Climate Change

Why does a seemingly small global temperature rise matter? 

I had never quite understood the importance of apparently tiny differences in the possible global temperature rise, until I started reading Ruth Valerio’s ‘Saying Yes to Life’ (the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent book this year) and discovered the associated resources on the SPKC website.  I watched Ruth’s 15-minute interview with Christiana Figueres (the former Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change who was behind the success of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change).  Please do watch the interview. (The book is available here.)

Christiana summarises the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5oC as follows.  If the global temperature rises by 2oC rather than keeping the rise within 1.5oC, the dreadful consequences will be:

  1. Twice as many species lost;
  2. Twice as much infrastructure and economic value around the world destroyed;
  3. Three times as many people exposed to water scarcity, food insecurity and temperatures that make their current home locations uninhabitable, forcing migration and inevitably leading to conflict and political chaos.


Therefore, climate change is not just a “green” or wildlife issue, it is also a major humanitarian issue.


Christiana says, in the interview with Ruth, that we cannot impose these pressures on future generations, so we therefore have a moral responsibility to do everything we can to not open the door to a two degree rise and the resultant problems.  Further to this, because the majority of people who suffer the extreme effects of climate change are black and the delayed global response to climate injustice impacts them the most, there was a recent statement by the Anglican Communion Environmental Network signed by 11 archbishops and 60 bishops on Environmental Racism.


So, how do we keep the temperature rise within the necessary 1.5oC limit?


We must reduce our global carbon dioxide emissions to 5 giga tonnes of carbon dioxide a year by 2050, because this is the amount it is understood the earth can naturally absorb.  Globally, we are currently emitting over 40 giga tonnes of carbon dioxide a year and the trend is showing an increase each year, so the first thing we need to do is to reverse this trend.  2020 is the last year we can afford to be on the increasing side of the graph.  We need to halve our emissions by 2030 and keep halving the total emissions each decade to get to the 2050 deadline for only a 1.5oC temperature rise.


These major reductions need both a top-down approach from governments and individual actions.


To start our individual actions, Christiana suggests using one of the online carbon calculators (for e.g. one by WWF) to quantity our personal carbon footprint and then set ourselves a target to reduce our own current emissions by at least half by 2030, but ideally reduce by 60% to make space for those in the developing world who need to increase their footprints a bit.

We do have years not just days for this reduction and therefore it is eminently do-able.  Christiana says, with a cheeky grin: “If you cannot accomplish that in 10 years then, honestly, you should not be a proud human being!  We can all do that.”

In a talk Christiana gave to the Oxford Martin Institute in 2018 (here) one of the questions at the end asked what we could do individually, her top 4 things were:

  1. To be intentional about our diet (reducing meat and other high emissions foods);
  2. To use public transport rather than our own cars (admittedly not so easy just at the moment due to Coronavirus, but we can still walk and cycle locally);
  3. To ensure our savings, pensions etc. are not invested in high carbon assets;
  4. To use our votes and political voices to ask Governments to address climate change. Many vulnerable people don’t have such a voice, so we need to make the most of ours.

If you need the urgency of action impressed on you further, jump to 1:24:00 in the Oxford Martin talk for Christiana’s final point.  For more action ideas see previous St Luke’s Eco Church blogs, Ruth Valerio’s book L is for Lifestyle and many other internet resources & podcasts. Jen Gale’s A Sustainable Life website and podcast is a recent discovery.


As to our part in influencing the top-down approach, the UK was due to host the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Scotland later in 2020 but it has been postponed to 2021 due to coronavirus.  Governments will be spending a lot of money on their countries to get them up and running again.  This change of date could work well for COP26 – because it gives an opportunity for governments to spend that money on sustainable and renewable projects that can be discussed there.  Write to your MP and tell them what’s important to you.  Support Tearfund’s Reboot campaign to make your voice heard and contact the prime minster about the five steps to a better world (see a short video here).  You could also sign the Build Back Better statement and The Time is Now declaration from the The Climate Coalition.


Christiana is asked at the end of Ruth Valerio’s interview if she has hope.  She says she does because humans are so resourceful and have huge potential if we set our minds to things.  This decade we finally have in place the technologies, the finance and the policies to do this.  We did not have these before so could not do as much then, but by 2030 it will be too late, so we must act through this 2020-30 decade.

People of faith can have hope and also the added incentive for our actions of believing it is also God’s will that we care for the world and our fellow humans, particularly the most vulnerable.  We also need to pray particularly for the world’s decision makers, as we need them to implement the top-down changes.

Alison Riggs, St Luke’s Environment Officer


Further info

Tearfund Reboot campaign

Ruth Valerio’s website

Ruth’s book full of tips

Ruth’s 2020 Lent book for The Archbishop of Canterbury


Christiana Figueres website including her TED talk on optimism and the Paris Agreement

Outrage and Optimism Podcasts

Global Optimism website

Tom Rivett-Carnac’s recent TED Talk

Christiana and Tom’s book

Christiana and Tom 10 Years to save the world 2020 interview

Christiana’s 2018 lecture to the Oxford Martin School


Practical ideas

A Rocha Living Lightly ideas

Jen Gale’s A Sustainable Life website and podcasts

Jen’s Sustainable(ish) Online Festival talk videos (many ideas of actions we can take):

Financial carbon divestment


COP26  &


WWF carbon footprint calculator


Build Back Better


Earth Image by Anja #helpinghands #solidarity#stays healthy from Pixabay

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