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‘A Serious Call’ to observe ‘Climate Sunday’

‘A Serious Call’ to observe ‘Climate Sunday’

Dr David Golding CBE
Faculty of Science, Agriculture & Engineering,
and Honorary Chaplain, Newcastle University

I sent a briefing on the ‘Climate Sunday’ initiative, which is sponsored by Christian Aid, Tearfund, Cafod and various Christian churches, to The Climate Coalition UK (TCC), a secular grouping of over 100 agencies (including some Christian ones), with a combined membership of 22 million people. Their spokesperson says it’s “fantastic” and intends to publicise it to all and sundry!

I have also received most encouraging feedback from several regional Christian leaders – from Durham Cathedral; Revd Paul Revill, Minister for Mission for the Northern Baptist Association; and Fr Chris Hughes, of North Shields, to name just three.

The crucial, upcoming International Climate Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, in November 2021, makes this a very special time indeed! It is potentially a ‘Kairos Moment’, a time of special opportunity and blessing for efforts to ward off the monstrous threat to all our children and grandchildren of global heating. The whole Christian community is being called to come together and with one voice to call for decisive action on this, the greatest moral and humanitarian challenge of our generation.

And this has never been more needed! On ‘Sunday Worship’ on Radio 4 on Sunday 7th March, 19-year old ‘Ruth’ spoke of how “confused and upset” – her words, how “confused and upset” – she was by the failure of the church to respond to climate change and noted that, according to a recent survey, 90% of Christian young people regard this as a serious issue, but only 10% think the church is paying enough attention to it.

But how tragic it will be if most Christian churches turn their noses up at this proposal! Hence this ‘Serious Call’. Details below and HERE.

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Now is the Time…
to make clear our commitment to…
The Care of Creation’

“We can no longer evade it… because it is now brought so directly before our eyes.”

So it was in 1789, with the slave trade:

“The nature and all the circumstances of this issue are now laid open to us. We can no longer plead ignorance; we can no longer evade it… We may spurn it. We may kick it out of our way, but we cannot avoid… seeing it, because it is now brought so directly before our eyes.” (William Wilberforce, First Address to Parliament on slavery, 12th May, 1789)

And so it is now, with the environmental crisis:

“Creation care is an urgent issue in today’s world… Only a wilful blindness worse than any proverbial ostrich’s head in the sand can ignore the facts of environmental destruction… To be unconcerned about it is to be either desperately ignorant or irresponsibly callous.” (Revd Chris Wright, Honorary Curate at All Souls, Langham Place, and Global Ambassador for the Langham Partnership.)

“We declare clearly and unequivocally that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency and that the world’s people face untold suffering due to the climate crisis unless there are major transformations to global society.” (Article in Bioscience endorsed by 11,000 scientists from 153 nations, 5th November 2019.)

If you’re a Christian believer, please ask YOUR church to have a ‘Climate Sunday’ – lots of resources available, or you can have what we used at Whitley Bay! [See link above.] You can schedule it at any time before COP26 in November 2021.

Climate Sunday is supported by a large coalition of churches and agencies, including CAFOD, Christian Aid, Tearfund and A Rocha, and some commendations from church leaders are provided below.

During their local Climate Sunday, churches are invited to do one or more of three things:

1. Climate Service: Hold a climate-focused service at any time before COP26 in November 2021, to explore the theological and scientific basis of creation care and action on climate, to pray, and to commit to action. Make sure you register your service, either in advance, or retrospectively, at: https://www.climatesunday.org/register. Please do so before the national Climate Sunday event in Glasgow Cathedral, on Sunday 5th September 2021.

2. Commit: Make a commitment as a local church community to taking long term action to reduce its own greenhouse gas emissions.

3. Call: Join with other churches and wider society by adding its name to a common call for the UK government to take much bolder action on climate change in this country in advance of COP26, and to strengthen its credibility to lead the international community to adopt a step change in action at COP26.

The culmination of the campaign will be the national event in Glasgow Cathedral on Sunday 5th September 2021, which will be held to pray for bold action and courageous leadership at COP26, and when the involvement of the thousands of churches that have participated will be made known.

Commendations

Chief Executive of A Rocha UK, Andy Atkins, and chair of the Climate Sunday coalition:

“With the climate crisis accelerating and the UK due to host the COP26 climate talks in November 2021 in Glasgow, we believe the time has come for all churches across the UK to pray about and act on the climate crisis, as we have done in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our vision is to leave a lasting legacy of thousands of UK churches better equipped to address this critical issue as part of their normal discipleship and mission; and to make a very significant contribution to civil society efforts to secure adequate national and international action at the COP26 conference.”

Bishop of Salford, Bishop John Arnold, the bishop responsible for the environment for the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales:

“We need to recognise the damage we’re doing to the environment and our failure to look after our brothers and sisters in our common home. “In a post-pandemic world, the Climate Sunday project is an excellent opportunity for Catholic parishes in England and Wales, as well as our ecumenical brothers and sisters, to understand responsibility to heal our planet and to pray and act in response to the climate emergency.”

The Bishop of Salisbury, the Right Reverend Nicholas Holtam, the bishop responsible for the environment for the Church of England:

“Although our focus has been shifted from climate change in recent months by the challenges of responding to COVID-19, the climate crisis has not gone away, and the driest May since records began is a timely reminder of this. Climate Sunday will be a brilliant resource to help Church of England parishes understand and respond to the climate crisis. As we work out the actions we need to take to cut our carbon emissions every year to reach net zero emissions by 2030, Climate Sunday will motivate, encourage and inspire our churches to keep going on this journey.”

Revd Judith Morris, General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Wales:

“Climate Sunday is a crucial opportunity for all churches to take much needed action to address one of the most urgent and pressing issues facing our planet. As stewards of God’s creation, it is paramount that we actively engage with climate change and commit to protecting the future for generations to come. We need to make changes before it is too late and we hope that this initiative will galvanize all Christians into action.”

Resources and Further Information:

Your Christian relief and development agency or environmental agency;

‘Climate Sunday’: https://www.climatesunday.org/;

‘Churches Together’: ctbi.org.uk/climate-sunday/;

“Why the Church should Care for Creation – the Short Answer”, by David Golding: http://ne-calltoaction.org.uk/?p=811

PODCAST: 11/04/2021 – A Call for Commitment to Creation Care – Whitley Bay Baptist Church (wbbc.org.uk)

and in text form at ne-calltoaction.org.uk/?p=798.

Entitled “A Call for Commitment to Creation Care”,
it includes a brief discussion of the relationship of this issue with personal redemption by faith in Christ.

David W. Golding CBE PhD DSc DCL
Faculty of Science, Agriculture & Engineering, and Honorary Chaplain, Newcastle University (d.w.golding@talk21.com)

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Why the application by West Cumbria Mining to create a new coal mine should be decisively rejected

Why the application by West Cumbria Mining to create a new coal mine (Woodhouse Colliery) should be decisively rejected

[A PDF of this post is available HERE.]

This would constitute a significant step forward for efforts to establish the UK as a world leader for efforts to respond to the climate emergency, by helping to build the momentum resulting from:

• the Government’s ground breaking ‘Powering Past Coal Alliance’, at the launch of which, on 16th Nov 2017, Rt Hon Claire Perry MP stated that “The time for coal has passed”;

• the Government’s commitment to stop financing for fossil fuel projects abroad from 31st March, 2021.

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“Coal is not the future… all over the world, people have made a decision to move to cleaner fuel than coal, which is the dirtiest fuel in the world… The future is very clearly in new technologies.”

(John Kerry, US Special Presidential Envoy, when asked specifically about the Cumbrian mine by the BBC’s Emily Maitlis on 9th March)

“The claim that opening new coal mines helps stop climate change, because ‘local coal’ saves greenhouse gas emissions… is, quite simply, economic nonsense… Digging up more coal makes it cheaper… discouraging the uptake of coal-free methods to produce steel, etc. The proposals are would-be climate wreckers.”

(Professor Paul Ekins OBE, Director of the Institute for Sustainable Resources, University College London)

“Very low and zero emissions from the iron & steel and cement and concrete industries is a technically and economically reasonable challenge”.

(Dr Chris Bataille, OECD Green Growth Papers, No. 2020/02, OECD Publishing, Paris)

“It would be an act of extreme diplomatic delinquency to consent to any new coal mine on the eve of the COP26 summit. The UK has an obligation as host to build confidence that the world can accelerate its currently inadequate progress away from carbon dependency… I hope even now the Government will call a halt to this misbegotten proposal.”

(Mr John Ashton CBE, who served three Foreign Secretaries as Special Representative on Climate Change)

“The opening of a new deep coking coal mine in Cumbria will increase global emissions and have an appreciable impact on the UK’s legally binding carbon budgets…

“It is important to note that this decision gives a negative impression of the UK’s climate priorities in the year of COP26.”

(Lord Deben, Chair of the Committee on Climate Change, in letter to Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP, Secretary of State Ministry of Housing, etc., 29th January 2021)

“The threat of climate change is now so obvious and so deeply worrying that we need to be closing coal mines as quickly as possible, not opening new ones. Those pushing for the Woodhouse Colliery are either profoundly ignorant of the risks of climate change, or so blinded by money as to be a menace to our children and grandchildren.”

(Professor Sir John H. Lawton CBE FRS, Former Chair of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution)

“The UK, as host to COP26, has a chance to change the course of our climate trajectory – or it can stick with business-almost-as-usual and be vilified…around the world.

“It would be easy to achieve… ignominy and humiliation. Just continue with this new coalmine… in contemptuous disregard of the future of young people and nature.”

(Professor James Hansen, NASA’s former chief climate scientist, who alerted the world to global heating in 1988)

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Why the application by West Cumbria Mining to create a new coal mine (Woodhouse Colliery) should be decisively rejected

This would constitute a significant step forward for efforts to establish the UK as a world leader for efforts to respond to the climate emergency, by helping to build the momentum resulting from:

• the Government’s ground breaking ‘Powering Past Coal Alliance’, at the launch of which, on 16th Nov 2017, Rt Hon Claire Perry MP stated that “The time for coal has passed”;

• the Government’s commitment to stop financing for fossil fuel projects abroad from 31st March, 2021.

Submission by:

David W. Golding CBE PhD DSc DCL
Associate, Faculty of Science, Agriculture & Engineering, & Honorary Chaplain, Newcastle University

With the support of:

Professor Kevin Anderson
Professor of Energy & Climate Change, University of Manchester

Mr John Ashton CBE,
Former Special Representative on Climate Change to three Foreign Secretaries

Professor Sir Tom L. Blundell FRS
Former Chair of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution

Professor Harriet Bulkeley
Professor of Geography, University of Durham, and Coordinator in the Naturvation Project

Professor Richard Dawson
Professor of Earth Systems Engineering, Newcastle University
And Member, Committee on Climate Change UK

Professor Paul Ekins OBE
Director of the Institute for Sustainable Resources, University College London

Professor Hayley J. Fowler
Professor of Climate Change Impacts, Newcastle University

Professor Chris G. Kilsby
Professor of Hydrology and Climate Change, Newcastle University,

Professor Sir John H. Lawton CBE FRS
Former Chair of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution

Professor Philip M. McGowan
Professor of Conservation Science and Policy, Newcastle University,

Professor Phil C. Taylor
Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise, University of Bristol

Professor Rebecca Willis
Professor in Practice, University of Lancaster

In view of the manifest baleful national and global implications of the development of a new coal mine (Woodhouse Colliery), as proposed by West Cumbria Mining, we call for the proposal to be decisively rejected.

The colliery has become a national and international ‘cause celebre’, raising concern and alarm on the part of leaders ranging from the legendary scientist, Dr James Hansen; to Lord Deben, Chair of the Committee on Climate Change; and to the iconic Greta Thunberg, on account of its wider implications.

Consent for the mine would send a terrible message to British finance and industry, and to the wider world. It would stand in striking contrast to the policy of the new American administration in its approach to the exploitation of new reserves of fossil fuels – a most damaging development in view of the importance of the USA for a successful outcome of COP26 this year, which the UK will chair.

Asked specifically about the mine by the BBC’s Emily Maitlis on 9th March, US Special Presidential Envoy, John Kerry, stated that, “Coal is not the future… all over the world, people have made a decision to move to cleaner fuel than coal, which is the dirtiest fuel in the world… The future is very clearly in new technologies.”

We hope that the Government will follow up on such a decision with a commitment to provide generous investment to promote a sustainable economy in the County, something for which it is ideally situated.

—————————————

Dramatic about-turn in US policy

On the first day of his presidency, President Biden signed an executive order blocking the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline and the Department of the Interior has suspended the granting of permits to drill for oil and gas on federal property. Against this backcloth, we have the consent granted by Cumbria County Council to the application by West Cumbria Mining to create a new coal mine (Woodhouse Colliery) and the Government’s decision to ‘call in’ the application and to set up a Public Inquiry to consider it.

As John Kerry stated, coal is the most polluting of all readily available fossil fuels and the coal from the Woodhouse Colliery, when burnt, will discharge the best part of half a billion tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere over the next 50 years.

‘There is no alternative’, to coal for steelmaking – this is demonstrably false

The principal justification for the proposal is that, “At the moment, there’s no economic way of making steel without coking coal – there is no viable alternative” (Mike Starkie, Mayor of Copeland, Cumbria, Note 1). On the contrary, since steel is virtually indestructible, it is increasingly being produced, even ‘at the moment’, by the Electric Arc Furnace method and, if renewable electricity is used, this is virtually zero carbon. The U.S. now produces 70% of its steel in this way. (Note 2)

Furthermore, according to Dr Chris Bataille, in a major report produced for the OECD in 2020, “Very low and zero emissions from the iron & steel and cement and concrete industries is a technically and economically reasonable challenge”. (Note 3) Indeed, the steel giant SSAB “aims to replace coking coal, traditionally used for ore-based steel making, with fossil-free electricity and hydrogen”, and hopes to be doing so by 2026. (Note 2) This is only one of a host of examples and it is doubtless what John Kerry had in mind when, speaking about the West Cumbria mine, he said, “The future is very clearly in new technologies.” (Note 4)

‘Open new coal mines to reduce emissions’ (i.e., the ‘Market Substitution’ argument) – “economic nonsense”

The justification outlined above is linked to the argument that coal from the new mine will replace that which would otherwise need to be imported, with the additional ‘carbon cost’ involved in transport of the latter. [But see note 5.] Several of the signatories of this submission have heard this before, in connection with the proposed new surface mine at Highthorn, near Druridge Bay in Northumberland. We rejected it then and do so again now.

Professor Paul Ekins OBE, Director of the Institute for Sustainable Resources at UCL, states that “The claim that opening new coal mines helps stop climate change, because ‘local coal’ saves greenhouse gas emissions… sounds like common sense – until you ask an economist.” It is, he says, “quite simply, economic nonsense.”

Professor Ekins and his colleagues have characterised this position as “The Substitution Error”, since, as they pointed out:

1. The expansion of the global coal supply will, in the absence of market features for which there is no evidence in respect of demand for coal, lead to downward pressure on the price of coal and an increase in demand for it.

2. This downward price pressure will worsen the competitive position of those developing coal-free technologies in such currently carbon-intensive industries as steel and cement.

3. The result of these economic forces is highly likely to be an increase in GHG emissions in both the short and long term.

Rebecca Willis et al. drew the same conclusion, stating that the development of new mines would “decrease the incentive to use coal more efficiently, recycle more steel or produce steel using alternative processes, even though all these are technically possible.” (Note 6)

Similarly, on 7th February, 2019, Chief Judge Brian Preston dismissed an application to develop the Rocky Hill Mine, in Australia, stating that “the greenhouse-gas emissions (GHGs) of the coal mine and its product will increase global total concentrations of GHGs at a time when what is now urgently needed… is a rapid and deep decrease in GHG emissions.” Furthermore, as the FT stated, “an important part of the ruling was its rejection of the ‘market substitution’ defence.”

Mining companies conveniently ignore the obvious fact that, if we have more coal mines, whether at home or abroad, we’re almost inevitably going to produce more GHG emissions eventually – ‘More Coal Mines = More Carbon Emissions!’ The only responsible policy is to run down both the extraction and use of coal ourselves – and call on our overseas partners to do likewise.

Consent for the Woodhouse Colliery – “an act of extreme diplomatic delinquency”

Mr John Ashton CBE, who served three Foreign Secretaries as Special Representative on Climate Change, states:

“It would be an act of extreme diplomatic delinquency to consent to any new coal mine on the eve of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow. The UK has an obligation as host to build confidence that the world can accelerate its currently inadequate progress away from carbon dependency… Now with such consent we would be declaring: ‘Do as we say, not as we do’.

“It is true that Cumbria urgently needs investment. But this project will lock it further into the shrinking carbon-based economy and hold back progress towards the major role it could play in building a carbon neutral future. But it is not too late. I hope even now that the government will call a halt to this misbegotten proposal.”

Furthermore, no less a figure than Lord Deben, Chair of the Committee on Climate Change, agrees with Mr Ashton, stating that, “It is important to note that this decision gives a negative impression of the UK’s climate priorities in the year of COP26.

Doubts raised over sulphur content of Cumbrian coal

The alarm has been raised just this month that the Cumbrian coal would not be suitable for UK steelmaking, on account of its sulphur content. Indeed, according to an exclusive report in the Daily Telegraph on 1st March (Note 7), Cumbria County Council has been aware for some time that “the level of sulphur content would need to be managed to supply a product currently suitable for British Steel, and it is not clear whether this can be achieved.”

Conclusion

The application to create a new coal mine (Woodhouse Colliery) by West Cumbria Mining should be decisively rejected. This would constitute a significant step forward for efforts to establish the UK as a world leader for efforts to respond to the climate emergency.

This is imperative, because although decarbonising the steel and cement industries is, as Dr Chris Bataille stated in his major study for the OECD last year, “a technically and economically reasonable challenge… clear long term policy signals are needed… to incentivise all key actors to play their parts”. (Note 3)

We will hope that it will accompany such an approach with a commitment to substantial investment in the county in order to make it the major hub for the renewable energy industry for which it is ideally situated.

Temporary Address for Correspondence:

Dr David Golding CBE
38 Brierdene Crescent
Whitley Bay
NE26 4AB

david.golding@ncl.ac.uk

Home, 0191 252 6165 (with voicemail)
Mobile 07 817 637 746

Notes:

1. https://www.newsandstar.co.uk/news/19058740.mayor-hits-back-international-criticism-levelled-proposed-west-cumbria-mine/#:~:text=%22At%20the%20moment%2C%20there’s%20no,the%20world%20and%20importing%20it.

2. Jeff Ferry, October 2020, https://www.industryweek.com/the-economy/trade/article/21148048/tariffs-are-keeping-us-steel-production-strong

3. Bataille, C. (2020), “Low and zero emissions in the steel and cement industries: Barriers, technologies and policies”, OECD Green Growth Papers, No. 2020/02, OECD Publishing, Paris.

4. “John Kerry on the US fight against climate change.” BBC2, 9th March 2012. https://www.bbc.co.uk/events/eqbxj5/play/p0994qgk

5. It has not been established that the overall level of emissions resulting from use of coal mined at the Woodhouse Colliery would be less than those resulting from using coal from abroad. Supporters of Woodhouse are forward in citing the carbon cost of transport for coal imports (which is modest – about 1% of the total, according to Professor Phil Taylor), but less so in drawing attention to the substantial emissions generated by developing a new deep mine and the (probably) lower carbon cost of extraction by the massive, opencast operations which characterise, for example, many Australian mines.

6. Rebecca Willis, Mike Berners-Lee, Rosie Watson and Mike Elm (2020), “The case against new coal mines in the UK”, Green Alliance, London.

7. “Exclusive: Case for Cumbrian mine undermined by doubt over UK market for coking coal. Sulphur content of the coal could mean British companies are unable to use it.” (Emma Gatten), Daily Telegraph, 1st March.
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/environment/2021/03/01/case-cumbrian-mine-undermined-doubt-uk-market-coking-coal/

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Why the Church should Care for Creation – the Short Answer

Why the Church should Care for Creation and teach its congregations accordingly – so why do so few do so?

For a fuller treatment of this issue, including its relationship with the gospel of personal redemption by faith in Christ, go to: “A Call for Commitment to Creation Care” – video at
wbbc.org.uk/resources/sermons-3; text at ne-calltoaction.org.uk/?p=798 A copy of this article in Word is available HERE.

The Christian Church has a responsibility to “Declare the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20.27). So its leaders, in their teaching, will need to include, at the very least:

1) The ‘creation ordinance’ to “Care for the earth” (Genesis 2.15)

In contrast, “Humanity is waging war on nature and this is suicidal. Nature always strikes back, and is doing so with gathering force and fury.” (Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations);

2) The apostles’ command to “Care for the poor” (Galatians 2.10)

In contrast, “The climate crisis is leaving two million people each week needing emergency aid.” (Report by the International Red Cross to the UN, Sept 2019) “This is intolerable!” (Francesco Rocca, President of the IRC)

3) The prophetic call to “Care for our children and upcoming generations” (Micah 4.6)

This call needs to be heeded! On ‘Sunday Worship’ on Radio 4 on Sunday 7th March, 19-year old ‘Ruth’ spoke of how “confused and upset” – her words, how “confused and upset” – she was by the failure of the church to respond to climate change and she noted that, according to a recent survey, 90% of Christian young people regard this as a serious issue, but only 10% think the church is paying enough attention to it.

“The failure of our generation on climate change mitigation would lead to consequences that would haunt humanity until the end of time.” (Professor Ross Garnault, the Australian government’s former advisor on climate change)

So how can we account for the widespread indifference of church leaders, at the congregational level, in the face of the environmental emergency, which is, certainly:

• the greatest moral and humanitarian challenge of our generation – moral, given the monstrous injustice of the fact that those suffering the most have done the least to create the problem; and humanitarian, given the scale of that suffering;

• and the greatest, current, spiritual challenge to Christian believers on account of its implications for the sincerity of our profession of faith, given the inevitable, if modest, self-denial involved in a serious response to it?

But if we do ‘care’, what’s the single, most important thing we can all do to care for creation? Two things, actually! We can all pray about it and should all do so. But we should also to add our voices to the clamour for urgent and effective action by our leaders! “To relax the pressure on governments is absolutely the wrong thing to do… Any amount of action by individuals is not going to solve the problem without government doing the things that only it can do”. (The late Professor Sir John Houghton FRS, a Christian believer and the greatest climate scientist of his generation)

Contact, david.golding@ncl.ac.uk

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Whitley Bay Baptist Church, ‘Climate Sunday’, 11th April 2021

Whitley Bay Baptist Church, ‘Climate Sunday’, 11th April 2021

A Call for Commitment to Creation Care

Order of Service, with times

00: Welcome

05: Song, “O Lord my God” (“How great thou art”), Vs 1 & 2;

08: Bible readings:

a) Praise and celebration: Psalm 104, 1, 10-15, 24;

b) Lament and warning: Isaiah 24, 1, 4-8, 13a;

c) Hope and promise: Luke 4, 16-19; Rev. 22, 1-3.

12: Prayers:

a) Praise and celebration;

b) Lament and confession;

c) Intercession for leaders and politicians;

d) Repentance and Commitment.

17: Song, “Beauty for Brokenness” Vs 1, 4 & 5

20: Address

35: Song, “I will speak out”

38: Lord’s Prayer and Blessing

For details of the service and the address, go to:

“A Call for Commitment to Creation Care”

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“A Call for Commitment to Creation Care”

Whitley Bay Baptist Church, ‘Climate Sunday’, 11th April 2021

A Call for Commitment to Creation Care

Details of Service

The service is available online in video and audio at wbbc.org.uk/resources/sermons-3.

Welcome to Whitley Bay Baptist Church and the first of our two ‘Climate Sundays’. This has been organised to alert us to the international climate conference, known as COP26, which is due to take place in Glasgow in November, and to equip us to prepare for that momentous event by prayer and action.

This is a very special time indeed, potentially a ‘Kairos Moment’, a time of special opportunity and blessing for efforts to ward off the monstrous threat to all our children and grandchildren of global heating. The whole Christian community is being called, by the Baptist Union, Tearfund and many others, to come together and with one voice to call for decisive action on this, the greatest moral and humanitarian challenge of our generation.

And this is urgently needed! On ‘Sunday Worship’ on Radio 4 on Sunday 7th March, 19-year old ‘Ruth’ spoke of how “confused and upset” – her words, how “confused and upset” she was by the failure of the church to respond to climate change and she noted that, according to a recent survey, 90% of Christian young people regard this as a serious issue, but only 10% think the church is paying enough attention to it.

In 2005, the Make Poverty History campaign, centred here in Britain and in which Christians took a major role, transformed the lives of countless millions of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world. May God grant that something comparable will take place this year!

Text details of the service are available HERE.

Address

Believing that mere nominal assent to creation care will count for very little in the long run, I hope to provide you with a solid foundation for this principle so that we can build on it and take it forward. Our aim should be that the life and teaching of our church should faithfully reflect what the Apostle Paul described as “The whole counsel of God”.

So first I will ask, “What is the Mission of the Church?”, in broad terms; Second, I will insist that ‘Matters of first importance’ for the Gospel should remain just that; and Third, I will consider the application of Christian discipleship to creation care.

The complete text of the address may be accessed HERE.

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'Extreme Environmentalists'

Extreme Environmentalists

Is it still possible to be ‘an extreme environmentalist’?

I recently encountered a pejorative reference, by an able Christian leader, to “extreme environmentalists”, and it troubles me. I wonder what it portends as to his understanding of the climate and wildlife crisis. Is it an indication of underlying climate denial? Will it not have the effect, however unintended, of encouraging people to avoid attaching to the climate and wildlife crisis the extreme importance and extreme urgency it deserves? Will it not ‘blunt the edge’ of the truly monstrous threat facing us – “the defining issue of our time”, as Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations put it in 2018.

“Creation care is an urgent issue in today’s world”, says Chris Wright, of the Langham Partnership. “Only a wilful blindness worse than any proverbial ostrich’s head in the sand can ignore the facts of environmental destruction… To be unconcerned about it is to be either desperately ignorant or irresponsibly callous.” Unhappily, my experience is that Christian believers, like others, need no encouragement or excuse to keep ‘their heads in the sand’!

Furthermore, I’m not at all sure that I understand to whom the writer was referring. Greta Thunberg naturally comes to mind – “People are suffering, people are dying, whole ecosystems are collapsing… how dare you?” (UN New York, Sept ‘19), as does Extinction Rebellion’s Roger Hallam – “In full knowledge of the science, the global north is pumping lethal levels of CO2 into the atmosphere, turning whole regions of the world into death zones.”

But are their statements so very different to those of the highest possible international repute, expertise and authority? Can they all be ‘extremists’?!

Statements by senior international agency leaders:

On 2nd December 2020, Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations, said, “Let’s face facts. Our planet is broken. Humanity is waging war on nature and this is suicidal [note: “suicidal”]. Nature always strikes back, and is doing so with gathering force and fury. Biodiversity is collapsing, deserts are spreading, oceans are choking with plastic waste.” And he warned of “irreversible” impacts that would be “absolutely devastating for the world economy and for human life”.

The International Red Cross reported to the UN (at the same time – Sept ’19 – as ‘Little Greta’ was making her impassioned denunciation of world leaders) that two million people each week need emergency assistance because of the climate crisis. “This is intolerable!”, said Francesco Rocca, President of the IFRC. Indeed it is.

“The science is clear. Without rapid cuts in CO2 and other greenhouse gases, climate change will have increasingly destructive and irreversible impacts on life on Earth. The window of opportunity for action is almost closed.” (Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General, World Meteorological Organisation, Nov ’18)

Statements by senior governmental advisers:

We are facing “massive rises in sea level, whole areas devastated by hurricanes and others turned into uninhabitable desert, forcing hundreds of millions, possible billions, of [the poorest and most vulnerable] people to leave their homelands.” (Lord Nicholas Stern, the UK’s government’s former chief advisor on climate change)

“There are times in the history of humanity when fateful decisions are made. The failure of our generation on climate change mitigation would lead to consequences that would haunt humanity until the end of time.” (Professor Ross Garnaut, former advisor to the Australian government)

Statements by leading scientists:

“I find it hard to exaggerate the peril. This is the new extinction and we are halfway through it. We are in terrible, terrible trouble and the longer we wait to do something about it the worse it is going to get.” (Sir David Attenborough)

“We declare clearly and unequivocally that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency and that the world’s people face untold suffering due to the climate crisis unless there are major transformations to global society.” (Article in Bioscience endorsed by 11,000 scientists from 153 nations, 5th Nov ‘19.)

“Never have we faced such a global threat.” (Lord Robert May, President of the Royal Society, the UK’s National Academy of Sciences))

Statements by Christian leaders, of various traditions:

“I urge you to work together to find sustainable solutions to avert a catastrophe that will exacerbate human suffering to a magnitude that perhaps the world has not yet seen.” (Archbishop Desmond Tutu)

Failure to act decisively on global heating would be “a brutal act of injustice toward the poor and future generations” and I urge world leaders to “hear the increasingly desperate cries of the earth and its poor”. [Amen to that, brother!] (Pope Francis)

“Creation care is an urgent issue in today’s world. Only a wilful blindness worse than any proverbial ostrich’s head in the sand can ignore the facts of environmental destruction… To be unconcerned about it is to be either desperately ignorant or irresponsibly callous.” (Chris Wright, the Langham Partnership)

In conclusion, I urge every ‘person of conscience’ to watch the major film on climate change by Sir David Attenborough OM CH CVO CBE FRS FLS FZS FSA FRSGS – no ‘extremism’ there, just ‘The Facts’!

Climate Change: The facts: FULL EPISODE-BBC

David W. Golding CBE PhD DSc DCL

Associate, Faculty of Science, Agriculture & Engineering, and Honorary Chaplain, Newcastle University;

Development Coordinator, North East CALL TO ACTION; Founding Trustee, Jubilee Debt Campaign; Trustee, Blue Sky Trust (ACET North East); Spokesperson for Tearfund in NE England; (Self-appointed) Representative for The Climate Coalition in NE England.

david.golding@ncl.ac.uk

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Cut in aid provokes accusation of 'economic and environmental terror'.”

To access a PDF of this statement, click here.

In this post:

a) Letter as submitted on 26th November;

b) Brief defence of the ‘violent’ language employed;

c) Cuts breach of one of the UK’s major treaty commitments under the Paris Agreement;

d) Letter as published on 28th November;

e) Comment on published letter.

a) Letter as submitted on 26th November:

“Cuts in aid, whilst continuing to cause environmental suffering to the poorest, provoke accusation of ‘economic and environmental terror’.”

I’m just amazed that in all the discussion about international aid (UK aid cuts ‘unprincipled, unjustified and harmful’, say experts and MPs, The Guardian November 26), the words “climate crisis” are rarely if ever mentioned, despite the fact that rich countries are largely responsible for this! “People are suffering, people are dying… how dare you?”, asked Greta Thunberg, at the UN in Sept 2019. And she’s right – according to the International Red Cross, two million people each week in low income countries need emergency assistance because of the climate crisis. “This is intolerable”, said Francesco Rocca, President of the IFRC. Similarly, Christiana Figueres, commenting on the massive, inter-agency report in The Lancet in October 2017, concluded that, “Hundreds of millions of people are already suffering health impacts as a result of climate change”.

Furthermore, this is the time when the UK is supposed to be taking a lead on tackling the climate emergency, and support for ‘adaptation’ by developing countries to changing conditions has always been accepted as being a major component of the response incumbent on developed economies, together with ‘mitigation’ by reduction in their emissions.

But that isn’t even half of it! Unfair trade rules, tax fiddles by big corporations, and repayments of historic debts, cost poor countries far more than they get in aid, and those things don’t take into account our habit of ‘poaching’ many of their brightest and best trained people. The effects of our policies amount to nothing less than both economic and environmental terror on a global scale (see note below) – as Aminata Traori, the former Malian government minister, put it: “Hypocrisy. They are killing us while they say they are developing us, but they are lying. We are not developed, we are subjugated more and more”.

David W. Golding CBE PhD DSc DCL

Associate, Faculty of Science, Agriculture & Engineering, and Honorary Chaplain, Newcastle University;

Development Coordinator, North East CALL TO ACTION on global poverty and climate change; Founding Trustee, Jubilee Debt Campaign; Trustee, Blue Sky Trust (ACET North East); Spokesperson for Tearfund in NE England; (Self-appointed) Champion of the Climate Coalition in the NE.

b) Defence of the statement, “The effects of our policies amount to nothing less than both economic and environmental terror on a global scale”.

Violent language, but is the reality any less so?

Economic terror:

“Tax dodgers… take advantage of the lack of transparency in tax havens. Developing countries are estimated to lose to tax havens almost three times what they get from developed countries in aid. If taxes on assets hidden by tax dodgers were collected in their owners’ jurisdictions, billions of dollars could become available for financing development.” (Angel Gurrier, Secretary General of the OECD)

“In Mali, I saw babies lying in a ditch and children who couldn’t go to school because of subsidised dumping of US cotton”. (Mary Robinson, the highly respected former President of Ireland and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and now Chair of The Elders). Western trade policies are a “scandal… shocking” (Michael Howard, speaking as Leader of the Conservative Party); they are “appalling… hypocritical and immoral” (Editorial in The Economist).

Environmental terror:

“Zewdie Abayie’s eyes were swollen shut through malnutrition and her delicate skin was no longer able to mask the skeleton beneath. Brushing away flies from her face with a small twig, the little girl stood quietly as, in 2000, her father explained how three years of crop failure in Ethiopia had left his family facing starvation. Pitiably, she attempted a smile for the cameraman.” (Keith Ewing, Tearfund) Global warming is “probably responsible for the drop in rainfall in Ethiopia and surrounding countries since 1996” (Lord Robert May, President of the Royal Society).

‘Jessy’ has endured so much loss. Her husband died ten years ago, then one of her sons and his wife. Jessy was left to raise their two children, along with her own. Her daughter Elinati, now 27, tragically lost her baby to hunger at just a month old. “I’ve seen people dying of hunger,” she says, “we’ve gone to bury them. A man died with his children, and another woman and her child. What I fear most is hunger.” Changing weather patterns in Malawi have caused relentless floods and droughts, devastating crops and causing widespread hunger. And Coronavirus has only made their situation harder. (Adapted from Tearfund, December 2020)

c) Cuts breach of one of the UK’s major treaty commitments under the Paris Agreement:

“Rich countries must honour their obligation under the Paris agreement to provide $100bn a year to help developing countries limit their own climate pollution and adapt to the heatwaves, storms and sea level rise already under way.” (Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary General, 2nd Dec ’20)

“A country that really understood the seriousness and the honour and the responsibility of hosting Cop26 next year would not be cutting its international aid right now.” (Amber Rudd, former Conservative Home Secretary and Climate Change Minister, 02.12.20)

d) Letter as published by The Guardian, 28th November, 2020:

I’m just amazed that in all the debate about international aid, the words “climate crisis” are rarely mentioned, despite the fact that rich countries are largely responsible for this.

This is the time when the UK is supposed to be taking a lead on tackling the climate emergency, and support for ‘adaptation’ by developing countries has always been accepted as being a major component of the response incumbent on developed economies, together with ‘mitigation’ by reducing their emissions.

But that isn’t even half of it! Unfair trade rules, tax fiddles by big corporations, and repayments of historic debts all cost poor countries far more than they receive in aid.

David W. Golding

Honorary Chaplain, Newcastle University

e) Comment by David Golding:

I naturally wish they’d published more of my letter, but acknowledge that the editor made a good job of abridging it, including all the main points. Perhaps my main regret is that they included my statement that rich countries are largely responsible for the climate crisis, but left out the evidence for the suffering being experienced by the world’s poor as a result, such as that provided only a year ago by the Red Cross. However, I’m most grateful to them just the same!

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'Brilliant Meeting' with Sir Alan Campbell MP for the national ‘Virtual Lobby of Parliament’.

Supporters of NE-CAP took a leading role in staging what Fiona Dear, Head of Campaigns at The Climate Coalition, called a “Brilliant Meeting” with Sir Alan Campbell, MP for the Tynemouth constituency, on 2nd July, as part of the national ‘Virtual Lobby of Parliament’.

Frustrated at the lack of focus on the core ‘asks’ at last year’s Lobby, in Westminster, David Golding adopted a ‘managerial (high-handed?) approach’ to this year’s on-line event. Opening statements were most ably made by Anna Wardle and Jack Newton,both of whom will be entering the 6th Form at Whitley Bay High School in September.

Anna Wardle


Jack Newton

Then Crispian Oates and Susanne Wardle summarised two of the Coalition’s ‘Priority Asks’, on ‘Investment in climate- and nature-friendly infrastructure’, and the ‘Recovery of nature at home and abroad’, respectively.

Crispian Oates

Susanne Wardle

Sir Alan responded most sympathetically to all he had heard and promised to bring our proposals to the attention of the Prime Minister.

Sir Alan Campbell MP


David rounded off the formal part of the meeting by thanking Sir Alan and all those involved, and emphasised the “desperate urgency” of the issues involved, following which the meeting was opened up for comments from others attending.

David Golding


David says, “I appreciated everything which was said, but what sticks in my memory most of all is Anna’s closing plea to Sir Alan, “I ask you, not to let my generation down!” I’m sure she would say the same thing to each one of us older folks – may God grant that we’ll all take it to heart.

Notes:

The text of the main presentations made at the lobby may be viewed here.

Four of those making major contributions to the lobby are members of Whitley Bay Baptist Church, whose Church Leadership Team had unanimously commended the event to its members and friends.

The Climate Coalition is made up of over 130 organisations, with a combined membership of 20 million. On Tuesday 2nd, over 220 on-line meetings with MPs took place, and there are still more to come in the days and weeks ahead. Almost 14,000 people from all walks of life participated.

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Be Part of History – Join the first-ever Virtual Lobby

Dear Friend of NE-CAP and The Climate Coalition,

You can find the Climate Coalition’s ‘Priority Asks’ here.

LAST YEAR WE MADE HISTORY TOGETHER with ‘The Time Is Now’: the biggest ever mass lobby for climate, nature and people. 12,000 people from all walks of life travelled to Westminster to talk to their MPs about how the UK needs to tackle climate change and nature’s decline.

They included a good contingent from NE-CAP. 🙂

NOW WE’RE ASKING IF YOU’LL BE PART OF HISTORY AGAIN.

[Veronica and I have already ‘thrown our hats into the ring’!]

We can’t all travel to Westminster, but we can make our voices heard online. On Tuesday 30th June we are coming together for a virtual lobby, inviting you, and thousands of others to ask MPs to put people, climate and nature at the heart of our nation’s recovery.

BE PART OF HISTORY! Sign up now, at:

https://www.theclimatecoalition.org/virtual-lobby/

We’re holding this virtual lobby now because the UK is at a turning point. As we build back from the current health crisis, OUR BEST CHANCE OF BUILDING A STRONGER ECONOMY GOES HAND IN HAND WITH TACKLING CLIMATE CHANGE.

We can rebuild a resilient economy that benefits everyone in society and tackle climate change & nature’s decline; creating jobs and protecting the most vulnerable in the UK and around the world. Or we can let the moment for change pass us by, go back to old ways and wait for new crises to hit.

Using our voices to call for action is more important than ever. Have a virtual cup of tea with your MP on Tuesday 30 June and tell them that #TheTimeIsNow to put a healthy, greener, fairer future at the heart of plans to rebuild from the Coronavirus crisis.

Be part of history. Sign up to be part of the first ever virtual lobby for climate, nature and people.

SIGN UP NOW! Go to: https://www.theclimatecoalition.org/virtual-lobby/

You can find the Climate Coalition’s ‘Priority Asks’ here.

With every good wish, and thanking you for your support,

David and the Committee of North East CALL TO ACTION,

Together with The Climate Coalition team

 

 

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Hope in an Age of Despair

“Hope in an Age of Despair”

A reflection for the 50th ‘Earth Day’, 22nd April 2020,

for St Luke’s Church, Claremont St, Newcastle upon Tyne

Dr David Golding CBE

In talking about “an age of despair”, I’m not thinking only of the alarming impacts of the Coruna virus pandemic, although the infection and the illness it causes are certainly the source of immense distress, and the economic and financial effects which lie ahead may well be even more so.

Our age drives people to despair for many and various reasons, many of which are truly alarming, so much so that Sir Martin Rees, the former President of the Royal Society and one of the UK’s leading and most sober-minded scientists, has stated that, “there is only a 50% chance that civilisation as we know it will make it through the present century”.

As some of you know, the climate and wider environmental crisis is one which has occupied much of my attention for nearly 15 years – and with good reason: “We are in terrible, terrible trouble and the longer we wait to do something about it, the worse it is going to get,” says Sir David Attenborough.

The science is as clear on this, as it is on the reason for the current health crisis: the world is hitting record-breaking temperatures, and the poorest communities are being impacted first and hardest. The devastating decline in wildlife is set to wipe out a million species. Our oceans are choking in plastic, our children are breathing toxic air, and we are feeling the impacts. This is not a future problem: the time is now.

And then, along comes the Corona virus and its threat to the global economic system – we don’t have to look far for reasons which drive many to despair.

My title is, in fact, taken from a book published by IVP entitled, “Hope in an Age of Despair – the gospel and the future of life on earth”, by Jonathan Moo and Robert White. The authors are an American theology professor and a professor of Geophysics at Cambridge University, respectively – both of them evangelical and reformed – and they are eminently well qualified to deal with the book’s subject. I’ve produced a ‘Digest, Commentary & Critique’ of it. [Me being me, ‘critique’ was bound to feature somewhere!]

The authors acknowledge that the Bible’s teaching on care for creation and care for the poor have clear lessons for our response to the environmental crisis, but they’ve opened up a highly original vein of biblical teaching, pointing out that Christ at his coming will make ‘all things new’, and discussing what that means for our lives now, for which they cast a compelling vision. It is this hope – what is called the ‘ultimate’ or assured hope – which should indwell and empower us, and not some misguided, pseudo-pious, and unfounded optimism about the future during this present age.

What they are saying, in essence, is this: there’s a glorious kingdom coming, in a new creation, and it will be characterised by complete shalom – peace, health and justice – in the relationships between God and humanity, between human beings, and between humanity and the rest of creation. But the kingdom is here right now, albeit in its infancy, since it was inaugurated by the coming of Jesus, and believers are members of it right now! Similarly, the new creation is here right now, albeit also in its infancy, since we are “new creatures in Christ”.

Consequently, imbued with an assured hope of our participation in the coming kingdom, in the new creation, we should personify the values of that coming kingdom, and exemplify the characteristics of that new creation, in all we do right now!

These considerations inevitably provide a devastating indictment of the attitudes and behaviour which we have shown to date: our casual selfishness in how we use the world’s resources, and in how we treat our global neighbours. Our grotesque abuse of God’s creation, and our gross oppression of the world’s poor in consequence, are, according to Moo and White, “revealed for what they are: an affront to God, an abrogation of the responsibility given to us and a rejection of our identity as his children in Christ”.

The world looks very broken indeed sometimes, but Jesus reminds us that the smallest seeds can grow into trees that bring shelter to many. Every small part of our daily lives can restore relationships, bringing justice and abundant life to all – and doubtless those of you listening will encounter many opportunities for just such acts of ‘kingdom living’ in the months to come.

Philippa Strickett, a Tearfund supporter, has described how, “Being a Christian changed our eating habits! [Exclamation mark] We have eaten a lot less meat, etc.”, and concluded by saying, “We certainly fail sometimes [join the club, Philippa!], but step by step, with a spirit of generosity and grace, we’re trying to follow Jesus with our whole lives.”

Isn’t that wonderful?! I was particularly struck by that bit where she says, “Step by step, with a spirit of generosity and grace, we’re trying to follow Jesus with our whole lives.” “With a spirit of generosity and grace” – please help us to exemplify such a spirit, Lord, even in current, trying circumstances!

But suppose we start to personify the values of the coming kingdom, and exemplify the characteristics of the new creation. What if not enough people do that and, anyway, the governments of the world continue in their current wicked folly, what then?

I’m convinced that anything we do right now to reflect the values of the coming kingdom, and to exemplify the characteristics of the new creation, is of lasting significance! Such lives are “not in vain in the Lord” (I Cor. 15.58). In ways we can barely imagine, lives lived now which reflect the character of the coming kingdom, in the renewed creation, have enduring value and their echoes will sound on into eternity.

Prayer:

“Help us, dear Lord, to live such lives and to do so, like Philippa Strickett and her lovely family, “With a spirit of generosity and grace”. Amen!

David W. Golding CBE PhD DSc DCL

Associate, Faculty of Science, Agriculture & Engineering, and Honorary Chaplain, Newcastle University;

Development Coordinator, North East CALL TO ACTION on global poverty and climate change; Founding Trustee, Jubilee Debt Campaign; Trustee, Blue Sky Trust (ACET North East); Spokesperson for Tearfund in NE England.

d.w.golding@talk21.com

david.golding@ncl.ac.uk

 

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