Thursday, December 03, 2009

A last word about AGW

I really wasn't going to say anything more about AGW; my list of posts was going to be the last thing because I'm wanting to move on to more interesting things, more spiritually rewarding things... but perhaps a programmatic summary would be of use.

I believe:
1. our present industrialised Western society is going through a great dislocation and that in 10-20 years time we will be in a completely different place.
2. we are called to prepare for this shift; that, for example, it makes eminent good sense to change our patterns of life towards reduced consumption, sustainable energy supplies, localised food and so on. In other words, I think the Transition Town agenda is what needs to be followed.
3. the above is true irrespective of the truth of AGW. However, I think AGW has become a distraction, for the following reasons:
- it is neither the most immediate, nor the most pressing, of the Limits to Growth (Peak Oil is much more immediate and will achieve most of what the anti-AGW advocates recommend; deforestation is probably more pressing);
- the politicisation of the science has obscured what is actually KNOWN about what is presently happening. Clearly the climate is changing, it is probable that human activity is contributing to that change - but the extent of that contribution, the possibility of negative feedbacks in the climate system and, most especially, the reliability of the models used for long-term forecasting (which have not exactly had a good record so far) - all these things are much less certain than the "consensus" would have us believe;
- this politicisation often takes the form of 'apocalypticising', ie forecasting a dread future. I see such apocalypticising as theologically corrupt and corrupting and no Christian should indulge in it as it demonstrates a lack of faith (NB I accuse myself in saying this);
- this lack of faith has a correspondence in a form of ecological Protestant Work Ethic - that if only we can be righteous enough, in the form of reducing our carbon footprints etc, then we can achieve our salvation. This too is sub-Christian.
4. "He has shown you, O Man, what is good." I don't believe that Christians need to be convinced about Global Warming - or about Peak Oil - in order to move towards the way of life that is God's intention for us. The root problems that we face lie in particular idolatries - idolatries of Mammon, of Baal, of our own egotistical choices - and the principal manifestations of those idolatries are our worshipping patterns and our abandonment of social justice. I firmly believe that if the Christian community gets its worship right (especially through recentring upon the Eucharist, our new covenant which renews creation) and - on that basis - gets serious about tackling social injustice both locally and globally, then God will heal the world. In other words, all the environmental crises are but symptoms of the more fundamental spiritual crisis.
5. I am therefore convinced - and this may just be for me and not universal for every Christian - that the most important thing that I can do to alleviate the ecological crisis is help Christians to become serious in their discipleship and pursue all that Jesus taught. If we become the fully human creatures that God intends for us to be, then the creation's groanings will finally cease.


  1. Thanks, this is a helpful summary of where you're up to. Sorry I hadn't got to it sooner.

    I'm in a similar position on 1, 2, 4 & 5. However, as I've read more about CC, I'm more convinced that industrialised society may yet have enough momentum for CC to continue to grow as a long term problem, a lasting legacy of today's orgy of consumption, even in a post-consumerist world.

  2. Hi Sam,
    interesting post (and not as Denialist as I thought. Phew).

    * On AGW models, this "Climate Crock of the week" is particularly good. It's all down to physics and maths.

    * On point 5: Does that mean that if we help disciple the church towards better following in Jesus footsteps then we'll have a better health system, a better education system, better accountable government systems, fairer democratic structures, a better understanding of physics, new energy inventions...?

    In other words, isn't our understanding of the ethical responsibilities in this case subservient to our scientific understanding? Isn't this more a matter of practical wisdom than spiritual force, of the understanding of complex climate systems and physics and chemistry than my just doing my quiet times, of having a scientifically informed understanding of the world I live in so that I am not behaving irrationally, even if I were as keen as the Apostle Paul?

    Our ethics are sometimes dependant on having a keener understanding of our situation.

    EG: If I'm a keen Christian and keen to cut manufacturing costs in my business with the godly motivation to share more money with my church, but end up poisoning my neighbours, then it is obvious that while I acted in ignorance, the outcome for all was still dangerous. If I continued to do that once informed, isn't that immoral?

    * I used to think peak oil, gas, and coal would ultimately 'fix' climate change for us as Co2 would only hit 450ppm. But since the last IPCC the climate community have reached a new consensus: 350, and given new coal extraction technologies, I'm wondering if fossil fuels will deplete at about 450ppm? Does the 450ppm include the new UCG mining methods Monbiot discusses here?



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