said after the hearing that they opposed this “pernicious and perverted ” industry

Here is drillordrop’s  account!! https://drillordrop.com/2017/11/17/cuadrilla-fracking-protest-trial-12-guilty-of-obstruction-but-cleared-on-trades-union-charges/

Dowding has been active in opposing shale gas, mostly on health grounds, for several years, despite her concerns not being accepted by Public Health England and other bodies. Her claims are not upheld by Public Health England and thus were rejected by the chief planning officer of Lancs County Council in 2015. She wrote up her claims for the CIEH in 2014 and here is a brief rebuttal of them. It seems that in the last three years these personal unsubstantiated opinions have not changed.

dscf6015

I find it concerning that a health professional rejects the findings of Public Health England along with her fellow protesters.

It is difficult not to see her concerns as rather hyped and not founded in proper research, but this is the approach of many who oppose fracking  – and the Green Party

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

Lancashire County Council has recently considered the health impact of two proposed fracking sites. Gina Dowding, Lancashire’s Green Party councillor and a former NHS health promotion officer, outlines her personal view of the key health risks.

The CIEH’s assessment of the risks is available here:

http://www.ehn-online.com/news/article.aspx?id=13110

 

 

1. Climate Change
1
The greatest threat to future wellbeing is climate change. It is now recognised that 70 per cent of known fossil fuels need to stay in the ground if we are to avoid more than two degrees of global warming. It is imperative that the UK takes the lead on this and concentrates on investment in renewable energy development instead of new fossil fuel exploration and extraction. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has recently issued again stark warnings that urgent action is required now.

A popular and simplistic argument. She does not say which fossil fuels need to stay in the ground and doesn’t point out shale gas is cleaner than coal and thus the best solution now, in the absence of anything better. Further renewables produce only 5% of world’s energy so there cannot be a rapid transition. In the USA use of gas has resulted in a reduction of emissions thus help Climate Change. The IPCC saw an important place for the use of shale gas, so this reflects an incomplete reading of the IPCC reports

This shows how much energy must be produced to replace fossil fuels

 

2. Air quality
2
Venting and incomplete flaring of shale gas will lead to the release of benzenes and other known carcinogens. In the US fugitive gas levels around sites have been found to be up to 100 times more than predicted.

There will be no venting and flaring when drilling is complete. She is misinformed here. Further, flaring only happens before production if at all. Venting or flaring is simply losing money. What evidence does she have of benzenes and carcinogens? That sounds a scarestory. On fugitive levels this seems like an allusion to the discredited Howarth paper

3. Water pollution

The risk of well leaks is a chronic problem that the oil and gas industry do not know how to fix. Studies (such as by Schlumberger published in Oilfield Review) admit that 6 per cent of wells leak immediately with 50 per cent leaking in 15 years – leaving a potential toxic legacy that may irreversibly damage underground water supplies.

This is just nonsense. Out of 2200 wells on the English mainland only a few have had minor leaks. Again much exaggeration

4. Flowback Fluid
The flowback fluid produced by the process contains toxic chemicals, heavy metals and radioactive materials. There are concerns about sufficient capacity to treat hazardous: In Lancashire and at peak times one of the proposed sites alone will utilise a major proportion of the available treatment capacity within 100 miles of the site (based on radiation levels and physical treatment capacity).

Yes, flowback is nasty enough not to be put into watercourses, but it isn’t much worse than the Dead Sea for chemical. The radioactive NORMS present are fairly low level Many of us have survived swimming in the Dead Sea!! The flowback from Preese Hall was cleaned to EA standards by Remsol and then disposed off according to regulations. Remsol says treatment is not a big deal.  Cuadrilla have treatments ready for the flow back. This is blatant scaremongering

5. Chemicals
The chemicals used in the Fracking process in the US have been linked to cancers and low birth weight in infants. Breast Cancer UK have called for a moratorium on all exploration and licensing due to their concerns about the potentially adverse health effects.

She is relying on the list of 600+ chemicals which HAVE been used in the USA, rather than the handful of non-carcinogenic which will be used in the UK – Water 99.5%, sand , polyacrylamide, possibly HCl and a biocide. In other words are benign solution despite what Friends of the Earth claimed in 2015 https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2016/01/29/how-fiendish-is-friends-of-the-earth/  The ASA forced them to withdraw their claims. Breast Cancer UK ‘s report was very dodgy and partially retracted https://drillordrop.com/2015/06/10/guest-post-ex-oil-man-explains-why-he-reported-anti-fracking-leaflets/ See also Dr James Verdon   http://frackland.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/the-cieh-and-me-full-discussion.html

foe-leaflet-cover

 

6. Transport related accidents
6
Site visits undertaken in Lancashire show that HGVs with large loads e.g. 40ft trailers for office space and work space would have difficulty safely negotiating the narrow rural roads in proximity to the project sites. But there are long-term traffic implications once drilling is underway. The Lancashire Roseacre Awareness group are highlighting the risk of accidents and the impact of traffic on their rural villages.

This is not the case for Preston New Road and she should have said so. This is despite all the protests at PNR on 2017. This is more of a problem for Roseacre but is not a serious as she implies. Her best argument!!!!

7. Noise
7
Health effects that may result from community noise are well documented and include interference with communication; effects on sleep, and on the cardiovascular and psycho-physiological systems and noise-induced hearing impairment. Drilling is planned 24 hours a day, including nighttime; it is expected that the noise levels will be continuous for at least 14 months.

This is sheer overstatement. The noise is minimal and can hardly be heard beyond a hundred yards.  Even by the rig, when in operation (I have visited it), you can speak quietly and not find the noise unpleasant. Pure exaggeration. Far worse, is to live on most streets in towns!!

8 Occupational health risks
8
There is limited evidence on occupational health risks due to cumulative exposure to silica dust, noise and air pollution during shale gas exploration in the UK context. The concern is that there are no specific occupational health standards for onshore oil and gas extraction.

There are plenty of regulations for any industrial process

9. Emergencies
9
Local residents have anxiety over emergency scenarios. Although emergency planning is a requirement for this type of development, this process has not been ‘visible’ to residents. Anxiety fuelled by uncertainty over this issue could potentially have wider health impacts than the risks themselves

This is grasping at straws as are the worries of anxiety. That anxiety is induced by misinformation like this article. I wonder if any local residents were concerned before they were fed with this type of alleged problem.

10. Inadequate regulation
10
Perhaps most significantly Lancashire’s Health Impact Assessment report acknowledges that the current regulations in place in the UK which are there to protect the public’s health are inadequate to properly regulate the fracking industry. The report notes that the lack of public trust and confidence, is causing stress and anxiety from uncertainty, that could lead to poor mental wellbeing. At the very least the government should heed calls from public health bodies, campaigners and the public alike that industry specific regulation must be introduced before fracking takes hold in the UK.

This is a favourite argument and is put forward forcibly by Mike Hill. Regulations are in place and all aspects are being monitored by the appropriate bodies. Dowding’s paper was written in 2014 and here refers to a report of 2014. By 2015 the Planning Officer using reports from PHE etc concluded there was not a concern here, except demanding that noise levels were reduced. This was carried out by Cuadrilla.

Today 17/11/17 Dowding argued that regulations were still insufficient

Problems of “the lack of public trust and confidence, is causing stress and anxiety from uncertainty” were largely inflamed by anti-fracking groups of which Dowding was active in. Of course, people get anxious when fed with plausible scare stories.

As it happens all her possible concerns on regulation were dealt with before  permission was granted by the Secretary of State in late 2016.

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