IPCC: So Last Week

October 2, 2013

forehead-nose-a-common-technique-130925Did you hear what happened last week? The BBM launch on iOS and Android was delayed at the last minute; animal print clothes were banned from Chessington World of Adventures; a man had a nose grown on the top of his head, and Sir Bradley Wiggins won the 2013 Tour of Britain.

Oh, and a landmark report from the IPCC on the current state of knowledge on global warming was released. The IPCC said it is 95% certain that warming is occurring and that the dominant force behind it is human activity, particularly the burning of fossil fuels. The report, the first from the UN-convened body since 2007, and only the fifth since 1988, is the starkest warning yet of the dangers of climate change.

Sea levels are rising; extreme weather events are increasing; food growing is becoming harder and more unpredictable; increasing numbers of species are threatened with extinction; the ice is melting, and untold numbers of people are suffering.

So there we go. That’s last week’s news out of the way. Time to move on.

But let’s stop a moment to think this through, because 95% is a pretty big percentage of certainty. As Ben Niblett from Tearfund says, ‘I wouldn’t get in a car with a 95 per cent chance of crashing. I wouldn’t light a match with a 95 per cent chance of burning my hand. I wouldn’t even eat a sandwich with a 95 per cent chance of it containing sand.’

So we can’t move on and forget this particular item of news. This one we have to stand and face squarely and decide what we’re going to do about it. I would like to suggest four actions that we can all make to respond to what 600 authors, 1000 reviewers and 9,000 peer-reviewed studies have told us:

i_love_campaigning_round_sticker-rf4b219e968494bd4b5b3f3ff3fd4d412_v9waf_8byvr_3241. Tell our Government to act

Apparently Cameron wants this to be ‘the greenest government ever’, so let’s show him that we want him to deliver on his ambition. Friends of the Earth have some great ways for you to do this. Take a look and do some of their actions.

Eco Tree with environment symbols2. Be the change you wish to see in the world

We need to move away from our high carbon lifestyles towards a way of living that is much more sustainable. A Rocha UK’s Living Lightly initiative has loads of suggestions for different changes you can make. Why not have a look and choose three things that you could do today?

green church3. If you’re the churchy sort, get this onto your church’s agenda

If the Church can get its act together and demonstrate what it really means to believe in ‘God the creator of heaven and earth’ then there is huge potential for it to make a massive difference on these issues. A Rocha UK’s Eco-Congregation programme is the best possible resource for helping you do that. Take a look and ask your church minister to sign up.

praying hands4. If you’re the praying type, get on your knees

None of us fully understands prayer, but I tend to agree with Archbishop William Temple (one of the great Christian leaders of the twentieth century) who said that, whatever else one might say about whether prayer worked, he had noticed that when he prayed, ‘coincidences’ happened, and when he stopped praying, the ‘coincidences’ stopped happening.[1] Both Christian Aid and Tearfund provide really helpful monthly prayer diaries, so sign up to either or both of them now and get praying.

Let’s take these four steps together and make sure that the IPCC report doesn’t stay last week’s news.

[1] Tom Wright, New Testament Prayer for Everyone (SPCK: 2012), 19.

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  • Reply Dr Micha Jazz October 2, 2013 at 3:34 pm

    My anxiety as ever is that we are in the shooting gallery of who is correct and who is not. 95% is high, yet there again underdogs do slay giants, and Oracle USA came back from 8-1 down to New Zealand in the America’s cup and won 9-8. So the impossible always remains a possibility. Resurrection I guess scores low on the possibility register, yet it happened! It is unsatisfactory trying to weight any argument with fact or information. Most of us respond to the opportunity to contribute creatively to life. Seldom do I live at the level of catastrophe, and when not paid to do so, I seldom champion a particular cause with any sense of energy, in spite of what may be deeply held convictions or indeed what others may now think of me.

    As a nation we tut, tut at newspaper intrusion, and yet continue to purchase newspapers, we despair of politicians actions in and out of government, yet most maintain the same voting pattern from one election to the next and are horrified at the thought of UKIP succeeding when perhaps their success might stir the historic political elite from their Westminster village paralysis and awaken them to the reality of the threat to representative democracy.

    I am mystified as to how to make a difference through my own life since I cannot see how with the banks inability to lend money appropriately anyone can ever hold more than a maximum of £100 in credit in their current account – yet of course I know many people do and to impose such a it is an infringement of liberty. Again, living lightly requires each of us to reduce our consumerism, hence a voluntary commitment to a £20 leisure spend per month sounds oppressive once presented as an overarching rule for everyone.

    Street lights provide security, yet burn up energy, the same can be said of shop windows lit all night. So the list goes on. My contribution is most likely completely overwhelmed by another person’s profligacy and ultimately that wears me out and I no longer really care.

    And then I can logically understand that GM and intensive farming generates more food for a starving world and organic and free range uses up valuable land and produces food at prices only affordable to the educated and employed. It is such a confusion, that logically I cannot determine how best to proceed.

    So supportive of the IPCC I may be, although what size of disastrous environmental footprint they made meeting to present their report I have no idea. Yet, being innately suspicious of any institution or of people who are paid to speak on any agenda, my cynicism leaves me uncertain as to the extent to which I either believe or support them.

    What a world of confusion we live in, yet perhaps not for much longer if 95% is indeed an accurate forecast! I guess we will only have ourselves to blame if it is!!

    • Reply ruthvalerio October 2, 2013 at 6:44 pm

      One thing I do think is that scientific statistics aren’t the best way to instigate any sort of response or change. I’ve got a friend who’s just written a thesis on magpies. What he found was that where people were given scientific information about them they weren’t that motivated to look after them in any way. But when they were told about their cultural heritage (their use in fairy tales, nursery rhymes etc) then people felt a closer connection to them and wanted to look after them. Most of us don’t respond to facts and figures, we respond to connection.

      • Reply Matt Freer October 11, 2013 at 11:02 am

        On your last point Ruth, if you’ve not already seen it, you may find the Common Cause For Nature report helpful. Taking a strong look at the psychology of how we read/process science etc. and how we respond – see http://valuesandframes.org/downloads/.

  • Reply ruthvalerio October 11, 2013 at 11:08 am

    Thanks Matt, looks interesting, I’ll take a look.

  • Reply Suzie October 24, 2013 at 6:42 pm


    This is my first look at your blog and as a student doing an MSc in Marine Environment Mangement your subject matter is very close to my heart – and as a Christian too. I find peoples apathy most disheartening, the question what can I do to help? is a recurring problem, yet there is so much an individual can do in so many ways and not just the big ways. If we all just make small adjustments to how we live – turn your computer off at the end of the day, turn lights out when not in rooms, just small things like this on a daily basis, we can help to reduce emissions. Yet if we do not make these small changes now, the future will require much larger adjustments. As I said my area is the marine environment – one that is suffering even more then the terrestrial – out of sight, out of mind and as we are a terrestrial species its even more so. The problem with the oceans is that they are our life support system yet we have treated them with contempt for centuries – reap what you sow is now coming to fruission!!! My heart goes out to those who have kids, because the planet that they are inheriting from their parents will be one much devoid of its beauty, systems and life providing properties – mainly because of peoples apathy, its too big a problem to deal with, yet all is not lost as long as we all do our part!


    • Reply ruthvalerio October 26, 2013 at 8:02 pm

      Thanks for being in touch Susie, nice to hear from you and I sympathise with all you’re saying. It’s good to hear of the MSc you’re doing though, the marine environment is so important. Best wishes as you do that, and don’t lose your enthusiasm! All the best, Ruth

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