As part of my preparation for attending Cape Town 2010 I’ve been reading the advance papers. The latest is The Science of Global Climate Change. Facing the Issues. What are the Issues? by John Houghton. Below are a few highlights and then my comments:
John writes a very helpful article starting with:
A few prominent scientists are telling us that God does not exist and science is the only story there is to tell. To argue like that, however, is to demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding of what science is about.
I’d agree strongly with his claim that:
Although there are uncertainties about much of the detail, especially concerning regional change, the main messages uncovered by scientists about the world’s climate over the next decades and centuries are clear and unequivocal. First, there is compelling evidence that the world is warming and the climate changing – largely because of humans burning coal, oil and gas. Second, because ocean water expands as it warms and because of increased melting of ice from glaciers and the polar ice caps, the sea level is rising at a rate of at least half a metre per century
It is clear that climate change is affecting our world, the bigger question is to what degree, but there are some scary statistics available:
Floods and droughts are the most damaging disasters that occur. On average, they cause more deaths, misery and economic loss than any other natural disasters. Their increased frequency and intensity is very bad news, especially in the world’s poorest countries. Regarding droughts, careful studies of the incidence of droughts show that, at the present time, about 2% of the world’s useable land area is under extreme drought. Twenty years ago it was around 1%. By 2050 as greenhouse gases increase, it is likely to be more like 10% – an increase by a factor of around five from today. That is the most disturbing climate statistic I know!
John goes on to highlight the disappointment of government response at conferences like Copenhagen, but I hear even less strategic response from the Church and Christians – many don’t seem to see it as a priority. Part of the problem is that our attitude to climate change has a delayed result, the results of our decisions now won’t be seen for at least another 20-30 years – but those results could be huge.
The challenge for a conference like Cape Town is will we really see a unified response and action to this, sadly I doubt that, and it may be as equally a missed opportunity as Copenhagen was for our governments.