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/ 18 August 2021

UN climate science report released ahead of Glasgow summit, and amid floods and wildfires

IPCC report

The United Nations is supported by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which produces comprehensive reports on global heating and climate change every 6-8 years. These massive reports, the combined effort of hundreds of scientists from all over the world, referencing many thousands of peer-reviewed reports, are fundamental to informing and directing efforts by governments and people to tackle the climate crisis.

The IPCC’s latest scientific report was published in August 2021. It is more than 3000 pages long!  Fortunately there is a relatively brief ‘Summary for Policymakers’. The report has justifiably been described as ‘stark’.  Among its main points are:

  • It is unequivocal that human behaviour is changing the climate;
  • The impacts of climate change are already being felt in every region across the globe (temperate regions are not safe);
  • These impacts will continue to get worse, the longer we continue to burn fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas);
  • Every tonne of CO2 (the gas mainly emitted by burning fossil fuels) makes a difference – whether that’s a tonne emitted or a tonne not emitted.

Glasgow summit

The IPCC’s report has been published ahead of the annual global climate summit in Glasgow in November. This was postponed from 2020 due to the pandemic. It is to be hosted by the UK. All 195 nations signed up to the UN’s climate convention are expected to be represented at government level.

The official title of the climate summit is COP 26 – that is, the 26th Conference of the Parties to the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change.

One thing which can make a difference to decision makers in Glasgow is demonstrating that there is a public hunger for change – support for the kind of radical interventions that are needed. This is where the actions that the Church and many other have been pushing for are so important:

  • 1600 churches are already holding Climate Sunday services.  Is your church involved yet?  Register it on the Climate Sunday website;
  • Churches and congregations are encouraged to join the national Climate Sunday service on 5th September in Glasgow and online – where all those registrations will be used to demonstrate that public hunger;
  • We should all persevere with Eco Church; more than 100 churches in the Diocese of London are now signed up. Is your church signed up yet?  See Eco Church at A Rocha UK.

COP26 is of special significance this year. It aims to deliver a vital boost to every country’s climate commitments. Commitments leading to immediate and rapid actions are needed right now, if we are to avoid the most dangerous consequences of climate change.

This has been described as potentially a ‘Kairos Moment’, a time of special opportunity and blessing for efforts to ward off the 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.

Youth Christian Climate Network (YCCN)

On ‘Sunday Worship’ on Radio 4 on Sunday 7th March, 19-year old ‘Ruth’ spoke of how ‘confused and upset’ she was by the failure of the Church to respond to climate change.  It was 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 fact the Church of England is among many churches and other organisations that are rapidly accelerating action on climate change.  Since the General Synod motion of February 2020, the Church of England and many dioceses including the Diocese of London are working to achieve net-zero carbon by 2030.  But this needs to spread to every church and congregation and church member, in their prayers, words and deeds.

YCCN has organised a relay to COP 26.  This passed through London in early August. See ‘Why I am walking’ and ‘Walking a small way’.

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About Brian Cuthbertson

Brian is the Head of Environment and Sustainability at the Diocese of London.

Read more from Brian Cuthbertson

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