Archive: August 2021 - Operation Noah

The Year We Broke Our Climate

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By Bill McGuire

This summer our world has been battered like never before by extreme weather. North America has sweltered in temperatures that peaked at a staggering 54.4C, while an area the size of Lebanon, along with thousands of homes, has been incinerated by wildfires that continue to rage across many states. Temperature records were smashed in Europe, with 48.8°C registered in Sicily and 47.2C in southern Spain as, further north, devastating flash floods took more than 220 lives in Germany and Belgium.

Wildfires have rampaged out of control across Greece and Turkey, while unprecedented rainfall and flooding has left a trail of destruction and loss of life across Turkey, China, Japan, India and parts of the United States. In Siberia, the tundra is in flames, pumping out huge volumes of carbon dioxide. Probably most disturbingly – for the first time ever recorded – rain has fallen on the highest point of the Greenland Ice Sheet.

The truth is that our climate is broken, and this is what it looks like. As the world continues to heat up in response to the 40 billion or so tonnes of carbon dioxide pumped out by human activities every year, things can only get worse.

So far, the average global temperature has climbed around  1.1°C since pre-industrial times, but we are on track to more than double this in the decades to come, unless we take urgent action now. Should the worst-case forecasts come to pass, temperatures could be 4 – 5°C higher by the century’s end, bringing an existential threat to our civilisation.

There is now nowhere to hide from our plight. Well-timed to coincide with the increasingly extreme weather we can see all around us, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has just published its scariest report yet. While the previous five climate assessment reports have been conservative and consensus-based, this latest pulls few punches. In a nutshell, it concludes that the global average temperature rise will breach both the 1.5C and 2C ‘guardrails’, unless there are deep cuts to emissions in coming decades. As this is extremely unlikely, we have to face the fact that we are now committed to dangerous, all-pervasive climate change.

The bottom line, then, is that we are in dire straits. We know that, whatever we do, the world our children will grow old in, and our grandchildren grow up in, will be hotter, increasingly unpredictable, and more dangerous than the one we have become used to. We have a duty, therefore, to do everything in our power to stop the situation getting even worse. This means, more than anything else, stopping the extraction and use of fossil fuels as soon as possible. 

Lloyd’s of London, the world’s biggest insurance market, has announced that it will set a market-wide policy to stop new insurance cover for coal, oil sands and Arctic energy projects in just 16 months time. It will also phase out existing policies for all fossil-fuel related projects by 2030, pulling out of the sector entirely by this date.

This is a major and most welcome decision. No investor is going to risk large amounts of dosh in a project with no insurance cover. But, in terms of climate breakdown, 2030 is a lifetime away. On the basis of current trends, we will have pumped into the atmosphere a further 360 or more billion tonnes by this date, likely pushing the global average temperature rise beyond the 1.5C guardrail.

So, we need to do more now, in particular to cut another fossil fuel corporation lifeline – investment. Without money to develop and exploit further reserves, the industry will wither on the branch and die. In recent years, the movement to disinvest – to starve fossil fuel companies of the oxygen of money – has grown hugely, and institutions controlling more than USD14 trillion have wholly or partly withdrawn funds. But there remain many more institutions with investments in the sector who have failed to do so. One of these is the Church of England. This is wrong.

More than any other institution, the Church should be setting an example for others – Christian or not – to follow. Unfortunately, it still has a long way to go. Currently, the Church of England has committed to disinvesting from fossil fuel companies by the end of 2023, but only if companies are not prepared to align their plans with the 2015 Paris Climate Accord and a zero carbon future. This, however, is simply not good enough. There is absolutely no way a corporation whose product is burnt to produce carbon can ever meet these goals, whatever words they may utter in public.

The height of a climate emergency is not the time for provisos and conditions. The Church of England must act to disinvest from all fossil fuel companies. And it must do so now. Furthermore, individual churches also need to urgently evaluate any links they might have with the fossil fuel sector, and cut them as soon as they can. You can find out more about how to do this by joining Operation Noah’s BrightNow: towards fossil-free churches campaign, and I urge you to do so immediately.

There is simply no time to waste.

Our world stands on the edge of climate catastrophe. We know now that things will be bad, but that doesn’t mean we have to give up. There is still time to limit the consequences of global heating and climate breakdown, but we need to act immediately. Any  failure to do so now will commit our children and their children to life on a deadly hothouse planet sweltering beneath carbon-soaked skies.

Bill McGuire is Professor Emeritus of Geophysical & Climate Hazards at UCL, and was a contributor to the 2012 IPCC SREX report on climate change and extreme events. His novel, SKYSEED – an eco-thriller about climate engineering gone wrong – is published by The Book Guild. 

My Week Walking the YCCN Relay/ Pilgrimage for Climate Justice

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By Hannah Eves

Just over a week ago, I stepped away from the home working desk, put my walking boots on and with a stomach-churning mixture of trepidation and excitement set off, with the relay flag in hand, to begin walking on the Young Christian Climate Network’s relay pilgrimage to the UN Climate Summit COP26

I led the London to Oxford section, walking for seven days, covering just under 80 miles, rambling across the countryside with people from different church traditions and creeds, in the name of climate justice. We stopped in sacred places along the way for hospitality, prayer and encouragement; we slept on church floors, shared a meal at a Quaker meeting house, and were hosted at the traditional pilgrim’s stop of St Alban’s Cathedral.

Our walking kept us grounded, the rhythm of putting a foot in front of another for hours, but we were also grounded in prayer, in fellowship, and in our belief in the urgency of the climate crisis. As I walked out of London, the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report was published. The findings which hit the headlines that day were clear and harrowing: with every year of inaction, the hope of staying under 1.5 degrees (over pre-industrial levels) is slipping away and the effects will have a catastrophic impact globally, especially on the most climate-vulnerable countries, which also have the lowest emissions.

This is why we’re walking, because the climate crisis is at its core a justice issue. Our sisters and brothers overseas in climate-vulnerable countries are losing their homes and livelihoods, and we walk in solidarity with them. No country should be forced to go into debt because of climate change, and having COP26 on our doorstep is a unique opportunity for the church to challenge the UK government to take the lead on addressing this injustice.

We believe that fair climate financing is absolutely essential to this, and this is embedded in our four asks to the UK government ahead of COP26. We are asking leaders to, first of all, reinstate the aid budget to pre-Covid levels so that climate-vulnerable countries can tackle the effects of global heating, such as food insecurity, disease burden and displacement of peoples.

Second, to honour, and also double, the commitment made over ten years ago by rich countries to provide $100 billion in climate financing to help vulnerable countries to build resilience to climate change effects, protect their natural spaces, reduce greenhouse gases and move towards Net Zero.

Third, to lead on developing an international mechanism for addressing climate-induced loss and damage. This refers to the effects of climate change, which are inevitable and will continue to cause devastating damage to communities and livelihoods globally. There is currently no agreement on how to help the countries who have done the least to cause these effects.

Finally, we are asking the government to push for debt cancellation so that climate-vulnerable countries have the resources to confront the climate crisis. When climate disasters hit the poorest and most vulnerable countries, the cost of loss, damage and rebuilding often ends up pushing these countries further into debt, which is profoundly unjust. 

This is why we’re walking, in the name of climate justice, and to tell the government that we will not sit by while this injustice goes on. 

Following in the steps of our foremothers and forefathers in the tradition of pilgrimage, we also walk in faith. Pilgrims often end at sacred places, such as on the Camino de Santiago when pilgrims traditionally crawl, in reverence, into the cathedral at Santiago to complete their journey.

Is COP26 a sacred place? There is something that feels powerful and sacred in turning with prayer and hope towards that place, to Glasgow, and to our leaders, with our global sisters and brothers in our hearts.

We have many miles to go before we get to Glasgow and we’re still looking for walkers and volunteers of all ages to support the relay, so go to YCCN’s website to get involved. You can also make a difference by writing to your MP about climate justice; visit to find out more.

Rejoice, Repent & Respond: a Climate Sermon from Operation Noah Trustee Shilpita Mathews

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Operation Noah Trustee Shilpita Mathews preached the following sermon at Raleigh Road United Church in Richmond, London in August 2021 as part of that church’s Climate Sunday service. Portions of the sermon have been adapted from Climate Sunday resources provided by Tearfund.

By Shilpita Mathews

Scripture passages: Psalm 104:1,10–26; Mark 4:1–10, 13–20 

Good morning everyone, it is a privilege to be speaking to you today on behalf of Operation Noah, a Christian charity working with the church to inspire action on the climate crisis.  

I wonder what climate change means to you? Despite the irrefutable scientific evidence, such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recent report, I’ve found that our understanding of global challenges are often rooted in personal ‘climate stories’.

My journey started with viewing the impacts of natural disasters first hand, as an 8-year old, following the Boxing Day tsunami in Sri Lanka in 2004. The devastation of lives, homes and livelihoods made me wonder: how could God allow such suffering and destruction to occur? 

We know that such natural disasters are only going to increase in frequency and severity over time as a result of climate change.  

Today, we are going to reflect on what the Bible has to say about this by considering three ‘Rs’. I know you may be thinking that I’m going to say, reduce, reuse, recycle, as that would fit with the theme of today’s service, but what I would like us to consider are God’s call to rejoice, repent and respond.  


Our readings from Psalm 104 and Mark 4 vary in many ways: their purpose, their setting, and when they were written. But they also have a lot in common. Both passages demonstrate an intimate knowledge of creation and invite us to REJOICE in God’s love of creation. 

The psalmist describes the beauty of creation, declaring, ‘O Lord, what a variety of things you have made! In wisdom you have made them all.’ The author understood how creation works. They knew creation intimately: like the great skill of a lion as it hunts its prey.  

And most importantly, they were inspired to worship the Creator as a result! In verse 31 of the psalm, it says God rejoices in his creation. The beauty and variety of all he’s made brings God joy!  

Similarly, in our New Testament passage from Mark, Jesus demonstrates his own detailed understanding of creation.  In the parable of the sower, where the sowing of the seed is compared to the sowing of the word of God, Jesus  invites us to look to the example of the good soil, or with open hearts, to hear, accept and produce a good crop by serving the Lord. 

He describes the issues that can hinder the growth of crops: he knows how drought can cause plants to wither, or how rocky ground prevents the development of roots. Even though he was a carpenter by trade, he knew the importance of nutritious soil for a bountiful harvest. Jesus has an intimate knowledge of the workings of creation.  

This shouldn’t surprise us; the Bible tells us how all things were created for Jesus and by Jesus. In him, all things hold together: he’s Lord of all creation.  

But Jesus shows us something else, too. He teaches us that not only does he have an intimate relationship with creation, but that also we can learn about our heavenly Father through it. Whether it’s through the relentlessness of weeds, the character of birds or the power of a mustard seed, time and again, Jesus points to the Father and the way  he works through creation. 

As Londoners, living in a busy urban world, we often fail to take time to observe creation, but as the writer of  Proverbs advises, ‘Go to the ant… consider its ways.’  

From the psalms to the gospels, we see the ways creation can reveal more of God’s character and inspire us to worship, and we see how God delights and finds joy in all he’s made!  


But when we look at the world today, we can see the many ways that we’ve damaged this beautiful gift God has  given us. We are called to REPENT over how we’ve damaged creation, and how that is impacting people in poverty.  

The ways that we live and work and consume have pushed creation to breaking point. Whether it is plastic pollution littering seas, species going extinct at record rates, or the climate crisis making droughts, floods, and storms more frequent and severe, we’ve misused and damaged this beautiful gift of God. We’re feeling some of the effects in the  UK and Europe, with floods in Germany and wildfires in Greece and Turkey, but the impacts are hitting people in poverty the hardest.  

As someone who has grown up in India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Jordan, I’ve seen first-hand the impacts floods, tsunamis and droughts have on communities and their horrible repercussions such as hunger, poverty, famine, and conflict, impacting the poorest and most vulnerable communities. 

It’s hard to grasp what that really means: it’s big and abstract. So let me quickly introduce you to Orbisa, whose story has been provided by Tearfund.  

Orbisa’s a 35-year-old mother who lives in the Afar region of Ethiopia. A few years ago, Orbisa could rely on the rains: now, because of the changing climate, they are far less predictable. So, she walks up to ten hours a day, every day, to find water for her family to drink. Her livelihood depends on selling livestock – but drought has killed nine of her ten cows. Let’s pause for a second…the stark reality is that Orbisa is paying the price for emissions which have mostly been generated by developed nations like the UK.  

This is what she said to Tearfund: ‘The area was very fertile and green. But it hasn’t rained for six months, and I don’t  know when it will rain next. I feel worried whenever I think about the future.’  

Around the world, millions of people like Orbisa are being pushed back into poverty because of climate change. The science is clear: the climate crisis is being caused by us and the impacts are accelerating. We are running out of time to prevent the worst effects. We must act fast and change the way we live, and governments and companies have to be much more ambitious.

But right now, we have a unique window of opportunity. How we choose to rebuild after the pandemic will shape our economy, climate, and society in the decades to come. This is a crucial moment, especially with the UN’s important climate change conference, COP26, coming to our doorstep in Glasgow this November. 

In the Bible, Jesus tells us the most important commandments are to love God, and to love our neighbours. Tackling the climate crisis is vital to both – honouring God by protecting his creation, and loving our global neighbours, who are hit first and worst by what is now a climate emergency.  


It is easy to slip into despair when we consider the magnitude of the situation. Which is why we must centre our RESPONSE on the hope we find in Jesus. 

Colossians 1:19–20 says this:

‘For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him [Jesus], and through him to reconcile to himself all things,  whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.’

‘…to reconcile to himself all things, things on earth and things in heaven…’

To me, this says I need a much bigger view of Jesus. He didn’t come just to reconcile me with my Father in heaven, but to reconcile and restore ALL things – in  heaven and on earth!  

That’s far more than just us. Jesus came to begin the restoration of the world to how God intended it to be. To make all things new, and He is at work, even at this very moment.  

Because of Jesus’ death on the cross we can have hope that all things can be made new; everything sin has broken and corrupted is being restored and reconciled to God. And what’s more, we can be part of it. Jesus invites us to  participate in his mission in this world. 

The world is crying out, but God is at work, and we’re invited to join him in a ministry of reconciliation – reconciling  people to their Father, but also reconciling people to the creation we’ve been given to steward, and seeing it restored. This is the fullness of the gospel, not a side issue. 

So how can we respond? I want to invite you this morning to commit to two things this morning: to prayer and to action, so that we can address the huge injustice of climate change and its impact on the poorest people around the world. There are many ways to do this both as churches and as individuals.  

At church:  

1) Operation Noah’s Tenants of the King Study Guide is a great starting point to study, learn, pray and to inspire us to take action on climate change. 

2) Bright Now, Operation Noah’s divestment campaign, supports churches to divest from fossil fuel companies and invest in clean alternatives. 

3) Partner organisations like ARocha has EcoChurch and many other initiatives to support churches to take a lead on climate action. 

As individuals:

1) Live more sustainably. Resources from partners like Climate Coalition will show you how to do so. But more importantly, call on political leaders and financial decision-makers to take climate action by reflecting on who you vote for, who you bank with and get in contact with your local MP to see what they are doing about the climate crisis. 

2) Finally, as a member of the Young Christian Climate Network (YCCN), I’d like to invite you to join the Relay to COP26. We are an action-focused  community of young Christians in the UK aged 18-30, choosing to follow Jesus in the pursuit of climate justice. As world leaders meet in Glasgow in November to discuss climate change, YCCN is running a national  pilgrimage to call for climate justice, and there is still time to participate in events and the walk itself, which is an all-inclusive event. 

When we speak up together, we can make a real difference. Let’s call on our leaders to take action. Let’s stand alongside Orbisa, and all of those impacted by climate change around the world, both in our prayers and by taking action. I’ll give you us a moment to pause and pray now. 

Let’s pray. 

Father God, we thank you that you are a God of justice. 

Thank you that you know Orbisa and her family, and all those already impacted by climate change. Jesus, we are sorry for the ways we’ve damaged your creation. Help us make changes in our own lives to love our global neighbours well. Holy Spirit, stir the hearts of our government, guide them in all their decision-making and inspire them to protect the most vulnerable. Amen.

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