Truly Inconvenient?

November 19, 2007

“As a climate scientist who has worked on this issue for several decades, first as head of the Met Office, and then as co-chair of scientific assessment for the UN intergovernmental panel on climate change, the impacts of global warming are such that I have no hesitation in describing it as a ‘weapon of mass destruction’ ”– Sir John Houghton
Perhaps, like me, you find the conflicting arguments around this subject confusing. The upcoming Winter School of the Jubilee Centre (Jan 2-4, 2008), offers a rare opportunity to explore the question with global experts who are committed believers.
Experts like Sir John, who will be a special guest speaker at the Winter School (see photo). Co-chair of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) working group, Sir John was lead editor of first three IPCC reports.
While many still doubt the human factor in recent global climate changes, as for example presented in An Inconvenient Truth, Sir John is convinced, along with Al Gore, that events such as heat waves, floods and droughts will be more frequent and destructive as more carbon dioxide enters the atmosphere from the burning of coal, oil and gas.
A committed believer, Sir John is chairman of the John Ray Initiative, an organisation ‘connecting Environment, Science and Christianity’ where he has compared the stewardship of the Earth, to the stewardship of the Garden of Eden by Adam and Eve. He is also a founder member of the International Society for Science and Religion.
Worse than denial
When IPCC is accused of underestimating non-CO2 explanations of climate change, Sir John responds: “We do try to look very hard at alternative explanations. We actually spend more time, for instance, on the solar variations, about which we have very little real scientific evidence but which some people have exploited in the media a great deal.”
Does Sir John believe the imperative of urgent action is a message that is getting through? At the World Economic Forum in Davos, when Sir John debated climate change as a weapon of mass destruction, he did not encounter the expected denial. “Virtually everyone accepted the fact of climate change,” he reported. “But sadly, worse than denial, they saw it as a problem for the future – no need to do anything now.”
“Christian churches that between them make up the largest of non-governmental organizations have not on the whole had green issues high on their agendas,” wrote Sir John in an article for The Guardian. “But big changes are afoot in their attitudes to environmental issues.”
Sir John believes religious conviction has potential to change attitudes more fundamentally than political messages. Statements on the seriousness of global warming from the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, was one positive sign. Another was his meeting with Christian leaders in the US representing 45 million believers, who recognised creation-care as an important and urgent Christian imperative.
A further indication of changing attitudes among Christians is the focus of the Winter School to be held again in Cambridge, on New Patterns of Growth: Christianity, climate change and sustainable living.
YWAM, along with several other organisations, supports Dr Michael Schluter and his team at Jubilee Centre in holding these Winter Schools as public forums to explore biblically-based vision for society.
Sir John is a late addition to an already-strong line-up of speakers and resource people at the Winter School. This includes Professor Sir Brian Heap, of the Capability and Sustainability Centre, St Edmund’s College, Cambridge.
Also, Nick Spencer and Professor Robert White, authors of the newly published title from the Jubilee Centre, Christianity, Climate Change and Sustainable Living, will unfold their arguments that our current habits of consumption and production in the West cannot be maintained. ‘The way we live, the way we produce and use energy, is no longer environmentally or socially sustainable. We urgently need to reconsider our lifestyles and the policies that shape them,’ say Spencer and White.
According to the Jubilee Centre, this book is the first serious Christian engagement with the emerging issue of sustainable consumption and production. The authors are interviewed in four short very usable videos on ‘Insight’ at:
Like the book, the Winter School explores what can be done at the personal, community, national and international levels to make sustainable living a reality. Topics include:
• Evidence for, causes and consequences of global warming; • Interface between environmental and social sustainability; • biblical vision of sustainable living; • new patterns of growth based on the biblical social model; • international and national policy issues and solutions; • household, church and community responses.
The programme is designed for all interested in social, political or economic issues in general, and will involve plenary sessions, panel discussions and special interest group interactions, as well as presentations from sponsoring organisations.
Students (including DTS and UofN students) are offered a half price discount if registering before 30 November (down to £40 for 3 days). For registration and further info, see
Till next week,
Jeff Fountain

Till next week,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sign up for Weekly Word